Are Your New Product Development Efforts Really Enough?
I find it surprising how much time and energy gets spent these days on the smallest details of a myriad of marketing communication activities while how little time and attention gets placed on effective product development. At our core, catalogers are merchants live and die by our ability to bring new, exclusive (or at least hard to find) products to the pages of catalogs.
Yet, how much real time, effort and resources is your catalog team allocating to this effort? Here are some guidelines that I highly recommend to you.
1. Challenge your product team to deliver 25 percent-plus of annual sales from new products introduced during the most recent 12 months. If you’re in an industry where the rate of natural product change is inherently greater, like technology, the goal will be higher.
2. Enroll your vendors in the task of assessing market changes and new product trends and developments. Ask them to bring you a specific number of new product ideas monthly.
3. Assuming your list is on the market, look at who’s renting it and see what those renters, particularly repeat renters, are selling to your customers.
4. Solicit new product ideas from your customers. This is much easier if you use the Web. By frequently asking them what problems they’re looking to solve will lead you to new product ideas.
5. Don’t overlook potential complimentary services or saleable content/knowledge that could be offered along with your products.
6. Take a look at your major customer segments and look for other catalogers mailing to those segments. What are they offering that might fit into your offering?
7. If your products have a high design component (such as corporate greeting cards), contract outside design firms for fresh design approaches and new product ideas.
8. Don’t avoid lower margin commodity or consumable products, as they may be integral to your customer retention or order frequency. But have enough hard-to-find products to justify a customer buying from you rather than hardware, office supplies or warehouse club big box stores that cater to businesses.