5 Tips For Winning NPD Proposition Development

Our Definition Of A Successful Product Proposition

A product is something that is sold to a consumer and a proposition describes what it is and why they should buy it.

We think that a solid product proposition hits the sweet spot where 3 criteria are met

The sweet spot of 3 factors

The same product may be sold to more than one consumer segment, with different propositions. For example, Caterpillar boots are sold to the building trade for their safety and durability. And to those interested in fashion, as cool prestige boots.

5 Tips For Successful Product Proposition Development

Here are some key pointers that will help to ensure that the development of your product proposition goes smoothly and sets your innovation up for success.

1. Invest In Deeply Studying Your Consumers

Understanding the lives of your customers
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Most companies’ investment is weighted in favour of what products and/or services they can make/provide and building brand equity. The focus is not on understanding consumers lives, the problems they encounter and how to make their lives better.

Without good consumer understanding it is impossible to know which problems are the most important to solve. And in many cases, you could be completely unaware of some problems that need solving.  Even if you know a key challenge your consumers’ encounter, if you don’t have deep insight into the problem, then the chances of solving it is greatly reduced.

If there is one mantra for developing a highly compelling and innovative proposition, then it is – spend on digging for deeper consumer insights. And if possible, this should be the launch pad for all innovation development.

We often work on projects where the product has already been invented and developed. The brief is limited to find a compelling way to sell it to consumers to match a need they have. Many of the product and packaging parameters will have already been set – for example, the bottle shape or the product attributes etc. So, it is left to communication of the idea and its positioning. These kinds of challenges often have a successful outcome, but it is usually a compromise on the ideal solution that people would want or need. And thus, a weaker innovation in the long run.

Thus, starting out with the insight to the problem is far more likely to build a stronger product proposition

2. Chasing Broad Appeal Can Be Limiting

Selecting a more niche audience to market your product to
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Of course, everyone wants an innovation that delivers big volumes. So, it can be very tempting to try to build a proposition that has broad appeal. However, in our experience this tends to result in a weaker, watered-down proposition that has a lower level of consumer connection.

Instead, it is better to focus on finding smaller groups who have common things that they are trying to achieve. And similar challenges, needs and behaviours. Then you are much more likely to be able to answer the question “Why should I buy it?”; when you tap into peoples’ worlds with deeper understanding and affinity.

Generating higher engagement levels tends to create advocates. Consumers with high purchase frequency who spread the word and will sell your innovation for you. Many innovations follow the adoption curve i.e., earlier adopters will be the first and lead others to follow.

So, resist the temptation to water-down a product proposition to appeal lightly to the many. Instead work on a building strongly compelling propositions that make your product appealing to a tightly targeted number of segments.

3. Don’t Forget Other Types Of Unmet Needs

A sign signalling caution and danger ahead
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Pain points are one category of unmet needs. There tends to be a lot of focus on identifying consumer pain points to build out a strong proposition for innovation. Mainly because they are easier to identify – weaknesses of current solutions e.g. problems purchasing, transporting, preparing, consuming/using, disposing/tidying up etc.

And whilst pain points can be a rich territory, you can miss out on other types of fruitful unmet needs. However, these are harder to uncover.

When you talk to consumers about a product category, they can seem quite happy with all the various products on offer to them. In fact, they often think that there are too many products already! They will often say that all their needs are met. So where do you start?

Here are some pointers and exercises to start hypothesising and investigating :-

  • What are all the possible uses for the product?
  • What are people really trying to accomplish? Break it down, simplify it.
  • What other products could they be using to carry out the task/need? Ensure you include hacks and items that might not be actually designed for the need but are a homemade substitutes. People often like to share these with others, so they are easily uncovered digitally.
  • What are all the possible gains that could be achieved e.g. time back, less wastage etc.
  • What are all the emotional needs and not just functional needs that could be met? For instance, on a recent food project, one of the perceived key benefits was the emotional relief of less nagging and fighting with your children.

Once you have some potential areas have them roughly visualised into very simple product ideas. Spend time with consumers investigating if they spark a need or a desire. Learning all the ‘why nots’ will be extremely valuable. And quite often, it can uncover an unmet need in double quick time.

4. Ensure You Know Your Consumer Competitive Analysis

Demonstrating the number of product options available to consumers
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As marketeers, it is our job to know what the competition is saying and doing as much as possible. Often a forensic approach is taken to market intelligence.

What we forget is this is not the attitude that consumers adopt. In fact, they often have a completely different view of the marketplace to us. And it will vary by consumer segment.

What you perceive is a strong competitive brand USP may not have even registered with consumers. This may be due to lack of a deeper interest, poor brand communications or a far more simplified, tunnel vision perspective is taken. Also, the opposite can happen – consumers view other products outside of your tightly defined marketplace as being able to also solve their problem.

So, when it comes to developing the product proposition it vital that we understand the consumer perspective on the competition and not just our own internal analysis.

The benefit of this is that you may uncover a wider playing field of opportunity open to you than your originally thought. And you could even take a competitor USP the has not been communicated well or widely for your own innovation.

5. Introduce Realistic Business Parameters From The Outset

Demonstrating boundaries
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When developing a product proposition in innovation, business realities are often pushed to the background in the name of ‘not limiting an opportunity too early’ or the need for ‘blue sky thinking’.

In our experience, this regularly results in dead-end innovation projects and an awful lot of wasted resource. This is because, in the main, businesses are designed to chase quick wins and innovation initiatives that can be implemented with minimal amounts of investment.

Unless your project is part of a key change in business strategy, do not let the innovation fantasy land grab you!

A good product proposition is one where the business can fulfil an unmet consumer need, profitably. Thus, it is far more efficient to identify the business parameters and rank them in terms of :-

  1. definitely ‘can do’ now
  2. ‘could do’ within 3 years with a reasonable investment
  3. out of scope

Then, you are better able to quickly assess :-

  • if meeting a particular unmet consumer need is an attractive product proposition opportunity for the business, or not
  • where consumers are willing to compromise by identifying the minimal viable product mix of components, and thus ones the business may be more able to profitably meet

The Benefits Of A Solid Product Proposition

Building successful product propositions can be a bit like trying to balance three unconnected cogs. But once the three cogs align, they start to produce energy and great momentum to move forward at a pace.

What are the tangible benefits?

  • Internal stakeholders will understand the opportunity easily. This will save time having to present and attend numerous meetings, constantly selling why as a business you should be grabbing the opportunity.
  • Product development and suppliers will be tightly focused and thus get an end-product quicker, cutting development time down.
  • Your marketing agencies ideas and proposals will be on brief, first time!
  • As business realities hit the product on its way to launch, the team will be better placed to know where compromise can be made without killing the innovation.
  • The sell-in to the trade will be virtually ready-made, making it easier for buyers to make room for the new space within the marketplace that the innovation is creating.
  • Having a solid foundation with core strengths makes building a pipeline of further NPD idea launches a clear and single-minded pathway.

Thus, it is really worth spending the time and investment upfront to get the product proposition right as it will save you a large amount of money and time in the long run.