True customer proximity makes the difference in Product Innovation

Why are companies like Apple, Google, Tesla or Samsung so successful and innovative? They do not enquire the needs from their own sales forces, but they earnestly ask their customers. Further they are verifying the value of their development results not only with test in their own labs, but also conduct several field testing with customers and in the market.

To achieve sustainable growth in the hard-fought markets, it is not sufficient in the world wide destructive competition only to own today successful products and services in a defined market segment and within a target customer group. Markets, competitors and the consumption behaviour of customers will be under rapid and steady change in the future. As a result, a couple of European corporations are focusing in enhanced development of innovative premium goods.


Several studies in the market of industrial goods showed, that approx. 60-80% of these product developments fail or do not result in a successful market launch. The main reasons for the flops are missing field investigations to analyse the true customer needs or the disability to transform the needs into clear and prioritised product and market requirements.

Unfortunately, big and innovative companies also fall during the definition phase into the trap of needless time constraints, inadequate cost pressure or unsufficient resources. Then only their own sales force will be consulted to analyse the product and market requirements. Consequently, the resulting products are often mainly oriented on the features of competition and the real market success is missing.

Structures field interviews and field observations in teams with selected lead customers are the best method to investigate the true – unmet, often not articulated and hidden – customer needs. To develop really innovative and value-oriented products and services it is key not only to enquire the lead customers at the early beginning, but also to consult them about the fulfilment of the needs and involve them at several development stages: i.e. field testing with prototypes or market tests with reference projects. This results in customer proximity but also strengthens the mutual confidence and finally leads often into loyal and convinced customers or even innovation partners for the future.

Do you see need for action in your company for your current or up-coming development projects respectively market developments? I would be happy to support you with a structural training in this methodology and accompany you in conducting your field interview, field testing or reference project.