The 7 Keys to Highly Effective Product Development

  •    Rob is a creative content strategist from Detroit. When he’s not developing integrated marketing campaigns, he’s probably watching Netflix.

Being an entrepreneur is challenging at the best of times, but it's especially difficult for those business owners who also develop and sell physical products. To go from having an idea in your brain to putting a product in your customers' hands requires careful planning. Here are 7 keys to make sure your product development plans are a success.

1. Understand the Demand

Before you call up the factory to start churning out thousands of your "next big thing," it's important to fully understand demand for your product and how it's helping meet a market need.

Research, whether formal or informal, can help you determine the issues facing your customer base and how your product is uniquely situated to solve them. It can also help you understand how much inventory you should plan for an initial run.

2. Test Your Prototype (Then Test Again)

Research isn't just important for determining demand, but also for fine-tuning your prototype product. You have to get feedback from real customers (or at least family and friends) before you can be confident in the quality of your product.

From the design to the functionality to the color, make sure to test every aspect of the product as much as possible. You may not use all of the information you gather, but you'll be sorry if you run into an obvious problem that you could have caught earlier.

3. Make Design Adjustments

It's very rare to get a product design right on the first try, so depending on how your testing goes, you'll likely have to make some adjustments. This is a great opportunity to refocus on the core needs of your customers. How are you solving their problem?

Simplicity is a big selling feature, especially in a crowded marketplace. If your version of a product is quicker or easier to use than your competitors, you can stand out in a major way. This goes for your packaging too. A frustrating package design can turn off a customer and make them predisposed to dislike your product.

4. Source the Best Material You Can

Cost is an important factor to consider when you're developing products, but it can't be the only factor. If you focus on reducing cost at the expense of quality, you can end up with a substandard product (which you'll likely discover very quickly when you start testing).

In the prototype phase, try and source the best material you can within your budget. Work with your manufacturer to understand all your options and the implications of the different materials available.

5. Scale Your Manufacturing

Knowing how many products you have to order is a key consideration before you choose your manufacturing partner. If you're lucky enough to have your product take off in a big way, will you be able to scale up with demand? On the flip side, how can you avoid overstocking too much merchandise and tying up your inventory?

Choosing the right manufacturer or supplier partner can take some time. It's not something you should rush into and you should never feel like you're not in control. Finding a partner that can not only deliver the product to your specifications, but repeatedly, on-time and with minimum hassle is the ideal situation.

6. Take Care of the Legal Stuff

If you're like most entrepreneurs, you've spent months or years building your business from scratch, which is why it's so important to protect yourself legally. From trademarks to patents, there are a number of important protections you should consider when developing your product. Check out this article to learn more about how to protect your ideas while you develop a new product.

7. Build a Marketing Plan

Once you've perfected your prototype, found the perfect manufacturing partner and covered all your legal bases, it's time to share your product with the world. The specific steps you take when building your marketing plan will vary, but here are some ideas to consider.

Starting with a great eCommerce website is essential if you plan to sell online, but you'll need to support your website with a robust digital marketing strategy that engages your audience from awareness all the way to purchase. In other words, you need to understand how you'll get people to notice you, then consider you, then actually visit your website to take an action.

Depending on where your customer is in this funnel, you may use different marketing tactics. For example, if you're trying to reach people who need your product right now, you may choose to focus your paid search advertising on high-intent keywords.

If you've got an idea that you want to turn into a business, don't let fear hold you back. With the tools and resources available to entrepreneurs today, launching a new product is within reach for millions of would-be business owners.