by Adam Gilbourne
Developing a product that gains market traction and has an ability to commercialise is a much harder proposition than some might think. Only around 0.03% of products or inventions make it to a point of profitability, let alone business or economic success.
Just because it is difficult, doesn’t mean that new product development should be impossible. Here are a few tips that can make a difference when it comes to the successful development of a product.
The first thing to do before developing a new product is to sufficiently research the market in which you are entering. Know who your competitors are and what functions any existing products serve. You can then determine how your product is different and better suited to the needs of your customers.
This relates to the point above, but is more focused on the specific activities that your customers may currently undertake and where your product fits in with this. Think about the customer first and find a solution to their problems. Sometimes, your customers don’t even know they have a problem, so carefully analyse their activities and ask them questions – Customer engagement is an extremely important part of the product development process.
Once you have an idea of the market and the potential for your product, as well as how useful it is (and therefore how much it may be worth) to your customers, it’s important to determine how profitable an exercise it could be. There’s no point in building a product if the economics don’t make sense. There needs to be a sufficient return on investment for the capital outlay required to bring it to market.
In order to keep the team and the process accountable, set some goals upfront. This may be timeframes, milestones, features, uptake and even revenue or profit.
Focus is important when developing a new product. You should be living and breathing this market to fully capture the passion and purpose for developing it. However, always remember to assess your progress in relation to your goals, as it’s all too easy to get carried away with passion and innovation and lose focus on the core purpose of the product. A good example of this is feature creep, where additions are made to the product as they would be add extra benefit. Creative types are easily caught up in this, but it’s important to remember to solve the core problem first. The rest can come later.
Most product development is a collaborative effort. No matter how many people are working on the project, it is vital that everyone is on the same page at any given point, even if they are working as part of a specialist team or function. Constant contact, updates and an open line of communication is key to maintaining an efficient product development process. Nominating dedicated points of contact to source and channel information can be an effective way to ensure that everyone is always up to date and to avoid confusion.
This is a crucial component of product development and should form an underlying basis for your entire process. Capture feedback from your customers to determine if your product is serving its intended purpose. Collating a large amount of feedback doesn’t necessarily mean you need to act on all of it. Analyse the recurring themes and determine if there is a pattern to the feedback which can provide great insight into how effectively your product is serving its core purpose. Outside feedback is also a great equalizer as it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of your product and the opinions of people and customers external to your product will help keep you grounded and on track.
As with any entrepreneurial initiative, product development requires resourcefulness. Problem solving is part of the journey, but the real key to success is being resourceful enough to find creative and efficient solutions. Also, product development and project management tools can be expensive. If you are resourceful, you will be able to find free variants that can benefit your team or your business. This applies to inventory, materials and even partners and suppliers.
By remaining aware during the end to end product development process and actively assessing your progress and the extent to which your product solves the identified problem, you will be on your way to launching a successful new product.