From generating new revenue streams to ensuring the relevancy of their brand, developing new products and offering additional services are considered as some of the top growth strategies by most companies today.
But, how do you design and develop the truly best products?
Philosophically, you could argue that, as a company narrows its target market focus, the more specialized the product or service becomes.
Therefore, the niche offering incorporates more features and attributes that provide the most value to that group.
And, assuming that a company can identify a specific target market that is large enough to develop a product or service for, this philosophy seems to make a lot of sense.
Nike, for example, focuses their product features and attributes towards enhancing the performance of the top 10 percent of elite athletes, and they seem to be doing okay.
But, it is about more than just developing a new product or service; it takes discipline as well if you want to be successful in your venture.
Obviously, this starts with a commitment by the organization to focus on the selected target market and build business competencies to best serve it.
Then, it is necessary for a company or organization to become intimately familiar with the target market through research and experience.
If You Want To Know, Just Ask
When it comes to the commercial cleaning industry, there are some questions manufacturers or service providers need to answer if they are to determine their target market and offer solutions to their problems.
These questions are vital in the information-gathering process:
- How does the target market use the product or service?
- What are the pros/cons with current offerings or alternative offerings?
- What is the target market’s attitude towards purchasing the product or service?
- How core is the product or service to the target market’s business success?
- How does the target market prioritize the features or attributes of the product or service verses those of another offering?
- What is the intrinsic and monetary value the target market places on the product or service?
There are many forms of research that can be performed to answer these questions, and the types you choose for the product or service offering truly makes a difference.
For example, on the equipment manufacturing side of the commercial cleaning industry, general surveys can be very useful, but they don’t tell the whole story.
Blanket queries need to be complemented by focus groups, individual interviews and/or ethnographic research — basically, using and observing the product or service with your target market in their environment.
Then, the company needs to use their knowledge and resources to translate the insights derived from the research into a product vision and resulting design requirements that also support the brand’s position — or the desired position this new product or service can help them achieve — in the marketplace.
For a design team, this is where the magic happens — or, to state that better: The magic must happen here for the product or service to be successful.
Developing And Designing Excellence
In the end, a design team must identify how they can use the competencies of their company or organization to develop an offering that uniquelyenhances the pros and eliminates or reduces the cons of the current offerings or alternatives available to their target market.
Although speed to market is always a key objective for a design team, the development process should include the opportunity for target market feedback or contribution at various stages of development.
There are usually multiple design options for every feature or attribute of your product or service, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that each possibility meets the requirement of your target market while supporting your brand.
At this point, having key target customers review the alternatives — either through analyzing design renderings or by allowing them to test physical prototypes — is crucial to refining the design to best support all objectives.
Additionally, it provides the design team another chance to validate which features or attributes are more important than others to their target market.
Recently, Pacific Floorcare followed this development process to engineer a walk-behind autoscrubber specifically for building service contractors (BSCs), catering to the concerns they noted in correspondence with our research team and including specified features and attributes that will help them perform their jobs more productively and safely — all at a price point that is far more attractive than current or alternative offerings.
Addressing Specific Concerns
Following the development process and performing ethnographic research greatly assisted in the initial development — and the re-design that followed our prototype testing — of the new autoscrubber’s handle and control panel.
Initially, the design incorporated the speed and reverse controls away from the handle activation.
However, in working alongside customers with early prototypes, we learned that activating those controls required that the operator remove one of their hands from the handle and look down to find the knob or button to make the adjustment — presenting potential issues regarding safety and productivity.
Additionally, because reversing the unit in tight spaces required lifting the squeegee temporarily, it was like doing gymnastics to perform the maneuver.
With these new insights, we went back to the drawing board — in actuality, we used computer-aided drafting and design program — to modify the control panel so that the speed and reverse controls could be manipulated from the handle while in the operating position.
This solved both issues, creating an easier, safer and more ergonomic design that received extremely positive feedback.
It was a simple solution, but we would have never identified it as an issue had we not done our research and tested the new product with our target market in real-world settings.
When developing new products or services, any company, organization or other business entity would be wise to remember the saying, “When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.”
Companies that focus on a target market and ensure that those key personnel — those with purchasing authority, the people who approve or specify products and equipment and the frontline workers who will actually be utilizing an offering to solve a cleaning issue — are part of the development and design process are far more likely to generate quality products that deliver the most value for all parties concerned.
So, the next time you are evaluating a product or service, be sure to look for the signs of focused target market design.
Selecting the offerings that best cater to your needs and the general demands of the niche market you are a part of will lead to increased satisfaction and more desired outcomes.