Engaging Customers in Real-Time Product and Service Development

Traditional forms of marketing often pose a challenge for businesses in that they are often necessarily reactionary. Generally, marketers can’t determine customers’ satisfaction with a product or service until it’s already been created and introduced. By that time, it may be too late.

Face it. New product or service implementation may involve months or years of development, meaning that if your customers don’t like what you’ve produced, you’ve lost a lot of time and effort. Even when companies proactively seek out market input into the creation and design of their products and services, it’s hard to perfectly match those preliminary customer inputs and expectations with an end result.

In the Harvard Business Review article “Real-Time Marketing,” Regis McKenna discusses an interesting trend in marketing that utilizes advances in information technology to enable more real-time consumer input into product and service development.

Essentially, the idea is to keep consumers and potential consumers engaged throughout the process of product development. Instead of trying to sell customers on a product once it’s already developed, you can get their input into what they think of your initial idea and how they feel about the product as it’s being developed, meaning that consumer input can drive and influence the development of that product in real time, as opposed to after-the-fact.

McKenna suggests this concept can be a big boost to customer loyalty. Customers feel invested in a product they feel they have played a key role in developing. Instead of being convinced they want or need a product created by an impersonal, remote organization, they feel invested in the product through the influence they have exerted.

A great deal of operations management focuses on time to market: how long it takes a company to go from a concept to a marketable product. Real-time marketing can help boost an even more important metric: time to acceptance, which is essentially how long it takes the market to buy into the value of a product or service. The market doesn’t need to be as aggressively sold on a new product when they had an active role in guiding its development and implementation.

Think about the products and services you provide. How might you engage customers in the process of creating new products and services that more closely meet their needs and, most importantly, that they feel a natural affinity toward because they were part of the process?

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Employee Engagement

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