If you have a great idea for a new product, it's time to engage in product development. There are several steps to turning an idea into a marketable product.
Step 1: Conceptualize the Product
In this stage, you establish the basic purpose and direction for the product and, in essence, refine the product. This includes identifying:
- The type of product that will be created
- The problem or issue that the product fixes or the way it helps customers
- The technical goals the product will achieve
These considerations pinpoint what the product is intended to do and the form in which it will be appear. Knowing these aspects from the outset helps establish the overall direction for the project and its boundaries.
This step also includes engaging in some market research to determine the typical market that your products reach and looking into that market's needs, wants, and how they view the category. This will guide you as to what type of product the market seeks, helping you determine potential directions for the new product.
Step 2: Establish a Design Budget
In this step, set the budget for creating the product. To establish this amount, consider the current state of your finances and how much you can spend to design the product. However, also consider how much the product can reasonably be sold for in the future, which can affect how much money can be spent to create the product in the long term and still be profitable.
For example, if you have $500 for product development in your budget now, but only expect to be able to charge $500 for the product in the future, you might want to spend less on creating the prototype so that you can ensure that the product you create will generate a profit. Creating a prototype that meets the specifications for what you will make in the future ensures that you have a working model of your new product that is financially sound.
Step 3: Identify Necessary Parties
If you're unable to make the product yourself, determine whom you will need to call upon for its creation. For example, if your product is a software program but you don't have a background in software engineering, you might need to hire an engineer to create the product. Alternatively, if your product contains numerous small parts traditionally made by independent manufacturers, you will need to identify the manufacturers from which you would like to obtain those parts.
Negotiate Costs for Creating the Product
If you are using outside manufacturers to help create all or a portion of your new product, try to negotiate their costs to lower your initial investment. You may be able to do this by indicating that you will return to the manufacturer for work or more parts in the future, once the new product is scheduled to be sold to customers.
Step 4: Design the Product
This step includes creating an engineering design and prototype for the product. It is often the lengthiest portion of product development because it is the time when the new product is actually generated. It may require waiting for one piece of the product to be delivered before obtaining the next piece or for one worker to complete a task before another can begin their work.
Step 5: Test the Prototype
After designing the product, you must ensure that the product you created works as expected and planned. This step includes executing several test-runs to check the product's functionality, capability, strength, and other relevant aspects.
Tweak Design as Necessary
You may need to return to the product's design to fix any issues that arise during testing. It is common to tweak a design after it is created; the key is to keep making changes until you have the exact new product you intended that you know will be well received by your target market.
Step 6: Consider a Patent or Trademark
You can protect your design from being copied by other companies by establishing a patent or by trademarking the product.
A patent protects the manufacturing, concept, and manufacturing methods of a product from being copied. However, some products cannot be patented, and the process to obtain a patent can be long and complex. To obtain a patent, you must file an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). There are three main types of patents, including a utility patent, which protects a new manufacturing process or other process. A patent lasts for 20 years from the date of issue.
A trademark protects a word, symbol, or name that identifies a product as being sold by a particular company. A trademark does not prevent a competitor from creating the same product, only from using a similar-looking mark to identify their product. Establishing a trademark requires registering with the USPTO.
Step 7: Identify Release Dates, Locations, and Methods
While the product is undergoing any final tweaks, it's time to consider when and how you want to release it to the public. To determine dates, consider how long it took for the prototype to be developed and how fast manufacturers and other designers state that they require to complete their tasks. Next, multiply this length of time by the number of products you want created simultaneously. This will give you an idea of the length of time it will take to mass produce the product. It might not be possible to pinpoint an exact release date, but rather only identify a range of days.
If you want your product sold in stores other than your own, investigating where to sell your product requires approaching retailers. Contact a company's purchasing or buying department to determine if they are interested in carrying your product on their shelves. This may require you to provide a pitch to them about your product's specifics, its target market, sales projections, and anticipated reception in the market.
To determine release methods, consider how the product is typically delivered to customers and how you would like to deliver it. For example, a software program might be delivered via the Internet, but other products might need to be provided to stores. For methods, consider:
- The area in which the product will first be released
- The type of shipping method used to distribute the product
- How much time each shipping method option takes
- The typical cost of each shipping method
These concerns will help you select the best and most cost-effective delivery method for your product.
Step 8: Release the Product
Once completed according to your specifications, it's time to release the product to the public. This requires executing the chosen delivery method within the identified timeframe.
Step 9: Promoting the Final Product
It's not enough to merely place the product on shelves. Instead, you must promote the product through marketing and advertising. To advertise the new product, the Houston Chronicle recommends using printed promotional materials, customer testimonials, and press releases. These items highlight what the product does and how it meets customer needs. You can also give away promotional items and sample products to drum up interest and knowledge.
Releasing Your Product
Launching a new product is a difficult task, but one that can be made easier by breaking the job into small steps. These eight steps will help you make sure that the product you place on the shelves works as you intended and expected.