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Filling the Gaps: Using Your Customers’ Unmet Needs to Develop a Highly Desirable Product

Imagine this scenario: You’re standing in line at a big box store, and on the aisle to your right are rows of “As Seen on TV” products. As you glance through them, (not so) patiently waiting in line, you are struck by the feeling of déjà vu – this product exists in another form, by another manufacturer, that’s been on the market for years! Don’t let payers and providers say this about your product!  In an ever-evolving landscape, manufacturers are developing “new” products and solutions across many therapeutic areas. The key to market acceptance is differentiation, and as cost pressures increase, the receptivity towards new formulations or other line extensions with limited clinical and economic benefit is waning.  To ensure your product hits home with your customers, consider understanding their needs and how your product may fill that gap. There are several approaches to understanding your customers’ unmet needs, a few of which I will highlight.

Job Mapping is an excellent technique for helping customers identify areas where they may not even be aware there is a need. This methodology involves drawing out the steps taken along a pathway and having your key stakeholders talk through these steps in a qualitative interview. As they discuss, you also want them to consider what may be missing from the map, how important each step is as well as how satisfied they are with solutions that are available to them today. The methodology allows you to dive deeper with respondents on each aspect of the pathway to help uncover additional pain points.  Using feedback from respondents, you can create a specific map of areas that will be fully fleshed out, as well as highlight areas where there are high levels of unmet need as identified by those that have high importance and low satisfaction.  These areas with unmet needs are ripe with opportunity for new product or solution development.

Once you have a well-established set of jobs or outcomes, you can then hone in on areas that are specific to your product and take the analysis to a quantitative survey using Opportunity Potential Analysis (OPA) to assess needs among a larger audience. Like Job Mapping, OPA asks respondents to review specific outcomes they may be looking to achieve. These are rated on both importance and performance by current offerings and an Opportunity score is calculated using the following formula:

Opportunity = [Importance + (Importance – Performance)]

These scores are plotted on a graph to identify areas of high importance and low performance representing outcomes where there is the greatest opportunity to address an unmet need.

Consider these methodologies as your team is developing new products to help guide decisions. Bring a product to market that skips the “me too” boat and sails directly to the winner’s lane by having a full understanding of if, and how, your product addresses your target audiences’ greatest unmet needs.