Product Labs for Developing Financial Solutions

When it comes to effectively developing and introducing a new financial solution, there are two keys to success—product design and persuasion: persuading advisors to recommend it and consumers to buy it. It’s interesting that some product development research focuses heavily on the first component, but not on how to be most persuasive about it. This is unfortunate because effective marketing is arguably more important to the success of a new financial solution than its design. I’ve seen a number of good solutions fail from insufficient wholesaler presentations and consumer persuasion, and I’ve also seen acumen in persuasion lead to successful results for less than optimal solutions.

At Greenwald Research, we’ve developed a research system that we use to provide insights and guidance on four goals that are intrinsic to the effective development and introduction of a new financial solution. These goals include:

  • Refining the solution
  • Evaluating its feasibility
  • Identifying the sweet spots for distributors and consumers
  • Providing guidance on how to position and market the solution to financial professionals and, ultimately, buyers

We call this research our product labs.

A key maxim in research is that the closer you can get to a real-life experience, the more accurate the research will be. Our product labs get very close to understanding the true experiences of advisors and consumers. We learned early on that researchers must have a great deal of subject matter expertise to collect meaningful data that leads to better product positioning. They must be highly knowledgeable about the mechanics of the solution, the benefits it provides, and the reasons why it provides those benefits as a competitive solution in the market. That expertise helps us develop a research experience close to real life.

Product labs at Greenwald consist of four phases:

1. Developing the Presentation for the Solution

First, we help our clients develop the most effective visual support and scripts to present their solutions. Our thirty-five years of experience testing solutions has allowed us to contribute to our clients’ processes on this critical step in product development research. The main elements of a solution’s presentation typically include the objective of the solution, an overview of how it works, a description of its benefits, and proof points on its advantages over other solutions. Also, when we’re testing a solution with advisors, we include guidance (including key charts) on how it should be presented to a financial advisor’s clients.

2. Testing the Initial Presentation in (Close to) Its Intended Environment

Then we typically hold focus groups or in-depth interviews (in-person or virtual) with financial advisors who would most likely recommend a product of this kind to their clients. The advisors are asked to imagine that they’re meeting with a wholesaler they trust and are given the presentation.

Advisors are invited to offer any questions or comments during the presentation or afterward. After any questions have been answered, they’re asked a carefully designed set of questions that we’ve refined over the past three decades.

In some cases, we also conduct in-depth interviews or focus groups  with target market consumers. In these instances, consumers are asked to imagine that the solution is being presented by a trusted financial advisor they’ve been working with. The aim of this research is to refine consumer-facing marketing materials and to help advisors understand how to effectively present the solution.

3. Determining the Most Effective Marketing of the Solution

The next step in our process includes enhancing the presentation of the solution. This process involves the following:

  • Discussing the overall reaction to the presentation of the solution
  • Determining how to enhance the presentation’s key visuals
  • Reviewing how to best articulate the solution’s most critical benefits and differentiators
  • Finding alternative ways to make the proof points more persuasive

4. Gathering Input on Key Issues

When developing a new solution, there are often difficult design decisions that need to be made. We’ve found it useful, after the initial steps, to ask advisors to weigh in on these decisions. During this step, we present both sides of the decision and ask their preference and the reasoning behind their preference. The advisors usually come out on the same side as the company is leaning, but we’ve also seen product designs change as a result of advisor input.

Effectively Developing Financial Solutions with Product Labs

We know that developing and introducing a new financial solution can be an arduous process. And while shortchanging the relatively minor expense of product development research may save money at the front end, it can lead to major opportunity costs down the line. The Greenwald Research team has developed product labs to help our clients maximize their chances of developing a successful new solution.

We’ve seen it work before. To learn more about our financial solution development process or our product labs, reach out to Greenwald Research.