Langbehn Shares Successful Formula for Developing New Products

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A video shows a middle-aged daughter visiting her father in his kitchen. She asks how the iPad she gave him for Christmas is working out. He said he's thrilled with it and then proceeds to make a salad with guess what as a cutting board—and even placing it in the dishwasher after.  

Meet in the jungle not the zoo, the speaker, Arno Langbehn, CEO, of SIPA member B. Behr's Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, tells us. "You should go see people in their habitat. Know how your customer uses your products."

If you've never heard one of Langbehn's talks, then this Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 11 am ET, you're in for a treat. He will be leading the SIPA webinar Hot Sparks: How to Increase Your Turnover and Profit With Product Development, and he promises all new material. Langbehn is a master at finding entertaining examples to support his very actionable ideas.

One idea that Langbehn will bring up is the importance of positioning and being the best or number one at something. At BIMS, Linzee Brown, president of New Generation Research, said proudly that they have the best database in corporate bankruptcy in the U.S., maybe the world. "Being the best at something, regardless of how small, can create a lot of opportunities for you, [as it has] for us. When a big bankruptcy occurs, [the media] comes to us for data. It's a big opportunity for us in public relations and awareness."

Langbehn emphasizes that there are many ways to position your being best. Mamma Mia calls itself the most successful musical in the world. The Phantom of the Opera campaign blares that they're "the longest-running musical on Broadway." A poster for Chicago says it's the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. "The winner takes it all. The loser's standing small."

Langbehn knows that customers want to see shiny new things—whether they're Broadway shows or products that help them do their job better. A study last year by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) found that three out of four attendees value a new product showcase area at events they attend. Interestingly, only 48% of organizers think attendees feel that way. "Repeat attendees go back to events that deliver the quality face-to-face interaction and product experiences they want," wrote CEIR.

Elizabeth Petersen, executive vice president, revenue and strategy at BLR, who has presented before with Langbehn, believes that "one of the biggest barriers to innovation is fear of failure. The information industry is changing so rapidly and there are so many unknowns. Even the most thoroughly researched product may not gain market traction. The key to developing a humming new product development engine is to be comfortable with risk and to set measurable (and transparent) benchmarks for product success."          

Langbehn also conceded there has to be risk, but said much of that risk comes when "the interview [of your customers] remains superficial. "Interviews in customers´ offices help us to understand their behavior in their environment," he said. By focusing on the real pain points of their customers, Langbehn's company developed more than 60 products in 2015. He will talk more about pain points on Wednesday.

There will also be surprises. At the workshop he and Petersen led on innovative product development at SIPA Annual 2016 ( the recording is available to members), Langbehn brought bags of M&Ms to help make one of his points: that people will pay significantly more for something special. He showed an M&Ms store in New York—talk about niche!—that considerably raises prices for their special packaging and personalizing. Attendees later reaped the benefits of his not wanting to take the bags back to Hamburg, Germany.

That may be tough to duplicate on a webinar, but I've learned never to doubt his ingenuity.

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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…