What is success? To different people it means different things, but for our clients successful product development usually means commercial return on investment. They know product development costs time and money, but they know it can lead to long term profit for their business.
1) Know your market – This includes understanding the motivations of your potential customers, and knowing your ‘route to market’. Its easy to assume an good idea will turn into a successful product. If you have a sales team talking to customers they should know what end users want, and if there are any un-answered needs that could be exploited.
If you don’t have this close contact then you need to speak to a cross section of potential users. Not friends and relatives, people who wouldn’t mind telling you the truth! How do they currently solve the problem your product aims to solve? Do they even experience the problem? What is a solution worth? Who would they trust to solve it for them?
You also need to understand the pricing structure associated with your route to market. How much profit does a retailer want? Is a distributor the best way to go? A retail buyer is a great source of information, both in terms of pricing, and in knowing what their customers want.
2) Invest in skill and experience – Bringing a product to market requires a range of skills including market assessment, planning, design, protecting intellectual property, production, marketing, and sales. Each link in the chain is critical, and should be delivered by the right persons. Communication between disciplines is also important as each will have different reasons for wanting the product to be a certain way. If everyone understands the others drivers and concerns, they can collaborate closely to reach a common goal. Success is driven by the leader of such a team. Entrepreneurs are often highly skilled in motivating people, they can sell their vision of ‘the bigger picture’ to the people who are needed to make it happen.
The team may only be one or two people, or hundreds, but the basic principals remain the same.
3) Test and refine your concept – The story of James Dyson making over 1000 prototypes to refine his bag-less vacuum cleaner is often quoted. This is an extreme case, but a period of prototyping, testing and refining is key to optimising a product. This cycle could be repeated indefinitely as refinement is an ongoing process. The point at which to move on to the next stage in development is when the criteria set out in your design specification has been met, and all stake-holders in the project are behind the idea and will back it with the necessary vigour for it to succeed.
A production look-a-like prototype is great for gauging opinion on price from potential customers. Your target price should already be known, but would people pay that for your design? Could you charge more because the design team has added some ingenious new features?
4) Tell the right people – Create a buzz around your new product. Can you identify an opinion maker or respected figure in your product sector? A positive review from such a person can help to ‘de-risk’ your new, unknown product and bring it to the attention a wider audience.
Sometimes new regulations force people to look for new solutions. If you can anticipate such events it can be a great opportunity as customers suddenly become legally obliged to purchase something that meets the new rules.
Forums are great for spreading the word amongst specific consumer groups, such as new mothers, or DIY enthusiasts. If you have helped someone to solve a problem in a new and improved way, they may want to share this good news with other like minded individuals.
Trade shows and exhibitions are the time when key people in certain industries are in one place at one time seeking out what’s new in the market.
Magazines are on the look out for things that would interest their readership. Not blatant adverts for your great new product, but well written informative copy that seeks to inform and/or entertain the reader. There’s nothing to stop anyone writing a press release and sending it in for consideration, but someone with experience in PR and marketing will have a higher success rate in getting things to print. Shopping chanels are also on the look out for something new they can sell to their viewers.
5) Deliver – So you have gone to all the effort to develop and produce a great new product. Whoever you are selling to wont remain loyal for long if you don’t deliver your goods on time and to expected quality levels. Retail buyers need to keep shelves stocked, so if you let them down they may have no choice but to replace your product with one from a more reliable supplier. Remember that people buy off people, so maintain good relationships.