DIGITAL INTEGRATION: LOOKING AT ALL YOUR MARKETING OPTIONS

binary-system-1543168__340Often people come to me asking for a website, or to have me talk with their team about social media best practices, or ask my advice about what their LinkedIn profile should say. While I am happy to help with all these various digital activities, I always encourage someone to look at the larger overall digital marketing plan. In fact, marketing integration is much more important than in “traditional” marketing because each element builds upon (and depends on) each of the other elements.

Is yours complete?

If you pour your heart into making a great website, but it gets no traffic, your efforts will have been in vain. If you’ve labored over just the right keywords, but you have no way to talk to your prospects once you’ve brought them to your site, you will lose a LOT of traffic.

Digital branding requires that you look at all the different possibilities and, based on your strengths, capabilities and assets (coupled with a solid understanding of your consumer), design a digital marketing plan just for your needs. Ideally, you’ll want to use many of the following elements in your plan:

  • A strong website: There must be a “home base,” someplace for consumers to come to be informed, to get involved, to be a part of your community.
  • SEO: This gets people to come to that magnificent website that you just spent thousands of dollars on
  • Social Media: How will you engage with your target audience? Go “hang out” with them (virtually speaking) and join the conversations that are inevitably happening about your industry, product or segment.
  • E-newsletters/other e-mail marketing: Offer content and continue to have an on-going dialogue with your current (and future) clients.
  • Blog: This allows for an in-depth conversation about topics of interest both to you and your target audience.
  • Mobile: Everybody’s on the move. If there is a way to stay engaged with your audience on that most treasured of all tools (their phone), everyone will benefit!

The good news is that integrating these is not difficult, but it does require some strategic planning on your part. If you’d like help with that, give us a call. We’d love to help.

TOP TEN TIPS FOR ORGANIZING A FLASH MOB

shopping-562617_960_720Caroling has been a Christmastime tradition for hundreds of years and, like everything else, it has evolved with the times. Last week, I went to a mall with twenty-some other singers to sing The Carol of the Bells to anyone who happened to be in the food court that evening. It lasted less than two minutes, was very fun to do, and was extremely educational.

Earlier this month, in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, I performed with my children and a bunch of other teens and adults in the Red Door community theater Christmas Show, harmonizing with over fifty other voices to ring in the season. Ever the marketer, I wanted to help the theater get some publicity for their fantastic programs, so I had this great idea that we should do a ‘flash mob.’ A flash mob is when seemingly random people get together to sing a song or start to dance. When the song is over, everyone disperses, as if it were just another normal activity of their day. YouTube is full of lots of examples that are great fun to watch.

My thought was to give the kids something fun to do, delight the unsuspecting shoppers, provide some buzz for the mall and provide content for the local news station. I am a huge proponent of “win-win” scenarios. It wouldn’t take much time, we already had the voices, and it could provide some exposure for the theater program.

But I learned that nothing is ever as easy as it seems. The goal of this blog is to provide inspiration, tips and ideas for marketing your product, service, company or personal brand, so to that end, I offer these:

A Commentary on Our Society
and Top Ten Tips for Organizing a Flash Mob

  1. When you are coordinating something ‘cross-generational,’ allow three times as much time for communication. During rehearsals for the Christmas show, I explained my idea to the cast and asked for email addresses so that I could coordinate the best time and date to actually do the flash mob. Everyone was eager to participate, but communication has splintered beyond belief. Some teens said they didn’t really use their email; they prefer Facebook. Others said, “Just text me.” The younger teens didn’t have an email address yet, so they gave their home phone numbers. For those under 12 years old, I got some of the parent’s emails (and some of those home-schooling moms said that they never check their emails even though they have it). Sigh. I was reminded of the splintering of TV when cable exploded in the late 80’s and early 90’s. You could no longer consider a TV buy “solid” if you only bought ABC, NBC, and CBS. You really had to round it out with a cable buy to hit more of your target audience. If you are in marketing today, you MUST consider all forms of communications as viable for review. If your agency recommends a Facebook campaign, you better listen. If you don’t have a mobile campaign, you really should consider it.
  2. Technology can only help you if people actually use the technology. This tip is related to #1. In order to coordinate the best times and dates and make sure that we had enough of each part (sopranos, altos, tenors and bass as well), I considered several different event-planning options (Facebook and others) and decided to set up a www.surveymonkey.com survey to find out which day would be best. I sent an email to all the addresses I had and got a 25% response rate from the group. I’m certain that some people didn’t even realize that they were to click on the link and vote for their top dates/times.
  3. Don’t tell anyone. I mean, ANYONE. I thought that the mall might appreciate coordinating the event ahead of time, but in my research, I discovered that if you tell the mall in advance, they will be required to have you take out $1 Million insurance policy, in case someone should get hurt. I’m not kidding. $1 Million! But if you don’t tell them, you can just go and sing or dance and create a fun event. This is why I did not end up calling the local news station to see if they wanted to be there; what if someone sprained their vocal chords!?
  4. Don’t offer it to anyone. We needed a place to meet just before we were going to sing—someplace other than the mall. Because it is winter and twenty degrees where we live, I thought perhaps we could meet at a large mattress store nearby that has large open space but would be warmer than a parking lot. When I called the local manager to ask if he would be willing to have us meet there and sing a song for his customers, he told me I had to get approval from corporate. Really? Whatever happened to “empowering your employees?” Sigh again. Needless to say, we didn’t end up meeting there; we met in the parking lot of a bookstore instead.
  5. Use what you’ve got. We did not have to practice the song or spend a great deal of time coordinating the four-part harmonies because we had already practiced and performed it many times.
  6. The bigger the venue, the more voices you need. I was concerned about how many cast members would be able to participate on a school night, so I suggested that perhaps we should go to a grocery store instead of a huge mall. The feedback I got was that this was not cool or fun, so “let’s just stick with the mall.” In hindsight, it would have been more impactful to do this at one of those “big box” bookstores which, even in the height of the Christmas shopping season, still carries the aura of a hushed library. That would have been much more impactful.
  7. LOGO_-_2_inch_X_2inch_copyIt should last longer than two minutes. We thought about doing two songs but in the end decided to only do one song (that’s the “flash” in “flash mob”). It went too quickly and people wanted more. If you listen closely, you’ll hear someone say, “Don’t go away!” Next time, I would vote for more than one song.
  8. The video should be close. The acoustics of a mall are not the same as a theater, and while we wanted to get everyone in the video, it’s not the best recording.
  9. Don’t give up. There was a point at which I asked myself, “why am I putting so much energy into organizing something that nobody really cares about and for which someone might sue me for anyway?” It was supposed to be simple and it had gotten so complicated! I almost said, “just forget it.” I’m glad that I didn’t, because it was fun to do. While I would streamline the planning of it, I would definitely do it again. (And BTW, if you have the privilege of witnessing a flash mob, please appreciate the effort and coordination that went into that.)
  10. Consider it an unexpected gift to others. After it was over, one of the moms wandered into Brookstones, and this guy came in and asked the clerk what just happened. She told him she didn’t know, and he said you must know. “It must have been planned,” he said. She said again she didn’t know and he said,” They were all just sitting around eating and then they started to sing LIKE THAT (he meant well) and then they all just wandered away!”

BONUS TIP! Most important — Have fun! If you have an opportunity to, go caroling this holiday season (either as a flash mob or in the old-fashioned way, door to door). Singing is joyous, and it should be fun.

HOW YOUR PERSONAL BRAND CAN HELP TO INCREASE YOUR BUSINESS NETWORKING SUCCESS

51TT2-2JGkL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_What’s the link between business networking and personal branding? More importantly how can a strong personal brand help you be more successful when you network with others? To answer these questions, get your hands on the new book out by networking expert Kathy McAfee (aka America’s Marketing Motivator) about networking that should be on every successful businessperson’s reading list. The book is titled Networking Ahead for Business: The Best Vehicle to Get More Customers, Make More Friends, and Create More Opportunities for Yourself and Others(Kiwi Publishing, 2010) I highly recommend it; everyone needs to read if they really want to turbo-charge their relationships!

Kathy and I have known each other for several years and have collaborated on many projects. Besides being a very savvy businesswoman, her expertise (networking) and my area of focus (personal branding) go hand in hand which makes collaborating with her a win-win for many of our joint clients. In the book, I am quoted in the personal branding chapter! If you’ve been following me for a while or have been to any of my programs, some of these concepts will be familiar to you. However, Kathy addresses the topic from the standpoint of how personal branding impacts your networking efforts. Here are some of the questions covered:

What is networking and why is it important? 

“Networking is fundamentally about building and maintaining mutually-beneficial relationships before you need them.” says Kathy “A strong personal brand will help you to attract more meaningful connections more quickly. A well-defined personal brand will allow other people to refer you, position you, and connect you to other people in their network. This is how new opportunities are created for you and others in networking.”

How can I express my personal brand when networking?

In order to showcase your personal brand and present the best possible you when you network with people, you’ll want to be mindful of a few “rules of the road.” Kathy defines these in her book as the”Spirit of Networking” which is helping others and learning how to ask for help. To be successful in networking, you must be willing and able to give back, pay it forward and help others be successful, not just yourself. (Note: these are wonderful qualities to enhance your personal brand.)

How do I get started?

Meeting new people for informal or formal networking is a terrific way to help you get more comfortable and confident in expressing your personal brand. Kathy encourages you to “be yourself” and to share different parts of your life, including your work, family, interests, hobbies, passions. These are all aspects of your personal brand and when shared will naturally draw more of the right people to you.

Buy the book!

Kathy-McAfee-jean-jacket-orange-scarfNetworking Ahead for Business by Kathy McAfee is available for purchase on-line through Amazon.com or directly from the publisher, Kiwi Publisher here:

You can also sign up to receive Kathy’s weekly Networking How-To tips by:

1) Becoming a Networking Ahead for Business Fan on Facebook

2) Signing up for her free e-newsletter at her website

You can learn more about the author and about networking at www.NetworkingAhead.com.

BRANDING STRATEGIES IN ACTION

4259d2cb7121d97d6695096e4849cec2Most entrepreneurs really need to focus on personal branding, as oftentimes, they are their business. I’d like to introduce to you Christine Kalafus, the principal designer and owner of Stitch Design Studio who has learned about branding her business and herself from me (in person and through my newsletters & blogs). I recently asked her about what she had learned and how that knowledge contributed to the success of her business (growing from a home-based business to a commercial location). It is an excellent example of how executing the strategies discussed here can be put into action.

Read this story and you will find that Christine embodies these concepts:

  • Be clear about who you are, what you have to offer, and who your target audience is
  • Be confident that you have something amazing to contribute
  • Be connected to key influencers who can help you and whom you can help
  • Be dynamic in ever adding to your brand

Christine paid her way through college as a licensed insurance agent and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design from the University of New Haven. She was successful in the insurance industry, which made it hard to quit. Sometimes, excellent pay and benefits can cause inertia that can keep us from fully expressing our personal brand. Nine years after college, by then married and the mother of 3, she made the leap to pursue her passion. For three years, she apprenticed and worked for an in-demand seamstress who had agreed to train her.

But she still felt that she had more to offer, so she signed up for a class at the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center. (That’s where she met me; I have been teaching as adjunct professor for branding and marketing there for several years). “That’s where I learned about focusing on one thing; you can’t be diverse. You have to understand what your specialty is because that is what is going to carry you.”

She started working out of her house, networking with others and doing great work. She was in a new town but word quickly began to spread about her upscale designs and accessible nature. “I remembered our conversations about networking, partnering with people and the importance of prominent placement, and that definitely helped me build my brand. Through my networking efforts, I had the opportunity to design a window treatment for a set of balcony doors in a new space in an upscale, New York-style hair salon that catered to the same type of high-end clientele that I was trying to attract. As an immediate result of that work, I got five new clients who also referred me to others as well. Aligning with the owner of the hair salon was really a big break for me. She turned out to be a key influencer, as hairdressers are like bartenders—they know everyone in town! This woman is a successful business woman who is very well-respected in the community. That really launched me as a newcomer in town.”

When an opportunity came along for a fabulously inexpensive retail space, she had to overcome fears about taking her business to that next level. But she made the space her own, immediately putting fresh flowers out front and making sure her sign was just the way she wanted it to be (being authentic and expressing her brand naturally!). The adjacent storefronts had been vacant, but the power of her brand attracted other businesses to soon fill those spaces as well.

Christine is continually looking for ways to expand her brand and find more ways for people to engage with her. She has recently added event marketing to her brand-building activities. She now offers one-and-a-half hour sewing classes to teach girls the proper techniques for how to sew. She is branching out and trying new ways to build her brand by getting the moms in the door. Christine admitted, “When I first decided to have the classes, I wasn’t sure if it would do anything for my business, but I thought, if I don’t try, I’ll never know.” As it turned out, the mom of one of her first students had just moved to the area and needed her entire house to be redone.

Whether you are in a corporate situation or an entrepreneurial venture, you can leverage the same branding principles Christine exemplifies. Ask yourself, “How can I put these concepts into action in my own business life?” If you’d like, we’d be happy to help you answer that question. If you would like to find out more about Christine Kalafus and her luxurious soft furnishing creations, visit www.StitchDrapery.com or her blog at http://homecouture.wordpress.com

SOCIAL MEDIA: STRATEGY OR NO STRATEGY?

I read a theory about social media strategy today at Diana Huff’s B2B Marcom Writer’s Blog

It’s an excellent post (and subsequent conversation) about how strategy is over-rated when it comes to social media.

Her advice? Don’t try to get super-sophisticated with some complicated social media strategy. She advocates a Nike approach: “Just doit.”

Her argument? We, as marketers (and as human beings), instinctually know what to do when we get in to social situations:

  • Be nice to people.
  • Answer their questions.
  • Respond to what they have to say.
  • Post your own take on what is going on around you.

My favorite part of the post is this: “People recognize authenticity and like moths, want to hover near the source.”

I agree that we don’t need to over-think it, but even in her post, whether she knows it or not, she is advocating a strategy: Be authentic.

Bravo, Diana.

CORPORATE REBRANDING AND YOUR EMPLOYEES

tie-690084__340It seems a lot of companies that I talk with are undergoing a rebranding process. This can happen for many reasons, such as:

  • Acquisitions of or mergers with other companies requires a “folding-in” process of many products, services and brands under one umbrella
  • A company entering new markets
  • New product/service introductions
  • New management
  • The strategic plan calls for an investment in branding

When this happens, a company needs to invest not only in external efforts to establish the new brand in the hearts and minds of its customers, consumers, investors, suppliers and other members of the external community, but also with its most valuable internal base, its employees. These are the people who will have to embody the brand day in and day out, so wouldn’t it make sense to ensure that they have a strong understanding of that branding strategy and how their individual efforts contribute to that?

In fact, this is an excellent time to consider an exploratory of this interplay between company and personal brand.

THE RECIPROCITY OF COMPANY & PERSONAL BRANDS

arrows-27112__340How does your personal brand interact with the company brand?

There is a direct connection between someone’s personal brand and the company brand, and this is an important factor for you to consider in the development of your personal brand. The interplay between the two is real and tangible, and the impact is reciprocal. By that I mean that the company brand impacts you, and your personal brand impacts the company.

This has definitely been true in my own career. When I would mention that I worked for LEGO, people’s eyes would light up and they would tell me about the latest creation their children had made or share a fond memory from their own childhood experiences. People have an expectation about LEGO that carries over to the people that work there. If I worked for LEGO, I must be creative and fun, as these are qualities embodied in the company brand. In this way, the company brand “rubbed off” on me.

The same is true going the other way; your personal brand will “rub off” onto the company brand. Think about it for a minute. When the FedEx guy shows up at the office to pick-up and drop off packages, he is communicating something about the company’s image. At that time, he IS FedEx. If he is cheerful and efficient, then you will think that FedEx is a great company—efficient in its service and pleasant to work with. If he is grumpy, complaining and unorganized, this will negatively impact your perception of the company.

As you explore and expand your own brand, you will need to understand the impact of the other brands that surround you, most notably the company brand. A good brand manager will look to associate their brand with other strong brands that share the same values, the same target audience, and compatible brand images. You will want to do the same.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your company’s brand?
  • How do they present themselves to the marketplace?
  • If the company were a person, what type of person would they be?
  • Is that a person you would want to hang out with?
  • Do other people respect this company?
  • What does your association with this company say about you?

If you are a leader in a company, you will want to consider this concept from the other perspective. What do your employees convey about you? How can you impact this in a positive way? One way is to bring the concept of personal branding to everyone’s attention. This has multiple effects. First, it will heighten awareness of the employee’s impact so that they are more mindful of how they behave with others. Secondly, it acts as a catalyst for change if needed. Some employees may be unaware of how they have been potentially negatively impacting the business with their behaviors. Third, it empowers employees, who begin to see that they and their actions can make a difference and contribute to a greater whole.

BEACON TREND WATCH: THE IMPORTANCE OF TRENDS

profits-1953616__340As part of a new product development project I worked on recently, we looked at current and upcoming trends to spur our imaginations and see what new product ideas could be generated with those trends in mind. In your new product development, make sure you include some trend work in your ideation session, as the combination of a few random trends could make for some really inspired new product ideas!

To spark your thinking, I am including a few trends–from American Tea Parties to American Idol, from the appeal of the latest technological toys to a yearning for simplicity–that may have implications for your industry:

Recessionary Reset

How has the shift in American spending impacted your industry? What will healthcare reform mean for you (personally and professionally)? What do you see ahead? As the media argues over a double-dip recession versus a slow return to prosperity, marketers must evaluate the permanent mindset change that has impacted consumers over the past two years—the loss of jobs that is forcing greater entrepreneurialismexploding direct selling industries, and causing the belt-tightening that has led to a struggle for middle tier brands to prove their value amidst the resurgence of private label brands, the staycation phenomenon, the rise of DIY décor, and the inconspicuous consumption of those who still have jobs and money now tiptoeing out to spend money without anyone noticing, not bringing in their designer shopping bags from the car until after dark.

Empowered Narcissism

The rise of the social media allows everyone to shine a spotlight on everyone’s favorite topic…themselves. Now that people can tweet about what they had for lunch today and blog about their opinions on the latest celebrity scandal, it means that everyone’s an expert and everyone is media (see blog post from April for more on this topic). Crowd-sourcing on-line has empowered everyone, given each person an opportunity to contribute a potential SuperBowl ad idea, speak up and let their voices be heard, from American Tea Parties to giving their rating on the latest novel at Amazon, voting on who should win American Idol, America’s Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars or any of the other “audience participation” shows on prime time.

Authentic Environ-mentality

Green efforts continue to build, as more Americans are gravitating to products and services that can boast environmental friendliness. However, buying green must be easy, and authenticity matters —DON’T bother to “greenwash” your product; such efforts will eventually backfire.”Buy local” is a watchword that goes along with those efforts, with many just now discovering the delights of the weekend farmer’s market.

Technological Touchpoints

Whether you are an individual consumer or a multinational retailer, technology still rules. With M-commerce on the rise as now 32% of Americans using mobil phones and mobil apps to access email, text or shop on-line, technology is changing how and when we communicate, while web-based training programs at the office and do-it-yourself scanners minimizes the need for human interaction—even at the hardware store. While some argue that today’s mobile-empowered consumers cannot communicate “properly” (meaning that they can’t carry on a conversation of more than 160 characters at a time), others will argue that technology is only enhancing how that social interaction happens, with tweet-ups and meet-ups organized on twitter.com or eharmony.com.

Take some time with each of these ideas (and many others that you can see in your own industry) and discuss how they are impacting or could impact your business moving forward. Looking at these trends slightly differently could yield a whole new stream of revenue one year, three years, even ten years down the road!

YOU JUST CAN’T RELY ON FLUBBER FOR THE GROWTH OF YOUR BUSINESS

flask-908887__340

It’s been said many times that “hope is not a strategy.” Everyone’s heard the stories of those who stumbled upon great inventions that revolutionized their tiny corner of the world (like 3M Post-It Notes or Disney’s mythical “flubber”), but in general, new business development, and in particular, new product development is a lot more structured than that. Even when you are exploring unchartered waters, it still helps to have a goal in mind so that you can build even a rough plan for how to achieve that goal.

I’m working on a new product development project and one of the first essential activities is to ensure that everyone impacted by the new product exploratory agrees on the objectives of the project. You see, everyone says, “We want more business! We want to grow!” But they don’t always take the time to determine specifically what they are looking for. “We need new products—we don’t know exactly what it is, but just bring us your idea and we’ll tell you if it’s any good.”

This is not a recipe for success. It’s so much more efficient to outline the criteria against which the project or product will be measured—even if you aren’t certain exactly what the outcome will be.

Usually, the easiest measurements include gross revenue, but the more specificity you can provide up front the better your outcomes will be. Are you looking for $1MM idea, a $5MM idea, or a $100MM line of business? Also, what’s the timeframe expected to generate that revenue? In general, there’s a “build” that happens in most industries as consumers become more aware of your new offerings, so it’s important to think through your timelines leading up to (and through) commercialization.

It is helpful to gain agreement with every interested party, as each will have their own perspectives on what you should be striving for—the VP of Finance has certain gross margin expectations, while the head of Sales needs products that deliver specific turn rates in order to sell it in to his retailers. Brand Management will be looking for those innovations that enhance the brand’s image and answer unmet consumer needs, whereas Manufacturing is concerned with how much excess capacity this new product will use and how it will integrate with current manufacturing processes. Getting everyone’s desires and expectations out in the open up front will streamline the evaluation process and ensure that the innovation process is not just a “fluke” (or a flubber) but is a methodical system for new business development.

If you’d like to help bring consumer-oriented innovation to your business, come talk with us about how we can help facilitate the growth of your business.

Last week, I conducted a “Lunch ‘n Learn” session on personal branding to a real estate investment company and had a great conversation about personal branding as it relates to those at the VP and above level. The question had to do with how personal branding can help those in leadership positions “take it to the next level.” My answer? Personal branding is extremely important at the executive levels because it is critical for leaders to convey what their leadership brand is. I have conducted personal branding exploratories with those at the executive level for this very purpose. Usually, someone reaches an executive level because they have core competencies in a certain area; however, leadership requires a whole different skill set. Leaders are not “doing” the work anymore…they are coordinating getting the work done. They must learn how to inspire others to do the work, and for that, they need a strong personal brand. I presented seven principles of personal branding and discussed how they relate to one’s job search. As it relates to leadership, the same principles apply. All the principles we discussed in the Signature for Success program are invaluable to expressing a leadership brand. Leaders need to ask themselves: Do I lead by example? How best can I share my vision for what we want to accomplish? How can I instill trust in my people—those who report to me, those who work with me, and the leadership above me? For leaders, the principles discussed are reviewed from a slightly different perspective, as follows: Be Clear: What do I stand for? What is my leadership brand? Leaders are visionary and need to be able to convey that to their organizations clearly and effectively. Be Professional: Leaders need a whole different set of skills, such as managerial and organizational skills that they may not have had to call upon prior to being thrust into a position of leadership. However, they usually still need to have core competency in the area they are leading so that they can provide sound guidance on how the day-to-day operations get done. Be Confident: Who would follow a tentative, wishy-washy leader who seems unsure of himself/herself? Be True (Be Consistent): Of course, much has been written about how leaders need to “walk the talk.” In addition, leaders generally need to hammer home their vision over and over again, to repeatedly hold the high goal before everyone so that they are continually motivated to reach those goals. Be Bold: Leaders are necessarily leading….That means they are out in front, leading the way, sometimes treading in unknown territory. Boldness in leadership takes courage of a different sort. Be Connected: The higher up you go, the trickier the networking gets (and the more important it gets). When you are networking with your peers, you must always be mindful of the messages you are conveying. In general, leaders do not whine or complain about unrealistic deadlines or unsolvable problems to those who report to them. They must find other like-minded leaders to discuss their challenges with, in an appropriate forum. But often, the alliances they form throughout their industries can really be beneficial to the company as a whole. So once you become a leader in your company, being connected gets taken to a whole new level. Be Dynamic: Leadership skills are different than professional skills. There are ALWAYS new levels of leadership to be achieved. We are never “done.” While someone in Accounting may eventually be able to “check the box” on skills related to tax implications and general accounting principles, a leader of the accounting department will need to motivate a team of tired, overworked individuals when the end of quarter or end of year crunch-times come around. Motivational skills, listening skills and communication skills are the hallmarks of good leadership, and these skills can always be further honed. If you’re a leader, then you need to focus on your leadership brand. If you aren’t (but would like to be), then you need to focus on your personal brand. The benefits are tremendous!

flask-908887__340

It’s been said many times that “hope is not a strategy.” Everyone’s heard the stories of those who stumbled upon great inventions that revolutionized their tiny corner of the world (like 3M Post-It Notes or Disney’s mythical “flubber”), but in general, new business development, and in particular, new product development is a lot more structured than that. Even when you are exploring unchartered waters, it still helps to have a goal in mind so that you can build even a rough plan for how to achieve that goal.

I’m working on a new product development project and one of the first essential activities is to ensure that everyone impacted by the new product exploratory agrees on the objectives of the project. You see, everyone says, “We want more business! We want to grow!” But they don’t always take the time to determine specifically what they are looking for. “We need new products—we don’t know exactly what it is, but just bring us your idea and we’ll tell you if it’s any good.”

This is not a recipe for success. It’s so much more efficient to outline the criteria against which the project or product will be measured—even if you aren’t certain exactly what the outcome will be.

Usually, the easiest measurements include gross revenue, but the more specificity you can provide up front the better your outcomes will be. Are you looking for $1MM idea, a $5MM idea, or a $100MM line of business? Also, what’s the timeframe expected to generate that revenue? In general, there’s a “build” that happens in most industries as consumers become more aware of your new offerings, so it’s important to think through your timelines leading up to (and through) commercialization.

It is helpful to gain agreement with every interested party, as each will have their own perspectives on what you should be striving for—the VP of Finance has certain gross margin expectations, while the head of Sales needs products that deliver specific turn rates in order to sell it in to his retailers. Brand Management will be looking for those innovations that enhance the brand’s image and answer unmet consumer needs, whereas Manufacturing is concerned with how much excess capacity this new product will use and how it will integrate with current manufacturing processes. Getting everyone’s desires and expectations out in the open up front will streamline the evaluation process and ensure that the innovation process is not just a “fluke” (or a flubber) but is a methodical system for new business development.

If you’d like to help bring consumer-oriented innovation to your business, come talk with us about how we can help facilitate the growth of your business.