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In detail: Growth by Product Development

This article builds on my recent blog post "Looking for growth? It's in your hands!" and provides the detail on information you might consider gathering when looking for new product offerings.


The key to success is gathering the right information and intelligence that will help you choose the way forward; this article suggests which information you might like to gather.


How will we do this?

  1. Define and understand existing customers needs. Having understood customers’ existing situations, the next step is to gather information regarding their current and future needs, wants and aspirations.

  2. Define and understand potential offerings. With finite resources, it is essential to hone the selection of options into a manageable quantity for further investigation and analysis. Fortunately, existing companies have substantial experience from existing operations that will help if you know where to look and what questions to ask.

  3. Define and understand the external view of potential offerings. Understanding your existing customers’ and channel partners’ view of potential new products and services enables you to test the market in a meaningful and low risk fashion. People that you have an existing relationship with are more likely to give useful, honest feedback than people you don’t yet know.

  4. Define and understand sales and marketing capabilities for potential offerings. Taking advantage of the market opportunity presented by new products and services requires your company to sell and deliver on that potential. This requires management of the existing sales resources and possible changes both within your own company and within your channel partners.

Ash Madden is Founder and Director of Madden Associates Limited, the Specialist Channel Sales & Partnering Consultancy

#efficiency #returns #partnering #channels #sales

 

Example questions to help define potential new offerings


The point of these questions is not that you should understand every last piece of detail but to illustrate how an in-depth understanding of pertinent information (that most likely already exists in your business) can help shape your future plans. Without information you’re left with guesswork, assumption and intuition. Sometimes these produce results; sometimes not. Decision making is always better when armed with the facts.


1. Define and understand existing customers’ needs, wants and aspirations.


For this exercise, we consider customers as "end customers" who have purchased, or could purchase, direct from your company as the software provider and/or from your channel partners. These build on the intelligence gathered on your existing business (click here for example questions).

  • How do customers see their business evolving and what is the effect on their (relevant) needs? What will be the effect on their lines of business? Their locations and territories? Staff? Revenues? Mergers/acquisitions/divestitures?

  • What do existing customers currently buy but not from your company? How did they make that decision? What is, or was, the differentiator / Unique Selling Proposition of the product or supplier? What are the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the product or supplier? What is their timescale to next decide, purchase and implement this product? What is the value; initially and ongoing? How satisfied are they with the product? How satisfied are they with the supplier? What alternatives are they considering? What would encourage them to consider you company if you supplied a similar product? How similar does it have to be for them to consider it?

  • Which offerings have customers previously expressed an interest in? What has been requested but your company does not sell? Asked your opinion of? How interested are they? What would be the value? What would be the timescale?

  • Which products and suppliers do customers think your company should offer? Why is the customer interested in this? Why would your company be interested? What would be the differentiator / Unique Selling Proposition of this offering? What would be the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the product or supplier? What would be the timescale to decide, purchase and implement? What would be the opportunity value; initially and ongoing? What alternative offerings should your company consider? How would the customer evaluate new products?

  • What alternative offerings are existing customers currently evaluating or considering? Why are they evaluating or considering these? How did they decide what to evaluate? How will they evaluate and prioritise? What is the differentiator/Unique Selling Proposition of the product or supplier? What are the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the product or supplier? What is their timescale to decide, purchase and implement? What is the value; initially and ongoing? What alternative products or suppliers are they considering? What would encourage them to consider your company, now or in the future?

  • What offerings are existing customers thinking of in the future? Why are they considering them? How will they decide what to evaluate? How will they evaluate and prioritise? What is the differentiator/Unique Selling Proposition of the product or supplier? What are the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the product or supplier? What is their timescale to decide, purchase and implement? What is the value; initially and ongoing? What alternatives are they considering? What would encourage them to consider your company in this area, now or in the future?

  • Where do existing customers find information on other products and suppliers? From the supplier directly; if so by what means and how was the first contact made? From colleagues; if so who? From marketing activities; if so what? From their own research; if so where do they look? From social media; if so which? From industry groups; if so which? From industry publications; if so which? From industry events; if so which? From friends and family? From partners or other third parties; if so who? From other press; if so which?

2. Define and understand potential offerings.

  • In comparison to your existing offerings, which does your company consider to be … Complementary? Adjacent? Coincidental? (that is, often purchased at the same time but not directly related). Alternatives? Competitive?

  • Which offerings do others (suppliers, third parties, commentators, analysts, competitors etc.) consider to be …Complementary? Adjacent? Coincidental? Alternatives? Competitive? Now and in the future?

  • How closely related are these to your existing offerings? What are the differentiators/Unique Selling Propositions for these offerings? What are their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats?

  • What resources (time, people, money) are needed to evaluate these offerings? Management? Sales? Technical? Operations? Marketing? Finance? Consultants?

  • What resources are required to specify, develop, test, document, deliver and support these offerings? How long will it take? What are the risks?

  • What resources are available to help with each of these?

  • How will the market have moved on during the time it takes to bring this offering to market?

  • How are the potential offerings evaluated and prioritised? What is the qualification process and criteria? What are the criteria? What is the evaluation process and criteria? What is the decision-making process and criteria?

  • How are potential offerings documented? How is the product roadmap created, managed, prioritised and costed? Who owns the roadmap and how often is it reviewed? How are roadmap decisions taken? What input do others have?

3. Define and understand the external view of potential products and suppliers.

  • Compared to your company’s existing offerings, which offerings do your customersand channel partners consider to be … Complementary? Adjacent? Coincidental? Alternatives? Competitive?

  • In what way, and to what extent, do your customers and channel partners consider these offerings complementary, adjacent etc. to your existing offerings?

  • How closely related do your customersand channel partnersbelievethese are to your existing offerings?

  • What do your customers and channel partners believe are the differentiators/Unique Selling Propositions for these offerings?

  • What do your customers and channel partners believe are their Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats?

  • What added value would customers and channel partners expect your company to provide with the new offerings?

  • What business benefit / return on investment would your customers and channel partners expect to derive from the new offerings and when?

  • To what extent, and why, would your customers and channel partners value your company offering these products or suppliers? (as opposed to any other company offering the same or similar)?

  • To what extent, and in what way, would the new offering improve your customers’ and channel partners’ perception of your company?

  • To what extent would your customers expect channel partners or other third parties to be involved, and who are they?

  • To what extent would your channel partners or other third parties expect to be involved, and who are they?

  • What resources would customers and channel partners expect your company to devote to the new offerings? Management? Sales? Technical? Operations? Marketing? Finance? Consultants?

  • What pricing would customers and channel partners expect to see for the new offering?

  • What opportunities do customers and channel partners envisage for these new offerings? Spend / revenue? Initial and on-going? Timescale / sales cycle? Complementary offerings? Probability for this?

  • What resources do customers and channel partners expect? Supplier resources? Marketing? Events? Social media?

  • What is the overall market opportunity for these offerings? Revenue (initially and on-going)? Margin? Cash flow implications? Timescale / sales cycle? Potential for complementary offerings? What probability is associated with each?

4. Define and understand sales and marketing capabilities for potential offering?

  • Which of your existing channel partners will be involved in potential offerings? What relevant expertise & experience do your channel partners already possess? How quickly can they acquire the necessary skills? How can knowledge be shared between your company and your channel partners regarding potential offerings? How can you work together to deliver customer value? What is the win-win and win-win-win for those involved?

  • Would new channel partners help with new potential offerings? What additional expertise & experience could they contribute? How would this affect existing channel partners? How would this affect existing customers? What additional value could new channel partners contribute?

  • Who, from your company and from your channel partners, will be involved with the new offerings? Management? Sales? Pre-sales? Technical? Operations? Marketing? Finance? Consultants?

  • How will your sellers be rewarded? Commission? Bonus? Recognition? Awards? Shares/share options? Is this understood? Is it sufficient?

  • How will your channel partners be rewarded for marketing and selling new offerings? How will/should this differ from existing offerings? Is this understood? Is it sufficient?

  • How does this relate to sales of existing offerings? Time / effort allocation? (that is, how much time /effort should be expended on the new offerings compared to existing)? Target / bonus allocation? (that is, what proportion of remuneration will depend on the new offerings)? Recognition / awards? (for example, will there be extra recognition or awards for sales of new offerings)?

  • What resources will be needed to be successful? Company resources? Marketing? Events? Channel partner resources?

  • How do your sales and marketing staff, and those of your channel partners, view the new offerings? Your ability to deliver? (for example, confidence in your company’s ability to deliver)?

  • What is their view of customers (for example, do they have sufficient propensity to purchase)? What is their view of the offerings (for example, the new quantity and quality)?

  • What is their view of your strategy? (for example, is the strategy for the new offerings understood)? What about Unique Sales Proposition/differentiators? (for example, are they understood, are they sufficient)?

  • What is their view of your sales proposition? (for example, is it understood, is it strong enough)? Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats? (for example, are they understood and are they effective with customers)?

  • What is their view of marketing activities? (for example, is it sufficient; will it work)? Pre-sales (for example, is it sufficient; will it work)? Collateral? (for example, it is sufficient; is it good enough?). Website? (for example, is it convincing; it is good enough?). Social media? (for example, does it matter; what should be done with it, who is responsible for it)? Competitors? (for example, are they understood; are the competitive differentiators understood)?

  • What is their view of pricing? (for example, is it understood enough; is it at the right level)?

  • What is the role of channel partners and other third parties? (for example, is it understood, what is their value, what is the channel proposition?).

  • What do your sellers, and those of your channel partners, think of your processes for the new offerings? Sales process? Support process? Other processes?

  • To what extent does this change how your sellers, and those of your channel partners feel…Successful? Motivated? Utilised?

  • How could your company be more successful? In particular, how could you sell more new offerings to existing customers? What would enable each seller to personally be more successful? What role do channel partners and other third parties play? How could channel partners and other third parties add more value?

  • What lessons have been learned? From previous new offering successes? From previous new offering failures? What lessons shouldhave been learned?

  • To what extent do your staff and those of your channel partners view your company as visionary? (leads the market)? Or adaptable? (follows the market)?

  • How are new offerings evaluated and prioritised? Customer qualification process and criteria? Product qualification process and criteria? Opportunity qualification process and criteria? How are channel partners involved? How should they be involved?

  • How are existing customers’ needs, wants and aspirations documented? Who collects this information? How is it stored? How is it managed and updated? How is it communicated? How are channel partners and other third parties involved? How should they be involved? How is the opportunity value calculated?

  • How is the relationship between customers and potential new offerings documented? Who is interested in what offering? Who would be interested in what and when? How is this information managed?

  • How is the relationship between new / existing channel partners and new offerings documented? Which channel partner is involved with which offering? Who can make what contribution and what value can they add?

  • How is forecasting of new offerings conducted? What is the process? How is it documented? How often is it updated? How often is it reviewed? How accurate is it? Who checks and what is done as a result? How is the information secured? How is it shared? How are channel partners involved? How should they be involved?


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