Langbehn Finds the Best Ways to Innovative Product Development

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"Companies do not ask customers what they want [enough]," Arno Langbehn, CEO, B. Behr's Verlag GmbH & Co. KG in Hamburg, Germany, told a large SIPA audience two years ago in a wonderful keynote. "'We are not in the coffee business serving people,'" he said, quoting a successful brand. "'We are in the people business serving coffee.' Customers only buy when they see themselves [getting] a benefit from it."

Langbehn added that "everything must be immediately understood by the customer. Communicate with customers in a simple way..."

Those remain great reminders, as SIPA happily welcomes back Langbehn for the SIPA 2016 Conference in Washington, D.C. On June 6, he will co-present what should be a powerful pre-conference session on Innovative Product Development with Elizabeth Petersen, the executive vice president, health care for BLR.

"In that keynote I presented ideas from other industries and how we adapted these in our publishing house," Langbehn said. "This year the participants will get tools for developing these great products on their own. The successful methods for getting this information will be described in detail and illustrated with examples from the publishing industry and other branches and how we constantly use these particular methods in our publishing house."

He will also elaborate on the six aspects of a successful product:

1. Content: less is more. Put in only the content that fulfills the unique selling proposition (USP).

2. Structure: only those who come close to the customers´ level of action are successful. The product adapts to the customer—not the other way around. Never try to change your customer´s habits. Even if it is to his advantage (example: computer keyboards and why they have never changed).

3. Wording: the right choice of wording for every customer group. The more targeted your copy can be, the better. Different segments call for different messaging. Know the devices your customers are using.

4. Medium: where is the product needed and used? Does the customer come to the product or does the product come to the customer?

5. Emotion: the way to high prices. This focuses on helping the customer become what she wants to be and feel how she wants to feel. (Examples: how a magazine for farmers´ wives led to an emergency in pharmacies and how a small change in the wording affects everything).

6. Design: need not always be expensive and beautiful - but unmistakable.

"By using and varying the six aspects we develop many more different products." Langbehn said. "Interviews in customers´ offices help us to understand their behavior in their environment. For example a cat in an empty laboratory was an eye-opener. This research and these findings led to the development of new seminars and books to help customers manage outsourcing more effectively.

"On the other side there are 10 conversation killers that make any conversation with customers worthless. And I will show the risk when the interview remains superficial—and how to avoid it. And how our brain tricks us and adds false information."

By using these methods and concentrating on the real pain points of the customers, Langbehn's company developed more than 60 products in all media and saw a significant increase in sales of online products.

Langbehn will also discuss how to get the highest prices for products—"a price test is necessary," he said, "before starting any production and incurring any costs. By making small changes in standard products, high prices are accepted."

We can also be sure to see some colorful examples in June. Two years ago he told us about a promotion where a local pizza delivery company in Denver gave free pizzas to anyone bringing in the actual phone book ad page of their competitor, Dominos. If they had to tear it out, so be it.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…