The new focus group is the unsuspecting public. When innovation hits a stalemate, a stake-out may be the solution. It’s like unintentional crowdsourcing.

Years ago when Honda wanted market research on a trunk design, it observed families loading and unloading their trunks in a Disneyland parking lot. The result: redesigned trunks that are lower and easier to load.

The success that comes with a stakeout isn’t new to us. Insigniam consultants Robert E. Johnston, Jr. and J. Douglas Bate pinpointed the upsides of stakeouts in their book, The Power of Strategy Innovation: A New Way of Linking Creativity and Strategic Planning To Discover Great Business Opportunities.

Still not convinced? Just look at the case study of Febreze. Proctor & Gamble’s marketing team went to women’s homes to observe them cleaning when sales of the company’s new product, Febreze, underperformed. Turns out women didn’t think they needed an odor remover, which implied their homes smelled, but rather a nice smelling spray once their cleaning was complete. Febreze is now a billion-dollar product line and a household name.

Stake-outs capture frontline customer experiences and buying habits through in-home observations, interviews, and the use of video cameras to get the real story. Tapping into the customer experience helps companies learn what’s working and what’s not, and helps generate concepts for business model innovations.

Stake-outs can prompt customers to suggest new products, and reveal what they’re willing to pay more for. They can lead to new packaging designs and deliver value in a different and unique way that allows companies to reduce costs and increase profits.

What could a stake-out reveal about your offerings?

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