Listen to the podcast (about 5 minutes).
A radio newscaster described his job as editing. He explained that in a short, few minutes he must convey the issues of the day, deliver traffic information, and share the weather forecast. He said it’s more important for him to take out words than to add sentences. He must carefully edit every story.
Travel experts, likewise, tell us to take out half the clothes we pack for vacation. Then, they instruct, we should double our money.
Students interviewing for their first job out of college are taught to edit their resume until it fits on just one page. Interviewees are also taught to give brief, factual responses to interviewer’s questions. There is no benefit in giving a long, drawn-out answer that might bore the interviewer.
Feature-Heavy New Products
There are a variety of market research methods in which to verify that the NPD team has translated customer needs into a product design that consumers want to purchase. A mistake made by many companies is to add too many features to new products which can both add confusion and cost to the purchasing decision. Sustaining innovation is the theory that a firm continually improves an existing product based on inputs from existing customers. The technology is generally tweaked for incremental improvements in product performance. Features are added as existing customers request improvements.
My favorite example of a feature-heavy product is my bread machine. The advantage of a bread machine is that you can throw all the ingredients into the machine, press a button, and go. Three hours later, the machine has kneaded the bread, gone through several rise cycles, and baked the bread. Today’s bread machines, however, come with a multitude of features that add cost to the product. There are programs for white bread, wheat bread, French bread, pizza dough, dough only, and fruit and nut breads. The least useful feature on my bread machine? A jam cycle. It is a stretch to think that everyone making homemade bread will also want to make jam!
At some point in time, all products become feature-heavy. The costs of manufacturing will increase and new customers are challenged to understand the basic operation, functions, and benefits of the product. If competitors all advance products at the same pace, the entire industry can become ripe for disruption by an outside firm offering a simple, easy-to-use product.
Editing Your New Products
Instead of adding features when existing customers request them, you need to edit your new products. What features truly deliver the benefits that customers need? Are there features that can be eliminated as new ones are added? Is there a trade-off that will add a feature to satisfy customers’ needs while removing a functionality that is underutilized? Can you save manufacturing costs by combining two features or attributes that deliver the same benefit with lower expense?
As you design and develop a new product, especially derivative and enhancement products, contemplate the advice of Dear Heloise, a beloved newspaper advice columnist. She tells us that if we buy a new pair of shoes or a new dress, we must donate one from our closet to someone in need. Not only does this keep our closet uncluttered, we are helping others at the same time! In essence, we are editing our closet. Why not do the same thing for your new product development efforts?
Learning to Edit New Products
Learning to edit is not easy. The newscaster spends hours researching his story, yet has only 30 seconds to convey his message. We think we just might need an extra swim suit or jacket on vacation, but it stays folded in the suitcase for the duration of the trip. Interviewees are anxious to share their fit and experience for the job, yet the interviewer is busy and just wants a quick rundown of the candidate’s work history. Yes, less is more. Editing our new products keeps them simple and easy-to-use while saving manufacturing costs.
To learn more about customer needs and market research for NPD, please contact Global NP Solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 281-280-8717 to enroll in one of our self-study or facilitated NPDP certification workshops. Also, if you liked this post, be sure to check out our monthly thought leadership papers where a variety of innovation topics are pursued in depth.
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