Brian Ottum is a market research specialist with 30 years experience in new product development. He started as a chemical engineer and joined Procter Gamble, contributing to Charmin, Pampers, and other products you know. He went on to earn a PhD in Market Research. Today, he helps Kimberly-Clark, Johnson Controls, Thomson Reuters and other companies with product development. BTW, he also is an amateur astronomer, star gazing since he was 12 years old – and he is serious – while he lives in Michigan, last year he built a remotely controlled telescope station in New Mexico to take advantage of clear skies.
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers, Developers, and Innovators
Highlights from the discussion include:
- Qualitative and quantitative approaches to customer research.
- The blessing of realizing what work you don’t want to do.
- Be sure you really know the characteristics of a product that provide customers real value, and how customers make trade off decisions. E.g., diapers that don’t leak are much more important than diapers that look like underwear.
- New product development projects can take on a life of their own and be difficult to make adjustments to once they get rolling – hard to stop the train.
- If you have customer data that suggests a product will not be successful, it is much better to kill the project quickly than to continue wasting resources on it. The earlier the better. However, this can be a challenge and requires courage.
- Metrics and objectives can mislead product efforts. If an executive’s bonus is based on getting a new product to market and not on the quality of the product, bad decisions can be made.
- Choose metrics wisely – too often they can be used in unintended ways.
- Test everything. Never carry ideas into development without first testing them with consumers.
- Even if you “know what customers want,” get the data to verify you are correct.
- Best qualitative research tool is ethnography – observing customers.
- Best quantitative research tool is conjoint analysis.
- Look at the PDMA Tool Book series for detailed information on customer research tools.
“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.” Peter Drucker
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