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May 18, 2021

How to Generate New Product Ideas

Revenue generation and increased engagement rank as top priorities for many associations right now. One way to accomplish both is to look more closely at your product development process—particularly new product development.

When considering new products and services, the options can seem vast and ambiguous. Because the preferences and needs of the market evolve constantly, it can be overwhelming to determine where to invest your resources. The following four steps will help you launch your new product development process in an informed and strategic way.

Step 1—Ground yourself.

Ground yourself in the needs of your audience.

Make sure you understand the everyday habits, challenges, unmet needs, and preferences of your target market. You can do this by calling a few members, asking one of your committees to walk you through a typical day, or tapping your customer service staff to understand the themes of your association’s feedback. In this step, give your participants the opportunity to go “off-script” while answering pointed questions that help them open up about their day-to-day lives. Hidden in these informal conversations or open-ended responses are the seeds for your new product idea. Be on the lookout for them.

For example, think of the launch of Airbnb. The concept started in San Francisco, a city notorious for its housing crunch and large conventions. The co-founders noticed that all of the hotel rooms in the city were booked for the local industrial design conference. Needing some cash after a recent move from New York City, the founders decided to buy a couple of airbeds and put up a website called “Air Bed and Breakfast.” Today, the company is valued at over $20 billion.

Remember that more is not always better when you’re looking for insights from the research. A few phone calls or a pulse survey can provide what you need. What’s important at this stage is to understand problems, not create solutions.

Step 2—Brainstorm

Once you have data to inform your ideas, you’re ready to start brainstorming. While brainstorming sounds like an unstructured exercise — and there are certainly elements that should remain unstructured — it’s important to have a solid and deliberate approach to generate the best ideas. During the session, keep in mind:

  • The session should encourage expansive, not limited, ideation.
  • Encourage out-of-the-box ideas. Some might seem unfeasible or even odd but go into the session with an “anything is possible” mindset.
  • Watch for patterns and themes to arise and reinforce those.

Again, it is critical to think expansively during this phase. If you heard Leon Logothetis speak at ASAE’s 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting, you know the importance of this type of thinking. It means creating ideas that are not anchored in past knowledge or mindsets. Later, through the process of deduction, you can test and narrow those ideas.

Step 3—Develop your product concept

In this step, it’s time to develop your concept. Associations are prone to faltering or even abandoning the process at this point. Sometimes, the evidence isn’t sufficient enough or the venture seems too risky.

For many, the hurdle lies in the scope rather than the product itself. For example, an association decides to pursue online learning and invests in a costly learning management system. Another decides to pursue a new accreditation program and spends years building a rubric, consulting services and other costly and time-consuming features.

At this stage of your product’s lifecycle, it is important to think in terms of minimum viable product. What is the most solid product you can build with the fewest time-intensive features? A pilot product can be tested and adapted in a continuous cycle of improvement that’s based on actual — rather than anticipated — performance. This type of approach allows you to go to market faster, minimize risk and build a more informed and tailored product.

Step 4—Get feedback

The final stage of your new product development process should involve market testing. Turn to your target audience to ask questions such as:

  • What is your initial reaction to this product?
  • What would you change? Also, what would you definitely not change?
  • Does this product solve a problem you face?
  • What price would you pay?

Use this feedback to refine and further develop your product idea. Then, learn more about bringing your new product idea to life with product development and project management.

Learn more

For more information on association product development and management services, please contact us, read our previous blog posts, and stay tuned for the next in this series:

Learn more about our product development and management services.


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