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Innovative companies are including their customers throughout the product development process. According to Jamieson Laboratories manager of insights Sarah Koval, the speed of innovation needs the speed an insight community can offer, and it’s a great way for the company to tap into its customer base.

At the 2017 Customer Intelligence Summit, three innovative brands outlined how they’ve become more agile and are leveraging deep customer relationships to accelerate the product development cycle. Koval was joined by LinkedIn program manager Karen Bills and Atlantic Lottery Corporation research analyst Elizabeth MacRae to talk about how their brands deliver winning products in less time and with less risk.

The session showcased how companies can realize ROI from customer-led product innovation, design an insight workflow that supports agile product development, and improve collaboration with product developers and understand their KPIs.

1. Give your customers a voice

Koval said there are always a lot questions that need answers quickly in the product innovation game, but traditional sources of insight and customer feedback were cost-prohibitive. The company’s insight community, Jamieson VOICE, helps the company engage customers quickly, she said, and provides insight that couldn’t previously be gleaned with other methods.

The community also helps Jamieson strengthen its relationship with customers and stay in tune with them more than ever before. Customers participate not because of the perks, said Koval, but because they want their voice to be heard.

Customers participate not because of the perks but because they want their voice to be heard.

2. Involve your customers from the beginning

Bills shared how LinkedIn injected the voice of its customer into every aspect of the product development process. For example, it used its Sales Advisors insight community to understand member reactions to possible names for a new product, test brand taglines and determine prospect messaging for the website. It also tapped the insight community to complement other research for a subscriber segment, and run activities to test new product ideas and understand pain points of end users.

When LinkedIn recently undertook the significant project of overhauling its desktop experience, it engaged users from the very beginning. Members of its insight communities evaluated early prototypes of the new desktop experience and offered feedback. Each major aspect of the new LinkedIn desktop experience—the newsfeed, profile, messaging, etc.— was vetted by thousands of users in its insight communities. The result is a cleaner and easier-to-user desktop experience that aligns with the company’s mobile experience.

Each major aspect of the new LinkedIn desktop experience—the newsfeed, profile, messaging, etc.— was vetted by thousands of users in its insight communities.

3. Prioritize ongoing engagement to deliver ROI

MacRae admitted that it has always been difficult to define ROI within the realm of product innovation research. But for the Atlantic Lottery Corporation (ALC), proving results is about whether stakeholders could make an effective decision based on research.

ALC’s PRO-LINE FANTASY game is an example of ROI from the community. MacRae said the organization was able to leverage comprehensive feedback on the competitive landscape revitalize PRO-LINE FANTASY. The Atlantic Lottery Corporation’s sports category used customer feedback to tailor its marketing strategy and product structure, resulting to product updates, a massive boost in awareness and a 400 percent increase in its PRO-LINE FANTASY revenue.

4. Establish agile workflows and tools

An “agile insight workflow” is necessary to support agile product development.

To work effectively and efficiently, Bills said LinkedIn had to become expert community managers almost overnight. The company created a detailed internal processes and tools to maximize use of its insight communities, including a form to automate the submission of ideas and a wiki for project intake. Having these tools in place helps Bills and her team understand the  needs of their stakeholders, and track what has been done previously. The wiki also acts a hub for best practices so that marketing managers, who aren’t researchers, don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Bills emphasized the importance of regular communication. Weekly check-ins help Bills prioritize projects so she can determine what the real business priorities are and to allow for discussion of results.

5. Think beyond product development

An amazing product won’t sell itself; the success of your product launch requires a thoughtful go-to-market strategy. Customer-led marketing is a critical component of successfully launching a product.

The speakers agreed that working closely with marketing team is critical to ensuring a successful launch. For example, ALC’s marketing and sales team regularly works with MacRae’s team to tailor the organization’s strategy for notable games like Lotto 6/49, Lotto Max, PRO•LINE, and Scratch’N Win favorites Crossword and Set for Life.

As for Jamieson, consumer feedback was critical to creating marketing packaging that communicated the benefits and deliciousness of its Vitamin C chewable products which led to a lift in sales, according to Koval.

The Human Side of Product Innovation

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was the former Content Marketing Manager and was responsible for Vision Critical's blog and social media marketing program. Before joining Vision Critical's global marketing team, Kelvin worked at Dunn PR, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. His experience includes working with lifestyle, real estate, and non-profit clients to develop social media marketing and PR strategies. Kelvin has a Bachelor of Business Administration from SFU's Beedie School of Business.
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