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In a webinar with social business strategist and renowned author Bryan Kramer, Vision Critical explored the notion of “marketing like a human.” According to Kramer, marketers need to regard customers as people not data points. When companies see their customers as humans, they simplify their marketing language and build a more genuine relationship.

Bryan’s insight applies not just in marketing but also across all aspects of your business. The human-to-human (H2H) approach especially applies to R&D and innovation, where customer empathy could help companies produce more relevant products.

Here are three ways adding a human touch into the end-to-end development process can improve innovation when planning and improving your product mix.

  1.    Discover if there is a real market need.

The top reason startups fail is not because of lack of cash. According to CB Insights, a venture capital database, 42 percent of startups fail because there isn’t a real market need for their products. Similarly, many product launches flop because they fail to ask a crucial question: Who will buy this and at what price?

In short, companies and products don’t succeed because of lack of intelligence on what customers actually need.

Few business leaders are like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg—visionaries who identify a market need long before others do. Most business leaders need to tap into the minds of their customers to identify unfulfilled needs in the market.

Companies have traditionally uncovered customer and market insight in various ways: beta testers, in-person focus groups, Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer satisfaction surveys, secondary industry data, ad hoc studies and social listening programs. But these metrics just don’t go deep enough anymore. Companies need to add context to these data points. They need take a more human approach, connecting data to real people’s thoughts and opinions.

Tweet this!To drive innovation, companies need to take a more human approach and connect data with customer intelligence. (CLICK TO TWEET)

Sometimes companies also get ideas within their own walls by engaging with employees who are tech enthusiasts and early adopters. This approach is insufficient because innovation requires outside perspective.

The better approach is to engage customers directly and continuously. A two-way conversation with customers provides a deeper understanding of your potential customers and what they need.

  1.    Find a problem, and solve for that.

Do product planners and developers know why they’re working on a new idea? More importantly, do they know what problem it will solve for current and potential customers? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you may be creating something that has no built-in market.

Consider the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) segment. Despite the buzz about “smart” products, the promise of the IoT has yet to fully materialize. This is partly because companies haven’t adequately explained to customers how these products can revolutionize daily life. In 2014, 33 percent of people who have bought wearable products abandoned them within a year due to disappointment.

  1.    Create the best possible product.

Far too many companies launch products and new features without consulting their harshest critic: the customer. When development teams make decisions based on what they think customers want, they risk getting it wrong. When companies don’t infuse customer feedback throughout the development process, they end up bringing irrelevant solutions to market, prioritizing the wrong features or completely missing the mark.

Embrace human-centered design and design for and with your customers. To keep up with increasingly shorter development cycles and changing market expectations, companies need to inject a steady stream of customer intelligence into the innovation process.

Tweet this!Embrace human-centered design, and design for and with customers. (CLICK TO TWEET


The concept of H2H business isn’t entirely new. But in an era where brands make huge bets on new technologies and features, H2H is an approach worth investing in across product development, brand strategy, and marketing. In the failure age, the cost of ignoring the input of your customers is simply too high.

The Human Side of Product Innovation

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