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Product development and product positioning

X25_1_product_positioning_9601.jpg New product development (NPD) and product positioning are core parts of product management and product marketing. The identification of product features to be developed together with the communication of benefits requires a deep understanding of customer use-cases, value points and benefits for customers, and technology and the competitive environment.

Product managers need to carry out a wide-range of specialist research, from initial idea generation, concept screening, feature prioritisation, formal product testing, pricing and market sizing, market forecasting and message development to final launch materials and market monitoring.

Core product management combines a view of what customer's need or want, with technological insight to make it fit, and the sales and marketing skills to communicate product benefits to the right audience. Finding the sweet spot means understanding the various product use-cases, understanding how the customer sees the product fitting in their lives, and delivering the user experience that keeps the customer engaged.

"Our key research objective was to obtain a hierarchy of consumer needs for our NPD programme, but exceeded our expectations by also building us an excel-based model to test consumer preference for different product scenarios - we got much more than we expected!"

R&D Technology Manager, Reckitt Benckiser

For new products, ideas emerge all the time in all sorts of ways. But capturing the ideas, evaluating them and picking likely winners, and turning the ideas into real products is a more difficult process. Technologies and a view of competition has to be combined with understanding of customers, and normally it needs technical experts who understand customers, or customer experts who understand technology to find the sweet spot.

So, although market research might identify gaps in the market from a customer's point of view, it won't tell you what to do or how to approach the technical design. Feedback from customers needs to be combined with imagination from the design team in brainstorming sessions to identify potentially profitable new areas and new directions, and to develop messages and materials to sell and market the product.

For this reason, market research for project development tends to involve helping product managers and engineers understand their space from the customers' points of view, and is often an iterative process to develop ideas and then flesh them out through workshops and research.

Once good ideas are identified, engineers focus development effort on the areas that will have most impact to the customer. Common techniques include Quality Function Deployment (QFD also known as the "House of Quality" or "Voice of the Customer"). QFD fits extremely well with conjoint analysis, as markets can be modelled under different product scenarios and return on investment decisions can be investigated prior to development.

This then combines with planning and forecasting to identify key price points, and potential sales uptake in the face of competitors and complex customer segments, so as to optimise the product functionality, and identify the key messaging for the product.

Once the core product functions are defined, designs then need to be built and tested and futher refined and re-tested. In agile product design the need to develop and test is essential, so a cycle of interative research is typically used, with a focus on usability, collecting feedback and also observing user behaviour to refine and improve the product until it reaches a marketable standard.

Once new products are developed the cycle starts again, with market monitoring, looking at customer satisfaction and brainstorming to develop the next range of products or services, to update a product range or to look at how best to implement a mid-life kick to existing products.

We can help support product managers through all the stages of product development, positioning and market forecasting, identifying the right research design for the specific product management requirement so as to keep products on top of the market.

For help and advice on market research for product positioning and development contact

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