New Product Development…Intuition First, Data Second

In most businesses, creating solid new products is straightforward assuming you have the time and the resources you need. You canvass customers, mine data, run financials, and then give customers as much as feasible of what they asked for. As long as the quality is good and the price reflects the value the consumer thinks she’s getting, you will do pretty well most of the time.

Without a doubt, data and analytics are necessary and often sufficient if you want to optimize existing products, or even create solid new ones. But if you want to truly innovate, remember that numbers alone are never, ever enough. To develop products that “alter the flow of the universe,” as Steve Jobs says, data must be coupled with intuition, with intuition in the lead. And intuition is not innate, it must be nurtured and put to work.

    1. Nurture your intuition
      There is nothing like listening to those you are hoping to serve authentically, without hiding behind artifices like one-way mirrors or quantitative surveys, to nurture your intuition. Regularly visit service centers and listen to what representatives have to say about her. Answer her phone calls, letters and complaints, even if it’s not your job.   Over a glass of wine at a cocktail party, ask a friend which of the products in your industry she prefers and why. Take a client out to dinner for no particular reason. In short, care enough about your customer to invest significant time in creating a relationship with her. It will make you a better marketer. You will also like your job more.


    1. Focus your intuition
      Have the self-awareness to know that you cannot solve your customer’s every problem, or meet her every need, even if you know what they are.  Instead focus your intuitive mind on those problems that you can solve entirely, elegantly, and simply. Focus will improve your odds of success every time.   A quick test of whether you have picked a real problem that you can really solve is how easy it is for you to write the positioning statement for your product. If it’s a cinch, you got it.  If you struggle, take it is a sign that something is not quite right and go back and explore some more.


  1. Trust your intuition
    Following your gut takes courage. Don’t overload your product with features “just in case” your judgment is off.  And resist the temptation (this is really hard in most organizations) to dilute your solution to “improve the numbers;”  projecting future performance based on past performance doesn’t work with innovations.

Tip of the Month (On Product Development):  According to Albert Einstein: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”   If you want blow your customers away with a truly innovative product, by all means remember the servant…but first, always, honor the gift.

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To continue the conversation, contact Rosa at, or go to

Product Management…Play “Double The Price”

A few months ago, I was with group of extremely talented marketers trying to figure out what to do about a credit card product. The product was under-performing – customers were giving it ho-hum marks and growth had stagnated.

After batting around a few ideas, I suggested, “Why don’t we double the price?” Crickets. Everyone in the room thought I was nuts. “Ok,” I said, backing down. “Let’s just pretend that we’re doubling the price.” And then some very interested things happened, over just one 3-hour conversation:

      1. We riffed all about the customer.
        Unencumbered by any filters, who, very specifically, derives value from your product? Ignore, for a bit, whether your definition of the ideal customer makes the pool of customers too small to meet corporate acquisition goals, or too big relative to the marketing budget. To whom is this product truly of service: gender, income, profession, passions, needs, age … even name? Have fun with it.  Draw pictures.


      1. We explained the product, in one sentence, to my mother.
        The ruse for me is critical, because my mother is one of the few people on this earth that I just can’t lie to. No way I can pull the wool over her eyes. She also has no patience for long explanations. Figuratively sitting across the table from my mother trying to explain to her why she should get a product has enabled me to develop the tightest of positioning statements. Pick the person in your life that calls your bluffs, and tell them in one sentence why your product is good for them. Don’t stop until you can actually do it.


      1. We were brutally honest about which benefits delivered real value, and which did not.
        Brutal honesty is critical here. Only highlight benefits which both are of value and which deliver. A 2-for-1 companion ticket program is a great benefit for travellers, but not if it makes them fly through Singapore to get to Chicago from New York. And don’t be disappointed if a number of benefits fall on the wrong side of the ledger – you just found yourself some money.


    1. At the end, we asked ourselves the big question: do we double the price?
      Don’t underprice your product – it signals to the customer that you don’t believe in what you’re delivering. Don’t charge Lexus prices for a Corolla either. But regardless of where you net out on price, strive to know what it would take to pull a Starbucks (create enough value to charge $4 for a cup of coffee that used to sell for $0.99). Maybe one day you’ll have the investment/infrastructure/courage to go for it.

At the end of the day, the team took no action on price. But they tightened marketing significantly and generated demand. They also improved profitability by eliminating a number of low value features. More importantly, the team coalesced, in just three hours, around what precisely they were selling and why. No data, no analysis, no market research, no PowerPoint decks. The wisdom was already in their heads. They just had to pretend they were doubling the price.

Product Management Tip of the Month: If you manage a product, take your team out of the office once a year, play “double the price,” and then take them out for pizza. It will be one of the most productive things you do all year long.

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To continue the conversation, contact Rosa at, or go to