Leverage Outside Experts to Build Faster Credibility, and Superior Margins. One Way is a DELPHI Study.
Regardless of the category of products the sooner you can build credibility with a new product or service the better. Too often marketers expect the power of the brand or the product to just carry the day. The world is too competitive to fall back on one aspect of your offering. In such a fragmented universe of products, distribution points and marketing it is critical to build credibility fast.
Outside experts not only provide real credibility on claims, product or service deliver and/or quality but also make you a lot smarter. We can often think we have the leading experts in an area in our firm. Sometimes that is the case but even P&G can and does learn from outside experts on laundry detergent. Since most companies aren’t P&G you MUST utilize outside experts. But does your organization think this way or just take the easy way out internally? Do you have the curiosity and desire to maximize the offering?
It often takes senior leadership to ask the toughest questions and challenge the assumptions, strategy and plans to make this happen. You must role model this behavior. If the senior person takes a “I don’t know what I don’t know” approach the more junior employees feel more comfortable following it as well. From my years of consulting the lower you go in an organization the fewer tough questions are asked challenging what you are doing.
We MUST reach out to those that have done the recent research, written papers and studied our area of interest. Sometimes these outside experts look very professional and like you, and often they may seem a little crazy and be a very diverse group of scientists, learners and experts. It is virtually guaranteed that you will learn something that can have a dramatic impact on your project. But you have to want to do it.
Having worked with dozens of companies in strategy and innovation projects (mostly Fortune 500), I can attest that outside experts can make or break your product.
Often I hear that clients are doing something so amazingly new and different there can’t be anyone doing something similar. I absolutely GUARANTEE there is someone on this planet doing something similar to you or the exact same thing. If you want to understand this further just Google for a product similar to a concept or product you are working on. It is humbling as you will most likely find all sorts of options for similar solutions.
Given the reality of similar products and services what can you do to stand out? How can you up the ante and be ultra-competive?
1.) You leverage experts to review and test your product and/or service. You do everything you can to make this independent, transparent and accurate. You can recruit credible outside experts if you allow them the freedom to review your product and you don’t “edit or comment” on their work. If you have tested your offering and are confident in it there is nothing to be scared of at all. If you have the “same old thing” than you better settle for mediocre margins and tough sledding to gain market share. When using this approach it is critical to document every interaction and communication with the outside experts for complete transparency.
2. Delphi Consensus Research with an expert panel is a very powerful tool. – Most common utilized with pharmaceutical and medical device companies to solve pressing health problems and/or want to build credibility for a new offering. These companies can teach you a lot about driving acceptance of a new solution as in healthcare it is mandatory to leverage outside experts. They are attempting to displace a current drug, device and/or technique that is entrenched with clinicians, patients, hospitals and insurance companies.
This is very challenging so they leverage the most credible and well known experts in the field. And it works. These “thought-leaders” discuss and vote quantitatively through a Delphi Consensus Study. They are run to the highest ethical standards and procedures. In fact, highly prestigious and well-read medical journals will publish these findings.
So what would a Delphi Consensus Study look like for your brand or product/service?
If you are confident that it is superior to the competition on one or more meaningful benefits than why would you not have outside experts review it without any influence from you? Net, you can proactively drive for an objective outside opinion instead of waiting for others to rate your product, if they ever do. One of the real downsides of Consumer Reports and others is that they are often subscription based so the exposure if very limited. If pharma can leverage outside objective experts why can’t you?
Get to know the experts in your field and embrace them. The benefits are massive!
3.) Torture Testing Of Product & Service – Another very effective way to leverage outside credibility is to have an outside group torture test your product or service. Again, if you believe in your product, and it is meaningfully unique put it to the most challenging test you can develop.
If you sold an innovative umbrella that was positioned as the strongest available you wouldn’t test it with an average rainfall. But sadly, that’s where a lot of companies set their success standard. If you want to maximize claims, persuasion and drive to superior profit margins make sure you don’t undersell your product or service. TEST it in the most challenging situation or often referred to as a “torture test”. In the case of the umbrella, its an absolute downpour with strong winds.
Build excitement around your benefit and that it is a superior solution by doing a test that is well beyond what any customer would experience. Go big or go home as they say. Sadly, most marketing messaging has very little to say. If I was you CMO my position would be that MUST have news or I don’t invest in the advertising. Give your customers hope, faith and tangible information that your product or service will deliver a bigger and bolder benefit.
If you are all about customer service or a service business what would the torture test be?
I don’t want to know that your employers can deliver in a perfect situation. How do they do when it is chaotic and busy? How can you prove to your customers that even when things aren’t perfect you will deliver? Let’s be honest, a lot of companies shy away from truly testing their offerings in such situations. They either don’t want to know and/or they know they won’t measure up. Set the most challenging situation for quality service as your success standard. Then prove you deliver in those situations.
4. ) Credible Experts Author Articles – Have experts right articles to build credibility. Customers love news to give them confidence that it is something that they should try. For marketers that love to develop online and social media ads, and traditional TV and radio this might not be very exciting but it is VERY persuasive. Hearing from outside expert is powerful and provides credible information.
Now I know you have to review these approaches with your legal department but do it in advance to understand the parameters and how it needs to be crafted to stay inbounds.
Bruce Hall is the CEO and President of Eureka! Inventing, the leader in strategy, growth, innovation and systems with 700+ clients in its history. Their Innovation Engineering approach is a break-through approach to Create, Communicate and Commercialize Ideas on the Front-End and Back-End of innovation. He also has held senior marketing positions with Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Novartis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.