When your product has achieved some level of success, it becomes harder to find places to grow. As you capture share in your segment, the remaining number of opportunities is reduced. Eventually, you’re going to have to find ways to generate new revenue.
Regular market-driven research will drive many of the discoveries; observing and interviewing your segment helps you understand gaps between your offering and your segment’s needs and enables your teams to solve the problems your buyers and users consider important. So, keep doing that!
In addition, here are three quick and easy ways to find new revenue without making a huge investment in time or resources.
Find Hands in the Cookie Jar
Seek out people inside your company who are using your product. They understand the products you offer, and some of them may have discovered unique ways to put the product to use in their own lives.
The very first product I tested, way back in my QA days, was a simple tool to hold contact information. It would format contact information nicely and carry it into other applications. They were marketing the product to mailing departments, as a utility for producing one-off envelopes for mailing. It was fancy; you could even place a barcode in the right place below the address block, to accommodate sorting machines!!
In any case, the target market had many ways of doing that work, and this utility didn’t make much of an inroad. It eventually became the first product I helped kill. In the meantime, though, I had started using it to manage my contact information and produce things like a Christmas letter, or invitations to a party. It was a helpful way to test the product, and it significantly reduced the pain associated with creating these communiques.
I don’t know if there were others like me in the world – but I do know that no one asked how I was using it! Look around inside your company; how are your people using your product?
Find the Outliers in Your Fan Club
Look at online discussions about your product. Attend user groups and training classes. Watch for people who are from odd markets, or who make weird comments about your product. There are people out there using your products in ways you never intended! Seek them out, then learn about how they’re putting the product to use. Maybe they found an application that you’ve never considered.
I love finding new applications for existing products, because it allows pursuit of the revenue without investing in the product. By understanding the new target, creating positioning, and driving outbound marketing and distribution, we may be able to generate new revenue that quickly becomes profit.
Plus, the risk is low! Try an experiment, with a subset of the new target audience. Keep spending low, and track results. If the marketing works, amplify your efforts.
Power User, or Overlapping Problem Set?
Usually, market-driven research focuses primarily on the quiet 80% of your market – trying to find the people who don’t come forward with their ideas. Sometimes, though, we can spark creativity by looking directly at the noisy 20% of our user base. They might just be a complex example of your existing segment — or maybe they’re an indicator of a whole new application for your product set.
Find out about power users. Searches of your customer support database may help identify them – who calls in often? Whose incidents are open a long time, without an associated bug? Go to Customer Support or take them to lunch, if you’re co-located. Ask them about weird calls they’ve had, where the caller is trying to do something interesting or odd. Listen to their stories. Watch for times when they think something is cool or where they all have an “of course” response.
Occasionally, look directly at your noisiest user base. Ask yourself if their application is merely complex, or if it might be a new segment emerging.
Spark Creativity, Then Validate
These methods will help you spot opportunities that might otherwise have missed your radar. Recognize that this is qualitative discovery; be sure to validate with some level of quantitative data before moving forward. It’s reasonable to vary the level of quantitative research, commensurate with the cost of the opportunity. What I’m saying is, do a business plan! If this idea requires a small investment, maybe the plan is simply some figures on a whiteboard – but do take the time to do a bit of validation before chasing the ideas you discovered.