Many times, customers don't know what they want. This may be one of the greatest challenges facing companies who look too closely at analytics when researching new ideas.

Scott Anthony wrote an interesting article titled Turning Customer Intelligence into Innovation which gives pause for introspection.

Analytics and research reveal historical patterns, but give little insight into the future. There has to be a better way to research the potential for new ideas.

How to Integrate Customer Intelligence

Anthony stated that “thoughtful companies intertwine customer intelligence throughout the three phases.”

  1. Discovery. This first phase of innovation is when a company or person identifies a problem they can solve in the marketplace. Observe the target audience performing the behaviors surrounding the problem you want to solve. Talk to them, and ask them questions. This will help fine-tune for the next stage.
  2. Blueprint. Software companies do this very well - they launch in beta phase. The blueprint phase is the ideal time to release a product in prototype version to observe its actual applications in real-life. Instant feedback from users helps innovators fine-tune the final product. This is easier in the software industry given the low distribution costs, and ease in upgrading the product, however, it’s a phase that should not be skipped regardless of industry. This type of customer feedback can prove to be invaluable.
  3. Test. The third phase asks the question, “Have you solved the problem for the consumer?” Will it generate revenue, and repeated revenue for the business in question? Will the price work? Is it scalable? This will require a second round of observation and/or testing, which can be done in focus groups or by way of employees, or loyal current customers. If applicable, you can use online tools like SurveyMonkey.

Anthony offers a few final points to incorporating customer intelligence into innovation:

  • Require everyone in the company to spend time with customers.
  • Establish processes which incorporate customer feedback such as regular surveys, focus groups, or ambassador panels.
  • Develop a lab where users can test drive new products and experiment. This could be an online beta testing platform or a physical facility depending on your business model.

What are you doing to bring better intelligence into your innovation process?