If there is one thing to love about the start of a new year, it’s seeing that proverbial blank slate stretching out in front of you. It’s refreshing, and invigorating, and often when we see that clear space, the clutter in our minds clears out, making room for new thoughts and ideas. It’s widely touted, actually, that clearing your mind is the best way to regain focus and get the creative juices flowing.

So don’t be surprised if, by the end of this month, you have a notebook overflowing with new product ideas, or ways to better position your product in the market, or perhaps a new vision for how to extend your product line. (Also don’t be surprised if that whole New Year’s resolution to finally train for that marathon falls by the wayside around January 6. There’s no judging here.)

But remember what we talked about last time? New product: Know Thyself. But once you have that knowledge in hand, there are still other pitfalls that could derail getting that product into stores and eventually into consumers’ carts. One of the biggest is the flipside of Knowing Thyself–Know Thy Consumer.

“Just like you want to know everything about your product, you absolutely must know everything about your consumer.”The majority of purchases in the U.S. are made by women, but that doesn’t mean that women are using the products they buy. Maybe they’re buying for their partner, or for a parent, or a child. Maybe it’s a gift for a boss or an employee. Who knows? So when thinking about your product’s consumer, get beyond the surface of who is handing over the dollars. It’s who is encouraging that person to hand over the dollars with whom you want to be besties.

Just like you want to know everything about your product, you absolutely must know everything about your consumer. Like I said last time, you have to be able to understand what the consumer loves–and hates–about the product. But how can you begin to know that unless you are deep in the consumer’s mindset?

Let’s say you’ve got an energy drink you think will be all the rage for 18 to 25 year olds. That’s great, but in order to prove yourself right, go out and be where those 18 to 25 year olds are. Spend time walking around college campuses, and observing the students. Hang out at coffee shops and bars and watch (in a non-creepy way, of course) interactions between peers. Push all the clutter about your product–the time and money invested, the packaging decisions that need to be made, the idea for the jingle you had set to the Golden Girls theme song–out of your head, and focus on the people who want to use your product. Understand what makes them tick.

And those people who don’t want to use your product? It’s inevitable that not everyone will love your product. (Sad, but true) But why don’t they? Understanding why it doesn’t work for some consumers can be the best information you ever get. You might not change their mind about your product, but it’s entirely possible that your next rash of product ideas will produce something that is right up their alley–putting you a step up on your consumer insights, and your product another step further from a pitfall.

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