Having just been at CES2020, I find it interesting to reflect on the 4500 plus exhibitors and all their new amazing, evolutionary, revolutionary and occasionally odd products and service introductions. Sadly, a very large portion of these new ideas, products and services, well over 60% and often as high as 90% will not survive the year. That is a poor batting average considering how much time, effort and money it takes to create a new technology item or service.
There can be many reasons for this. Sometimes it can simply be a bad product or idea. Often not enough funding, unanticipated funding needs or an unrealistic idea of the costs to muscle into the market lead to marketplace failure. It is not unusual to confront better competition or better competitive products. I find asking just a few questions of the exhibitors tells us a lot. My batting average on this is very high, and I hope sharing them is helpful for you.
I always ask two basic questions (and of course often many more). These are "who is this product for?" and "how are you taking this to market?" How these questions are answered (or sometime not answered) tells you a lot.
For the first question the answer too often is " we are not sure yet", "we didn't do the research on that" or often worst of all "for everyone" or they will say “it’s a huge market and we only need to get a small percentage of it”. The problem with these answers is they are going in blind, so they really do not know what to do, or even to try to then measure and adjust. If you answer for everyone, then recognize that the largest firms in the world do not do that. Walmart knows its customers; they overlap but are not duplicated at Amazon or Best Buy. Apple does not try to sell everyone, but their focus nets them the bulk of the available profits in their fields.
When addressing how to go to market it is much the same. We are told " we have a website", "we are selling on Amazon", "we will figure it out”. None of these is a plan. Even worse it seems clear no one engaged with the rest of the company to assure success. Many new and even established companies saddle their sales teams by delivering goods and services without considering the costs of retail or other partnerships, and often mis-priced or mis-featured products. How about finance or investors who asked for profit projections to approve the project, but then are hit with unanticipated costs and/or time delays?
The time for planning needs to start at conception. When the PID or Product Initiation Document is prepared by anyone, that is the time to get research going, finance reviewing, sales commenting and committing and of course support from management and investors. Without a 360 view of how to succeed the likelihood of success is much lower.
At bluesalve partners, we have an active product development process we can share with clients to accelerate and improve their batting average. Just ask us.
Better outcomes here are good for everyone, the firms, the industry, and their consumers. Let's all get better together.
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Robert Heiblim has more than 35 years of experience in the consumer electronics field encompassing all phases of general management, including management of new technology start-ups, and high growth companies. Along with his teams Mr. Heiblim has developed, marketed and sold hundreds of millions of devices through most global outlets for consumer technology. Robert is the current Chair of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) Small Business Council as well as ex-officio Chair of the CTA Audio Board.
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