Many of the most important technological innovations were considered “off the wall” — and, indeed, irrelevant — when they were first announced. The telephone, the photocopy machine, the personal computer, and VOIP are definite examples. The greatest breakthroughs and the sea-changes in the waythings are done stem less often from gradual evolution of ideas than from turning the status quo on its head.
So, if you are an innovator, how do you sidestep the often difficult transition from crazy idea to hottest new thing in the market? A carefully crafted message can make the difference.
Successful product managers have said that the first step in product development should be to write the press release. What do you want to be able to say about a new product that will make prospective customers want to buy it? What features will it have? How will it work? What customer needs will it satisfy? What niche will it fill? What makes it special?
Once you have drafted this message, put it to work:
• dig deep to identify parallel ideas or those that would take the technology in a different direction — if you may be reinventing the wheel, know why earlier versions were not adopted
• scrutinize potential competitiors and similar solutions
• brainstorm the possibilities for your product — check out the “what ifs?”
• don’t limit yourself with labels — were the first word processors really early PCs?
• field test, focus group, ask your friends, check in with existing customers — make sure you know what you have
• get feedback — validate your ideas with industry analysts, consultants, and editors
Then revisit your product idea and your message. Does your message resonate with the potential market? Are you saying what actually matters? Are you thinking large enough? Is your message clear, descriptive, and understandable? Is it accurate?
After You Launch
Once you have launched your product, keep a close eye on the marketplace. You may be the first one there, but others will surely follow if your ideas are any good at all. Be sure to set the pace, and stay ahead of the pack. If there’s a standard to be set, get in front and make it yours.
You may want to adjust your product or message to respond to a strong market move. If so, consider it carefully. Don’t abandon your position unnecessarily — but don’t dig in your heels if the market is shifting. Customers could really want your product, but may want to call it by a different name. Be smart, but be flexible. If you created this market, earn the right to dominate it. Leaders lead.
If you are the creator of a new product and market, keep your messaging dynamic. Explore options. Spark customers’ imaginations. Publish case studies. Challenge the market to help you succeed. Establish the standard. Make your product relevant. Don’t rest and hope the world will beat a path to your door. Innovators innovate.