Being Lean and Nimble Requires Customer Input

Lean, nimble, agile, and even ‘fail fast.’ These are buzz words that most of us have heard hundreds of times throughout our careers. They suggest that speed, efficiency, and the ability to pivot are critical characteristics for businesses seeking to thrive in the digital world.

However, I have witnessed many business leaders make the argument that being lean and nimble means they cannot afford the time to incorporate the voice of the consumer into their product development and marketing efforts. This is where I do disagree, vehemently. I argue the contrary, that the leanest, most nimble businesses are those that hit the mark most often — succeeding because they incorporate consumer input in a highly efficient and thoughtful manner.

Our Radius Princeton office recently held a team building event at a local craft distillery, Sourland Mountain Spirits in Hopewell, NJ. This is a small start-up, but one that has enjoyed great success and fast growth since their inception in 2015. As we learned from Ray Disch, the founder of the distillery, their vodka, gin, and white rum are now available in over 180 bars and retail liquor stores across the Mid-Atlantic U.S. As Ray shared his passionate story, two anecdotes stuck with me

1. Wait and get it right.

Ray and team realized early on that they had no chance to succeed in a highly saturated market unless their product stood out. They distilled batch after batch and tinkered with recipes for several months, utilizing feedback from a small group of discerning spirits consumers before bottling and seeking meetings with local bars and retail outlets. There was pressure to get product to market sooner to offset start-up costs, but Ray felt that the brand only had one chance to get it right — that there was only one ‘first time taste experience.’

2. Get feedback from your customers.

Ray ultimately decided to have his bottles custom made. There were cheaper and quicker options but, to him, design was critical. The ultimate decision driver was feedback from local bartenders — that they prefer to pour, and thus use and recommend, bottles that are easier to handle. Ray incorporated this feedback and made sure his bottles had longer necks — a preference of bartenders.

The leanest, most nimble businesses are those that hit the mark most often — succeeding because they incorporate consumer input in a highly efficient and thoughtful manner.”

In both cases, Ray and his team chose the approach that on the surface seemed to be more cumbersome. Yet, in their focus on the consumer and getting it right, Sourland Mountain Spirits did in fact choose the most nimble path forward. They are now locked in, producing 70,000 bottles annually and winning several industry awards in only their third year of existence.

Radius shares Ray’s belief that incorporating customer feedback is not just complimentary, but critical to being lean and nimble.

Some ideas for incorporating feedback into your product development and marketing initiatives are as follows:

  • Real time Concept Optimization where iteration against a new idea takes place over the span of 2-3 days and includes ongoing consumer feedback throughout the process.
  • Product and Pricing Optimization which utilizes customer preferences and trade off behaviors, in a competitive context, to determine the right features, pricing, and SKUs to optimize revenue potential.
  • Message Optimization to clearly map out a multi-layered message framework that will optimally reach the greatest percentage of the target market.
  • Advertising Pre-test to ensure campaign dollars are not spent on spots that are not best positioned to achieve campaign goals.

Want to learn more on how to be lean in nimble in your business?

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