In his highly respected book on market validation, If You Build it, Will They Come? Dr Rob Adams talks about how most companies go about marketing their new offerings. He describes the common, flawed approach as: Ready, Fire, Fire, Fire, Aim. He contends that the only effective way to do it is: Ready, Aim, Fire, and he has plenty of evidence to support his postulation.
In essence, what Rob is saying is that most companies jump into product development, product launch and marketing activity without adequate, or any, market validation and research. He suggests strongly that this is one of the reasons that 90% of new businesses fail and 65% of new products fail. Of all product failures, his research attributes 85% of them to market-related issues, not product deficiencies. This is wholeheartedly supported by my own experiences as a marketing and brand consultant.
However, it’s not enough to test your value proposition once upfront only. The market is constantly evolving and changing, so consequently your customers’ preferences and the available competitive offerings will also change. You should revisit your value proposition from time to time and conduct fresh validation to ensure that it’s still ‘on the money’. If no need for change is evident then great, you can confidently press on with your marketing and promotional activities. If you do discover a shift, even a small one, you can quickly make an adjustment and be confident that your marketing investment will still be in good shape.
Products usually fail because they don’t sell and seldom because they don’t perform functionally. Sure there are examples of poorly designed products that have failed miserably, but there are squillions of examples of great products that simply flopped at market level.
A famous and highly publicised failure (or major disappointment to be kind, as the product is actually still being sold on the market) is the Segway personal transportation device. Dean Kamen, the inventor, had a great vision of everyone riding around silently on his incredible device. But for many reasons it just didn’t get the take-up or widespread acceptance that he had expected, despite its solving some really challenging personal transportation problems and delivering an outstanding customer experience.