New Product Development case study
How do you set up a new product development team and a process to research, tests and evaluate new launches? FT Specialist shared their experiences launching Sustainable Views in a virtual round table hosted by Renewd, which I moderated. Carola York, MD FT Specialist, and Ben Northover, Head of Product Development explained their process.
Why set up a dedicated NPD team and how is it structured?
FT Specialist had plenty of ideas for new products, but they progressed very slowly when people worked on them alongside their day job. Building on their developer team in East Europe, they added a dedicated full-time Head of Product Development and a Development editor in the UK. The focus of a full-time team has made all the difference.
What prompted the idea?
FT Specialist operates in financial and investment markets. They already knew that ESG (environment, sustainability, governance) was a major topic, and a specialist ESG newsletter was getting good engagement.
The project began with a small number of qualitative interviews with newsletter recipients – digging into their jobs to be done (JTBD), and pain points. A key step was identifying an editorial champion. Ben was keen to ensure that content was actionable, so it has been aligned with that list of JTBD from the outset.
How was the idea developed and tested?
They used a stage gate process that had been developed by a sister company. This began with an email newsletter to validate the concept, gradually scaling up content and frequency, measuring open rates and delivery rates. Then the team developed a beta site on WordPress so email drove users to the site. Finally, they added a paywall.
To test a broader market, they researched data for 25k contacts, in the right companies, and targeted job titles, going beyond current FT Specialist readers. As their preferred business model was corporate subscriptions, they chose people likely to have a budget and created a marketing funnel for subscriptions.
How long did it take and what measures?
The entire process took nine months – Ben set clear measures at each stage on open rates, engagement, traffic, number of subscriptions sold.
Ben created a proprietary website scoring measure, combining profile of users and levels of engagement. At the final stage, they had a specific target for the number of corporate licences sold.
How did you build the business case?
Carola already knew ESG was a growing topic of interest, and was looking at a medium-term plan for the title, not just the first year. Originally, the team set a target on number of corporate subscriptions. In addition, the title received inbound enquiries for sponsorship – not anticipated but this helped the business case.
It’s important to size the market – how many potential subscribers and what market share might be achieved? And assess the level of competition before making the decision to invest.
What resource did you add in order to launch?
The Sustainable Views team had a full-time editor already but had “borrowed” a sales director. Now they hired a dedicated sales person, and a full-time marketer. Other functions were still outsourced, using freelance editorial as the product develops to cover international markets.
At the end of the project, Ben ran a retrospective with whole team to gather learnings. Aim is to make the process repeatable, and more efficient. Now they have a skeleton web site so don’t need to build from scratch for next idea. Important to ensure clarity on who makes decisions to avoid delaying a project.
For future, plan to test three products a year – but don’t expect all to succeed.
Ideas for new products come from staff and editors. Events and communities are also good resources for ideas. Sustainable Views likely to evolve from just a digital content site to include virtual and live events.
FT Specialist will also apply the “new product” process to relaunches and refreshes for existing products – as it creates a useful focus and discipline.
More about Renewd
Renewd is a membership organisation for independent specialist B2B information, media and events businesses. They organise virtual round tables and in person summits, and run a lively online community. More information here: https://join-renewd.net/resources
About the author
Carolyn Morgan has acquired, launched, built, and sold specialist media businesses in print, digital and events. She now advises niche consumer and B2B publishers on developing new products and digital revenue streams as a consultant and NED.
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