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19th December 2017 Jacqueline Haxton

Developing new products and services

By: Alison O’Hara


Alison O’Hara joined New Writing North (NWN) in April 2017 with the responsibility of growing the organisation’s enterprise and trading activities. Prosper, Creative United’s business support programme for the arts, museums and libraries, is helping Alison and NWN to explore the development of new products and services.

New Writing North (NWN) was the first regional writing development agency in the UK and our work has evolved over the years to embrace reading development activity, work with young people and partnerships with many different organisations. I joined NWN in the newly created role of Executive Director (Business and Operations) in April 2017 and within the first month had applied for Prosper, Creative United’s business support programme for the arts, museums and libraries.

My role had been created following an organisational review, with a responsibility to grow enterprise and trading activities. Prosper seemed the perfect opportunity to access expert support to help us explore development of new products and services. We were matched with Prosper business advisor, Anne Tye, Festival Director of Sunderland Shorts Film Festival and Creative Industries Development Manager at Sunderland City Council.

I’ve met with Anne twice so far; at the first meeting we discussed two new skills development-based products, weighing up the opportunities before deciding which one to explore in more detail. Afterwards, Anne fed back with some great ideas on how to take this forward in terms of research, scoping, capacity and costing.

Over the summer, workload became tricky — as an Arts Council band 2 NPO our business plan and budget was due to be submitted in October and I couldn’t devote much time on progressing ideas until November. So, it was my next scheduled meeting with Anne that motivated me to spend a couple of days thinking about new product development.

I’ve had quite a varied career in finance, education, marketing and the arts, and I drew on all the elements of my experience to sketch out a process for new product development. I’m still refining the paper but am hopeful that NWN will adopt this as the method to generate and evaluate ideas for new products and services. So far, my paper includes:

  • Income targets over the next four years to indicate the scale of the challenge
  • Principles underpinning new product development at NWN
  • A visual model of the process
  • Customer research identifying potential segments and their needs
  • Competitor analysis
  • Product/marketing mix using the 8Ps (product, price, place, promotion, people, physical evidence, process and partners)

Anne was the first person I shared my paper with and I felt that she provided a ‘safe environment’ to talk through my ideas. I also appreciated that she understood how tricky it had been for me to set aside some thinking time over the past few months. Since then, we’ve discussed the paper at NWN’s Executive Team and are thinking collectively about how we’ll use the process. We’re planning to test our proposed new product through a writers’ survey followed by a pilot. I’m also looking forward to attending a Prosper masterclass on monetising your assets and IP in February.

Creative United’s Prosper is a business support programme designed specifically for arts organisations, museums and libraries. Masterclasses, workshops and webinars covering a range of topics are being held across the country and are open to all find out more and book your place. The masterclass mentioned above, Identifying and monetising your assets and IP, still has space available and can be booked here.

Image courtesy of New Writing North © Simon Veit-Wilson

| Published:2017

Smart tags: diversifying income Prosper income business planning