Bring customers into your design process to derisk your business strategy

One of my dad’s favorite phrases was: “When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.” That phrase was typically uttered when my siblings or I had made an unwise decision. As teenagers, we heard it regularly.

As business leaders, we are trained and expected to make a lot of assumptions, sometimes called educated guesses or, as leadership assessments like to frame it: making decisions with imperfect information. That works and is appropriate in many circumstances. Where business leaders go wrong is when they assume rather than ask their employees, customers or suppliers what they find valuable and important, before making significant, strategic decisions.

I frequently work with chemical companies and business leaders who are implementing a new strategy for growth: moving into a new market, implementing a new product or service, or repositioning current business offerings. They are determined to make it happen and are confident in their success.

Some of the first questions I ask are: Which customers have you talked with? Are they interested in your new product or service offering? What do they think?

The typical response unfortunately, is “no” or some variant of it.

“My product is not ready, so I don’t want to get them disappointed.”

“Our leadership hasn’t approved the project, so I don’t want to talk with future customers about yet.”

“We’ll talk to them at the next phase of development.”

Without asking your customers some key questions, you have no idea whether your customers are interested and whether it fits their current or future business needs. And, no opportunity to get them excited and committed.

AND, you’re spending significant time, money and resources on a highly uncertain outcome.

Asking good questions and getting early input from customers derisks the decision or strategy.

It also helps get your customers committed. When your customer feels like they’ve been part of the development process – for a new product and its desired characteristics or specifications; or for a new service offering and the design considerations it should have; or a digital offering and how they want the application interface to look, they start buying in.

The quickest way to gain buy-in and ambassadors for your new product, service or market entry — invite your customers in EARLY and make them part of the design process.

What prevents this from happening?

  • Concern that you won’t be able to adopt all (or any!) of the customers’ feedback and then disappoint them.
  • Not knowing who to approach
  • Not knowing what to say or how to ask
  • Fear of rejection. (No one wants to hear that their great idea isn’t so great.)

What’s the benefit of engaging them early in the development process?

  • Design insights – concerns and ideas that you would not have otherwise identified – be it product delivery, form or function.
  • Commitment and ongoing support.
  • Readiness to buy or try your new product or service.

What do you risk by not asking the right questions at the right time? A successful launch which leads to greater success and value.

So, how do you counter those concerns and gain benefits early in your redesign or market entry strategy?

  • Engage with trusted customers early and frame this as an “in development” product or solution.
  • Inquire about current challenges and how the new product or solution could be a problem-solver or game-changer
  • Use an independent third-party to survey or engage targeted customers and markets on a “blind” or confidential basis
  • Use those insights to inform decisions and test assumptions

Are you and your business charting a path for growth with new markets, new products or new services? Progressio Global can help. Schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your growth plans and identify ways to derisk them and ensure future success.