New product development is an anticipated outcome of a social business. Your growing social business culture keeps you constantly in touch with current and prospective customer mindset.
How well are you communicating customer insights to your R&D team? Their understanding of your sales and marketing data can make or break your new product development pipeline.
Yes, I can see you cringing now.
You feel you have been successful walking the social business talk within your company and throughout your customers’ organizations. However, your conversation is all business. Essentially, you are talking to yourself.
You still marginalize the techies and engineers, don’t you?
New product development is the acid test of the social business. It’s a cross-functional, highly collaborative undertaking. Are you able to do this successfully? Or are you right back to where you started, in your company’s status quo?
There’s no room for Us versus Them mindset in the social business.
Recently I was at a medical conference in San Francisco. The exhibitors included the folks who make some of the biggest and baddest therapeutic equipment and software for the treatment of cancer.
The most prevalent complaint I heard from the physicists and physicians attending and presenting at the conference? When they asked the sales folks in the exhibit hall a question, the sales people immediately went running for an engineer to provide an answer. The engineer inevitably told the truth; the company marcom materials lost their credibility in the process.
What a lost opportunity for customer discovery. Does this sound familiar?
What I’ve described at this high profile conference is “business as usual”. It’s the very definition of status quo Us versus Them mindset. My book, Do YOU Mean Business? is written specifically about how to make this conversation fluid across departmental silos.
I offer three tips for your consideration this month.
Tip One – Involve your entire cross-functional new product development team, not just the marketing/PR folks. If your sales people are asked questions they are less-than-confident about answering, let them respond with the technical / engineering professionals. It’s not an either-or situation. Think what the impact of this type of dynamic has on your company brand, image and credibility with current and prospective customers.
Tip Two – It’s always about starting a dialogue. Generating social media-based messaging on new product development pipeline activities for your company can move you out of the status quo. Have you noticed that most manufacturing messages sound like a brag-board or a job board? Differentiate yourself. Involve real, live technical and engineering folks in creating your social media-based messaging instead of a copywriter. Start an open ended conversation with your customers instead of composing another statement of fact. You’ll be surprised at how many “other” non-sales folks are out there who would love to join in your new product development conversation.
Tip Three – It’s a means to an end, not an end in itself. Customer discovery conversations are about exchange of ideas. Your technical and engineering folks in R&D are very comfortable with that type of dialogue. Their focus is social listening, pondering, developing, testing (all about your customers). This tack makes your business folks squirm; they want to be focusing on social selling and closing (all about you).
Your goal is to have a constantly evolving new product development pipeline. Your sales and marketing folks must become more comfortable with the R&D part of your social business.
How well are your technical folks teaching your business folks how to listen for new product development triggers?
Your homework this month: Observe your new product development teams. Are they composed of all-technical/engineering folks? Make them more cross-functional. Select sales and marketing folks capable of collaborating across departmental silos. Everyone learns from everyone else over time.
If you are in the dark about tools and tips to get this type of new product development team up and running, my book Do YOU Mean Business? will be your guiding light to kickstart this initiative.
This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own.
Babette N. Ten Haken catalyzes collaborative business transition, startup growth, and professional development. She works with non-traditional sellers, engineers, small and midmarket manufacturers, and technical startups. Contact her to jumpstart your collaborative new product development teams.