Failure to Launch: the reality of success
Success. Everyone wants it, but few get it! Whether it be in personal or business life, success is what drives us to work hard, learn new skills and push ourselves to the limit. Would you believe that in a world of endless possibilities, constant technological advancements and infinite problems that need solving, only 5% of consumer products succeed when released onto the market? Clayton Christensen states that every year 30, 000 new products are released and 95% of them fail! How can this be?
where are you going wrong?
No business spends years planning a product with failure as the end goal! Every business does their research and spends thousands of hours tailoring their product to their predicted consumers, with success as their driving force. So, if every company plans for success, why do most of them fail? It is the practices and the elements of the planning that separate the 5% from the 95%.
The first mistake in creating a product that fails to launch is the targeted consumer and their identified needs. Most companies will segment the market for their product into categories. Catagories like price or use, or into demographics such as age, gender, income etc. While this makes logical sense, it is not how consumers think. Consumers don’t limit their purchases to those only in their demographic. They purchase because the item can complete a ‘job’ in their life.
Companies that target market segments and not what the product can do for the consumer is setting itself up to fail!
The case of the milkshake
The following milkshake marking story is a very real example of shifting mentalities to highlight the ‘jobs-to-do' lens consumers look through.
This particular company wanted to optimise their milkshake sales and they started the process by gathering data to find out their typical milkshake drinker so that they could market to that demographic. Once they found their typical milkshake drinkers, they asked them what they thought was the perfect milkshake (flavour, consistency etc.) But after all this data gathering and milkshake tailoring, sales remained stagnant.
The company wanting to raise their milkshake sales employed a researcher trained in the field of sales optimisation to employ strategies to increase sales. The researchers first port of call was to find out what ‘job’ the consumers were seeking the milkshake to fulfil. He would sit in the restaurant chain and record who bought milkshakes and if they drank them in-store or took them away and the peak times of purchase.
From what the researcher gathered, just under half of the milkshakes were bought by commuters on their way to work first thing in the morning. So, he then began interrogating the commuters to find out why they would buy a milkshake on the way to work. The answer of the majority was that the milkshake was something to make their commute somewhat interesting and to bridge the hunger gap until lunchtime. The thickness of the milkshake gave the commuter something to think about during their commute, which is what they were ‘hiring’ the milkshake to do.
The second task that the milkshake was serving as was a treat for young kids, in which they changed the thickness to a thin milkshake, so the parents weren’t waiting long periods of time for the children to finish the milkshake. Catering to the jobs that the consumers needed to be done helped the chain increase sales and created major success for them. By looking at the task people were using a milkshake to complete, instead of the vast demographic, they were able to tailor their product to accurately fill the needs of the consumers.
Creating success in business and beyond
You can see that there is a clear factor that turned failure into success here, and it was a shift in strategies. Processes work until they don’t, and when they don’t you need to change them! Christensen says, “the jobs-to-be-done point of view causes you to crawl into the skin of your customer and go with her as she goes about her day, always asking the question as she does something: Why did she do it that way?” Get to know your consumer, their needs, and the jobs they need to have done and market for that! You are no longer imposing your marketing perspective onto a consumer, and allowing their needs to drive how you tailor your product.
Failure doesn't just happen in product launches, it is an inevitable element in the life of someone who takes action in any form. While changing perspectives from a marketing one to a consumer one won't resolve the failure of someone outside of a marketing or business team, there is one strategy that if done well, can get you on track to achieving success in every aspect of life. This strategy is debriefing.
Debriefing & success
Sitting at the end of failure can seem like an impossible job to turn around but I’ve seen it done countless times. The common denominator of the companies and people that turn failure into success is that they debrief. The objective of debriefing is to weed out the mistakes that were made during the execution of their plan and to ensure that they never happen again. Debriefing finds out where you went wrong and what you will put in place to achieve success next time. Debriefing isn’t about pointing fingers; it is a collective process to honour where you are now and commit to where you want to be.
We all experience failure, and it is an uncomfortable reality, however, failure is the greatest starting point for growth. Your kickstart for success starts with stepping into the consumer's shoes and tailoring your product to their needs! Once you have done this, in success and in failure, debrief. Find out what went right and what went wrong and change your strategies! Failure does not have to be your final destination, but you will need to be active in your journey towards success!
Nobel, C. (2011). Clay Christensen’s Milkshake Marketing. Harvard Business School. https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/clay-christensens-milkshake-marketing