Luth Research, founded in 1977, has product innovation woven into every strand of its corporate DNA. Luth Research believes in using technology innovation to bring together research companies and communities to create an ongoing, insightful dialogue that leads to a deeper understanding about how people think, how they’re changing—and why. Roseanne Luth, CEO and Founder, describes Luth as a technology company built on a base of scientific market research principles, an apt positioning for today’s evolving markets.
This orientation has fueled growth for the firm which has more than doubled in revenue over the past ten years including a 30% growth spurt in 2013. Luth’s most recent and successful product introduction, ZQ Intelligence™ – is a permission-based tool that enables 24×7 collection of behavioral data across all platforms used by an individual. Combined with survey data, it enables companies to know where their customers are going, what they are doing and why. We used the development and introduction of ZQ Intelligence™ to discuss how Luth masters the often tumultuous currents of product innovation. Here is what we learned.
Capitalize on your current assets. Perhaps one of the most important rules is to always “look out rather than look in.” A firm’s leadership must continually scan the horizon for what is coming next – and be ready to ride the wave even before clients know it is coming. It is a sixth sense that needs to be developed within the executive team through constant discussion, brain-storming and always evaluating current assets for further leverage. For example, Luth Research built a very successful online panel (SurveySaavy®). Leveraging the trust built with panel members has been a key reason why respondents have downloaded the application that enables ZQ Intelligence™. ZQ Intelligence™ represents the next level of engagement for the SurveySaavy® community.
Co-opetition can be an important key to winning. Roseanne is firm in her conviction that one of the keys to making new products or services successful is a willingness to reach out for help from partners. Sometimes these partners can be competitors in some aspects of business. However, when two firms come together to create a new product or service neither could do independently, both will win and magic can happen.
Don’t get on a wave without a surfboard beneath you. While this seems obvious, too many violate this basic rule. “Once you catch the wave, you better be prepared to ride it” is one of Roseanne’s biggest cautions. Selling a partially developed concept can be dangerous as once you sell it, you have to be able to deliver it – with excellence. With new products and services there are often no second chances.
Good is good enough. While it might seem a bit contradictory to the prior theme, it isn’t. The product or service has to be good but perfection prior to launch isn’t a requirement. One of Roseanne’s biggest learnings is that any product or service will change based on experience gained through use. Waiting for perfection isn’t a viable development strategy. Creating a rapid cycle of input from use, modification and retesting will result in a product that is accretive to the bottom line much faster than a prolonged cycle of internal product development.
Get the firm culture right. This has been a consistent theme in other Transform blog posts. In this case, the issue is the requirement for flexibility and adaptation. A company whose growth strategy relies heavily on innovation and new product development must be prepared to adapt and change. Flexibility has to be part of the firm DNA – and that of its leadership. Employees who find it difficult to thrive in this environment are ill-advised.
So what’s the bottom line for Roseanne Luth on successful product and service innovation? If you want to master surfing the waves of product innovation, be prepared to take a few nasty spills. The rewards of using product innovation as a catalyst for business growth can be enormous. The more you do it, the better you will get at it. There are no short cuts. The process breeds self-confidence and is at the core of entrepreneurship. At Luth Research, they have clearly mastered the art of product innovation – and the business results show it.