Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Everything is perfect until people get involved!

Does this sound familiar? You've had a genius vision for a service or product or campaign. Worked out the revenue streams and ROI model. Got decision maker buy-in. Planned it out. Branded it. Built it. Executed every detail perfectly. Launched it. And then found that people don't use it the way you expected!

This happens all the time. Some great examples at the failblog.org website. People either don't get what you were trying to achieve, or they use it for some other purpose, or they ignore you altogether and go right ahead doing what they always did. Sometimes even other members or departments in your own organisation don't deliver it the way you expected.

You wonder what happened. And then someone asks whether you tested any of your ideas on your audience before getting it out there?

This is a classic mistake that organisations traditionally make. As creators of products and services we think we know best. We think we understand our market because we've been in business a long time, or because we imagine our audience to fit some imaginary persona, or simply because we expect our audience to be the same as us.

Here's 3 ways of making sure you don't have any unpleasant surprises when you go to market with your new offering.

  1. Identify Target Audience
    Identify your target audiences and create focus groups that cover both the people who are the target audience and also the people who will be expected to deliver the service or product. Incentivise these groups so that they have enough reason to care about what you're trying to achieve.
  2. Create Focus Groups
    Run your generic ideas past the focus group. Remember that users can only tell you what they do or don't like. They rarely help you innovate, so you'll probably still have to craft the product or service yourself and make judgement calls. Rest assured you'll learn a lot though.
  3. User Test Your Offering
    Involve the focus group in the detailed development of the product, system or service. In other words ensure you have sufficient user testing before you go live. These are costs that most organisations skimp on, but its the best money you'll spend in terms of return on investment.