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It's All About the Product, Silly!

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The seminal Harvard Business Review article, Customer
Intimacy and Other Value Disciplines
by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersma,
transformed the way corporations approach strategy. The article argues that to
become an industry leader, corporations must choose to focus on one (and only one)
of three value disciplines.
The value disciplines are Operational Excellence, Customer
Intimacy and Product Leadership. According to the article, Operational
Excellence means 'providing customers with reliable products or services at
competitive prices and delivered with minimal difficulty or inconvenience.'
Examples of companies typifying this value discipline include Amazon, FedEx and
Wal-Mart.
Customer Intimacy, as defined by the article, is 'segmenting
and targeting markets precisely and then tailoring offerings to match exactly
the demands of those niches.' Consider Home Depot, Disney and Starbucks.
The third value discipline, Product Leadership, is defined
as 'offering customers leading-edge products and services that consistently
enhance their use or application of the product, thereby making rivals' goods
obsolete.' Think Nike, Google and Apple.
While the article argues that companies can become industry
leaders by going after one of these value disciplines, bb7 dares to argue that
there is an area in business where you can succeed at all three value
disciplines. That area is (naturally) product development. Yes; it's all about
the product!
We believe that, if your product
development
strategy scores in all three value disciplines, you will
achieve market dominance.
Operational Excellence can be achieved through product
development in many ways. A major way bb7 helps companies with this focus is
through design for manufacturing (DFM). Customer Intimacy can also be improved
by product development. We advocate user
research
; it's an important step in the product development process for
uncovering user needs and developing a path to user-centered designs. Product
development is obviously necessary for Product Leadership, and a major way to
maximize the impact in this focus is through product road mapping.
bb7's Kerr
dental wand case study
is one of many examples in which a product achieved
market dominance by hitting all three value disciplines. bb7 worked with Kerr
on evolving dental curing wands, resulting in the Demi Plus and the Demi Ultra.
We achieved customer intimacy through user research, which
revealed many customer needs and directed the team to focus on improved
ergonomics, usability, weight and cleanability for both the Demi Plus and the
Demi Ultra. Meanwhile, we upheld Operational Excellence by incorporating DFM at
every step - bb7 worked with Kerr's manufacturing source from the very
beginning to ensure feasibility and efficiency.
The team aimed at Product Leadership through product road
mapping. While developing the Demi Plus curing wand, they simultaneously worked
on its successor, the Demi Ultra. The Demi Plus was advanced but the Demi Ultra
was developed to take advantage of future technology. Product road mapping
provided Kerr with a first-to-market product - the Demi Ultra curing wand was
the first and only curing light to feature two ultracapacitors, which recharge
to full power in under 40 seconds. The ultracapacitors never need to be
replaced or serviced and allowed the curing wand to be fully sealed (no vents
for cooling required).
The Demi Ultra was born from product road mapping to achieve
Product Leadership but it also incorporated findings from user-research to
achieve Customer Intimacy and DFM principles to achieve Operational Excellence.
If a company approaches product development with concurrent
emphasis on user-research, DFM and product road mapping, it can simultaneously
target all three values: Operational Excellence, Customer Intimacy and Product
Leadership. If a product achieves all three, that company will be poised for
market dominance. In short, 'It's All About the Product, Silly!'
About the Author:  Maggie Graham is an accomplished marketer and
performer. Target audiences and theatrical audiences need to hold on to their
socks ' Maggie will knock them off. For more than fifteen years, she has worked
across the country in sales, marketing and entertainment. She has worked in
product development for over a decade.

Her marketing work has
included experience with multiple design firms, a Tony award-winning theater, a
market research company and a web development agency. She is responsible for
all things marketing-related at bb7: campaigns, events, advertisements, public
relations, content and more. Notably, she was the mastermind behind bb7's
website.

Her entertainment
career has included acting, ballet, improvisation, standup comedy, film,
teaching and puppetry. She has worked with Second City, has been featured in
media (print, television, radio, etc.), and was named runner up by the Chicago
Reader for best stand-up comedian.

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