How many ideas should move from selected to implemented?
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Now that you’ve created that next great thing, how do you convince your customers that it really is as great as you think it is?

OK. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your latest idea. You’ve followed all the steps. You’ve done your homework. You’ve paid your dues. It’s time to see what the world thinks of your new idea, product or service. So how do you convince them that your innovation is better than the five others that were announced yesterday and look a whole lot like yours?

The intent of this post is not to teach marketing 101. But it is important to think about how you articulate the value of your new product or service. The innovation life cycle is shorter than ever.  Yes, it still takes time to create a new product or service, but it’s now measured in days, weeks and months instead of years. This means that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of new products and services hitting the market every month. As an example, just look at the number of applications being developed every day for the social media website Facebook. So how do you give yours an edge over the countless others that may be similar?

The easy way out is to simply “throw it out there” and see what happens. With the ubiquitous nature of the web and the power of search engines, somebody will eventually find it, and if it has value then a groundswell will build around it. Look at how the open source approach to application development has changed the software development and deployment paradigm.

Because you may not want to take the “wing and a prayer” approach, I suggest that you consider two aspects of how customers determine value – utility and warranty. Utility describes the “fitness” of purpose and functionality of a product or service. In other words, what the customer gets. Warranty describes the fitness for use or performance – how the product is delivered. To articulate the value of your product or service you can focus on either or both of these aspects.

When describing the value of your product or service in terms of utility you may want to think of how it provides something that is unique in the market. Take GM’s OnStar service. When GM introduced it in 1995 the focus was on convenience: “Help me to find the nearest coffee shop” or “Oh, no! I locked my keys in the car – can you help me?” – services that provide value in terms of making the driving experience more pleasurable.

Over the years, GM saw the value of translating the convenience factor into something of even higher value – safety.  OnStar now positions itself as an essential safety tool for driving. Hands-free calling. Road-side assistance. Route navigation. Automatic crash response (emergency medical services and law enforcement dispatching). All are things that provide a higher degree of purpose/functionality for the consumer.

If you look at OnStar from the other side of the value proposition – warranty – you can see how it improves the way the services of both convenience and safety are delivered. It’s always on. It’s available at the push of a button. It’s flexible – I can ask any question I want and get some degree of help. And it uses a mix of service delivery models by combining the value of technology and people. For me, the consumer, it’s easy to use and reliable. Both provide significant value from a performance perspective.

I am not suggesting that utility and warranty are the only ways to look at the value of your new idea. Nor am I suggesting that you think about them after you have developed your product or service. Classifying the value of your product or service early on helps you stay focused on the outcome – shortening the development lifecycle and producing a higher quality, innovative product or service.

One way to think about how you describe your idea in these terms is to look at other successful products or services and see how you would describe them from utility or warranty aspect. Take several products or services from different industries and then compare the descriptors you used for them. This will help you build your own vocabulary for this approach to value description. Then, as you work on your new idea, you can assign priorities to the descriptors that will hold the most value for your target market.

Happy innovating!

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