Do you have a great idea for a product that you’d like to sell to the public? If so, chances are you’re interested in learning about the process of developing your product and introducing it to the marketplace. Product development takes dedication, hard work, and money, but by following an established process, you can see your idea come to fruition.
How do you bring a product to market? You bring a new product to market by establishing a unique idea through brainstorming and market research. Next, you formalize your concept, then determine the costs and potential return-on-investment before developing the product. From there, market testing will help refine it. After final improvements, you are ready to introduce your product to the public.
Establishing a Unique Idea
The initial stage of product development is known as the Fuzzy Front End (FFE). This is the period where ideas and concepts are formulated prior to the actual development of the product. This usually begins with finding a need that the marketplace is not currently meeting.
Brainstorming how you aim to fill this need is the first key step in the product development process. There are five particular areas of FFE: identifying the opportunity for a new product, analyzing the opportunity, establishing the idea, selecting the idea through brainstorming, and developing the idea (“New Product Development,” 2019).
Brainstorming can take many forms and may involve in-depth discussion with others. Once you have the initial idea for your product, it’s time to get specific. There are several questions you should answer before you move on to formalizing your concept. First, you should have established what need your product is going to meet.
Second, determine who your target market is. This can be as broad or specific as necessary, but understand that the more specific your target audience is, the smaller it is, which could mean lower profits. Be sure to consider all demographics in this determination. For example, if your product is a toy aimed at young children, you need to consider not just the children themselves, but the parents who will purchase the toy.
Are there similar products on the market already? It’s difficult to come up with a truly one-of-a-kind idea, but that doesn’t mean your idea doesn’t offer something new. If there are products like yours available already, what about yours is different that would cause the consumer to choose it over the current options?
Next, be sure that producing the product is feasible given your abilities and current technological limitations. There’s no sense wasting time and money attempting to develop a product if you truly have no idea how to make it work.
Finally, be sure that your product has the potential to be profitable. This will come from not only understanding the costs involved in producing it but also determining if there is sufficient demand. You will need to ensure that your product isn’t too niche-specific and that there is an available consumer base who will want to purchase it.
Formalizing The Concept
Once you have your million-dollar idea figured out, it’s time to formalize the concept and establish exactly how you plan on making it a reality. Thanks to the brainstorming you’ve already done, you should have a pretty good idea of what your product is and its purpose.
At this point, creating a mock-up would be a good way to show your ideas to others for feedback. A brochure showing an example of your product with a detailed explanation would be great for showing your ideas to others. You could also consider creating a presentation on your computer, or even a website, which is easily shareable.
This mock-up will not only help you specify your precise idea in clear terms, but it will give you something to show others to gain early investors. Developing a product can involve high costs upfront, and investors will certainly help offset those costs. You can also use the mock-up for market research in order to determine potential profitability.
Showing the mock-up to others will help you find out if there really is a demand for the product. This will obviously be information investors would like to know, so talk with market experts and an accountant to get an idea of the potential return-on-investment (D’Amore-McKim School of Business, 2018).
Develop a Prototype
The next step is to create a working prototype of your product. If your product is hand-made by you, you may already have completed this step. In this case, you’ll need to figure out how you plan on scaling the production to meet demand. This will have a direct impact on profitability.
If you just want to use your product for a little extra income, then hand-making each one may not be prohibitive. But if you plan on truly becoming a presence in the marketplace, hand-making each one will probably not be feasible long term. Even if you do not plan on making each product yourself, creating the first one yourself may be a viable option.
If you are not making the product yourself, it’s time to establish a partnership with a manufacturer. There are many resources online for finding a factory that will produce the type of product you’ve created. Many of these factories will be located outside of the U.S., so it’s important to decide if you’d prefer a local manufacturer or not.
Costs can be lower with overseas factories, but it can be logistically difficult to go to the factory for first-hand observation if they’re located a thousand miles away. If being able to visit the factory to check in is important to you, you’ll want to find the closest factory you can. Additionally, many consumers prefer products made completely in the U.S. If this is something that matters to you, you’ll need to narrow your search to U.S. factories only.
Another option is licensing your idea to an established company. In this scenario, you allow a company to use your idea, and they pay royalties to you from the sales. Many people find this to be the easier route because it’s much more hands-off. The company handles the production, the marketing, and the distribution, while you simply take a cut of the sales. Though your profits may be lower using this model, it is certainly a less stressful way to get your product into the marketplace.
If you plan on licensing your product, be sure that you legally own all aspects of your idea. This will include trademarking the name and phrases associated with your product, as well as patenting the idea if possible (Conlin, 2018).
Obtaining a Patent
If you believe that your product is truly new and unique, you may decide to get a patent on it to protect your intellectual property. The first step is to research patents and how they work to see if your idea qualifies. In order to be granted a patent, the U.S. Patent Office must determine that your idea is new, original, and non-obvious.
All patents are public, so searching existing patents is a good first step, but do not limit your search to only patents. If you find other products like yours anywhere, even if they are not patented, you may not be able to obtain a patent yourself. Some products are simply not patentable due to the underlying idea being too common or obvious. In order to be patentable, your idea must be a new, original idea, or it must involve a complex process of some sort (PatentFile, 2015).
Testing, Refining, and Improving Your Product
You’ve created the prototype, established relationships with manufacturers and investors, trademarked your product’s name, and maybe even obtained a patent. Now it’s time to get feedback to make sure the product is as good as it can be. Friends and family are a good initial resource, but they may not always give you the most honest feedback.
Focus groups with strangers who have no connection to you or preconceived ideas about your product will provide honest, usable feedback. There are many marketing companies that specialize in focus groups that will help you obtain this valuable information.
If your product is software or an app, doing a beta test run will help you get real user feedback as well as identify any existing bugs in the product. A beta test is simply a limited launch of the product where a small group of users spend time with the software and offer feedback on its performance. Practically all software goes through a beta test phase, and the information gained from it can be invaluable.
Feedback from real potential customers will give you the information you need to refine and improve your product. This may even mean manufacturing a new prototype incorporating any changes you decide on. Depending on how much feedback you get, it may be necessary to go through this process several times. This, of course, adds to the upfront costs, but keep in mind that you’ve already put a lot of hard work, time, and money into your dream, so you want to be absolutely sure your product is as good as it can be before you bring it to the general public.
Introducing Your Product to the Public
It’s been a long time since you came up with your initial idea, and now it’s finally time to put your product out there into the marketplace. How do you intend to sell your product? If your product is hand-made, you may consider selling it online only. There are many online marketplaces at your disposal, such as Etsy, Uncommon Goods, and eBay. Even Amazon has tools for sellers to create their own shop online.
However, if you’re thinking bigger, the brick-and-mortar retail environment is the way to go. You will need to establish relationships with vendors who will sell your product. Many people start small with local vendors, where they can deliver and monitor the sales themselves. However, if your plan is to reach a wider audience, you’ll need to find a distributor who can get your product onto shelves.
There are many advantages to using a distributor. The most obvious is that they will get your product into many more stores than you could going it alone. They also have the infrastructure in place to monitor sales and restock as necessary. This will save you time and money in the long run, particularly as you are just starting out. Of course, distributors do not provide their services for free, so you’ll need to factor the costs into your overall business plan (Accion, 2019).
How is the public going to find out about your product? While many purchases are made when the consumer simply sees the product in a store, that is not the most efficient method of promoting your product. A marketing plan will be essential for getting the word out.
Online marketing is an effective and cost-efficient strategy. Social media is a very common method for promotion, and it has the added bonus of being very affordable. You’ve already shown your product off to friends and family; why not have them help you promote it via social media? Google and Facebook offer ad options that allow you to tailor your promotion to specific demographics, and they allow you to set a budget that works for you.
Other electronic media options can meet a much broader audience, but that comes with a cost. Television ads reach more people than any other medium, but they can be very expensive. Radio ads can be effective as well, and they are cheaper than TV ads.
Printed media, such as newspaper and magazine ads, are another potential avenue to reach customers. Think of the sales papers you get in your mailbox once a week or so. Would this be an ideal spot for an ad for your product? Or, if your product fits into a niche that has a dedicated fanbase, consider publications that cater to them. For example, if your product is used in cars, research the various car-related magazines out there to find the most bang for your buck (Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, 2015)
Having your product in stores is exciting, but your work isn’t done just yet. It’s important to monitor sales in order to maximize your profits. Products will often sell better in some markets than in others, so it’s important to keep an eye on where you’re performing the best and make changes when necessary. This may mean pulling out of certain markets or revising your marketing strategy in those markets. Reviewing your marketing strategy overall is important as well. After all, there’s no sense continuing to spend money on a particular promotion if it is not increasing sales.
It’s no surprise that developing a new product and introducing it to the public is no easy task. There are many costs to bring a product to market. It takes a lot of hard work and determination, not to mention money. But if you’ve recognized a need that isn’t being met by the current marketplace, it’s important to understand the process if you want to find success.
There are many challenges to bring a new product to market. Brainstorming your idea is the first step before formalizing your concept. Then you can move on to determining costs and potential profits. Developing your product with a prototype will allow you to do market research to refine and improve it. Once the product is as good as it can be, it’s time to market and sell it. By following the process outlined here, your dream can become a reality.
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