Alan Cucknell

Alan Cucknell

American inventor Thomas A. Edison once said: “To get a great idea, come up with lots of them.”

I’m with him – a rich source of diverse ideas is certainly an important part of successful and repeatable innovation. But when it comes to connected products especially, coming up with ideas is the easy part – the challenge is systematically judging which idea(s) to invest in.

So how do confidently find the best connected offering for your brand? One that delivers benefits for your customers and delivers ROI for you (more on this in my previous blog). And crucially in the current rush to “connected-everything”, isn’t a short-lived gimmick.

Here’s some important principles I’ve learnt for creating successful IoT offerings that endure:

1. Know your purpose

Prioritise understanding what your purpose is, because this will dictate everything – from product development to finding the right partners to adjusting your internal structure and processes to fit. This goes much deeper than corporate aims. It’s about distilling how your brand can help consumers achieve their core Job to be Done (JTBD) – but in ways that are better, easier, faster or cheaper than today. A good starting point, “What’s their purpose?”

It’s not guess work. It is important to be systematic, solution-agnostic and data-driven. Once you have the purpose I’ve written previously about how to find connected value propositions consumers really care about.

2. Don’t get blinded by technology

Although technology is undoubtedly crucial in developing new products it is important not to be distracted by it. Think of technology as the toolkit, rather than the objective. If you get the purpose and proposition right, customers won’t care how you deliver it. If you don’t get it right, the technology won’t matter...

Almost always there are a number of ways to use the toolkit to deliver on a new product the development team’s job is to find one that works well enough as an enabler for the concept. One client described it perfectly: “Technology has to give you something invisible that you can’t work out yourself.”

3. Stay focused on your own brand

A vital part of any new business move is knowing what your competitors are doing. But don’t innovate looking over your shoulder as it’ll distract you from making your own progress.

Do the research, understand the landscape and take account of it in your plans. Then focus on your brand and creating a strong, repeatable pipeline. Don’t drive looking in the rear-view mirror.

4. Value the physical

Despite the digital age we now live in, consumers still aspire to have something tangible that lasts. As one customer recently it: “I’m in the digital world all the time and this [physical product] is my tether to the real world.”

IoT offerings have a unique opportunity to meet this desire by providing a meaningful physical product with a seamless digital connection – but to do so well requires careful design of the interface and user experiences generated. Consider separately the physical and digital interactions your customer will have with your product, as well as the touchpoints between them.

5. Avoid barbed wire

What causes customers to stumble when they interact with your product?  What are the hurdles to use and barriers to entry?

We call it avoiding “barbed wire” – designing around or removing interactions that make it hard for consumers to do something. No matter how trivial they seem these points of friction add up to stop customers meeting their purpose.

6. Test and adapt

As championed by Lean Start-up, no amount of prior analysis, consumer testing or deep thought will replace what you learn when you launch a product. And generally, the more breakthrough the idea for your business (and especially for your customer), the more this holds true. So with IoT products, it’s no longer a case of developing the complete final solution before launch – get it as good as you can, then be prepared to test, launch, adapt, and innovate on a perpetual cycle that responds to the changing world around you.

So we need to break the “launch and forget” mindset. Instead, cultivate an attitude that is prepared to continually “test and adapt”. Learn to operate in Beta mode, allowing for the regular release of new versions and gradual improvement of your product via remote maintenance and upgrades.

7. Find your monetisation model

I’ve talked before about how you need to consider the longer-term and non-monetary gains rather than immediate ROI when investing in IoT products (read my blog on this), and I stand by that. But that’s not an excuse for not having a solid business plan. This will look different depending on your market. Sometimes it’s an upfront purchase, other times its subscription fee – and some with a combination of the two. Incidentally for most connected products my experience suggests that so-called “freemium” models are great for driving high adoption rates and large networks, but for most businesses are difficult to convert to revenue.

You’ll need to be equally creative and analytical to find the model that’s the best fit for you – and if you’d like to discuss how to find the right model for you – get in touch!