Bringing your product to life is an incredible and rewarding journey, but honestly, it’s not going to be a walk in the park. There will likely be roadblocks, unexpected challenges, days when you want to give up, and, like most things, it will take longer than you anticipate. The silver lining is that the end result will make all the sleepless nights and cold sweats worth it.
Here, we’ve compiled a guide that outlines how to bring a product to market, so you can stop thinking about it and start breathing life into it.
Step 1: The Lightbulb Moment
So you’ve had the ah-ha moment, now what? This is where you take the idea that just hit you while out for a run and create a concept around it. So, for example, say you just decided to renovate your kitchen. Great! The idea is there. But what does that mean? You’re going to gut the kitchen? Will you knock down walls? Do you need new appliances? What’s the timeline?
Putting your thoughts in written form is a great way to start organizing your idea in a way that you can visualize what’s possible and act on it. Here’s where to start:
- Determine the core function of your product. How does it provide a solution to a consumer’s problem? How can it meet their needs in a more efficient way?
- Identify a general target market. Who would need or benefit from your product the most?
- Pitch it. Describe your idea to anyone who will listen–friends, family, the guy at the gym. Not only will this help you build on your pitch, but it also gives you the opportunity to get feedback in the earliest stages.
Step 2: Become a Research Nerd
This is the part where you determine if your idea is viable. And by viable we mean:
- Would your product thrive in the current market?
- Is there or could there be a demand for your product?
To answer these questions, it’s time to grab some coffee, pull up Google, and start researching. The goal is to find enough resources that you can manufacture a quantitative view of the market and, in turn, determine if your product fits within it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure the data is current. Search engines will provide a lot of articles but if they are even 2 years old, the data is useless. When viewing sites like Statista, for example, make sure the information is from the most recent year.
- Look into varying targets. Just because you have a specific target market in mind doesn’t mean it’s the only one, or the most fitting.
- Don’t give up, pivot. If the research you’re finding doesn’t necessarily support your product’s marketability, take a step back and see where you can make iterations. One tweak could change everything. After all, Nintendo started out selling playing cards.
Step 3: Plan for the Future
We know, at this point you’re itching to create your first prototype. But, before financial investing begins, you should know what the bigger picture looks like. For example, what your next steps are, timelines, and if funding will be a necessity.
You won’t know exact numbers yet or even how the market will respond to your product, but from your research, you should be able to craft a basic plan that will not only help you navigate the process of building your business but will serve as a great resource if you need funding later.
According to digital marketing strategist, Anders Hjorth, developing a product business plan should be done in 2 stages:
- Phase 1: Product development– This phase accounts for research, getting guidance and expertise, and the creation of the prototype.
- Phase 2: Launch– This covers funding for phase 1 and how you plan to get your product to market (i.e. market strategies, partners, vendors, etc).
Pro tip: Haven’t tried to introduce a minimum viable product (MVP) to an audience before? That’s okay. There are resources out there that can take you through each step of the process. Start here:
- Minimum Viable Product (MVP): Complete Checklist for 2021
- Testing a Minimum Viable Product
- How To Test An MVP: 5 Proven Strategies
- 21 Solid Ways to Validate your Minimum Viable Product
Step 4: Build It
Thanks to the great research you’ve done, the business plan is now complete. Now, it’s time to plan for the build of your prototype. Start with a sketch of what you expect it to look like–an in-depth view from multiple angles. Only good at stick figures? No problem, there are illustrators that can help:
Pro tip: You should also consider including a list of materials needed to build your product as well as the packaging it will come in.
Perhaps you’re a lucky duck who has the skills that allow you to create your own prototype. For example; if the product is in fashion and you possess seamstress abilities, then it would be much less expensive and easier to DIY it. Most, however, use a third party. Fortunately, these resources are relatively easy to find.
- For art, design, or fashion needs, look into local art schools. Start by listing the job on an internal career board that will reach students. Also, consider speaking to the administrators. With their experience, they will likely be able to point you in the right direction.
- If your product is electronic, a hard accessory, household item, toy, or something similar, you’ll likely need a 3D model. You can contract this out to places like Upwork and Freelancer.
Step 5: Consider Crowdfunding
Once you have the product in hand, show it off and consider the benefits a little fundraising can offer:
- Potential revenue– This is a time during the process where you’ve invested the most but are still a far stretch from being market-ready. Pitching those around you with the actual product might not only secure some investors but it could land future orders.
- Feedback– Look at this as an opportunity to practice your pitch. Take note of what works and what doesn’t, then iterate. Remember, 99% of the time there is a better way.
Step 6: Create Your Supply Chain
While this seems like a fairly simple step, it’s one of the most important because it’s where you choose your vendors for production. Relying on your research and crowdfunding efforts will help you determine the vendors and manufacturers you’ll need to get the product to your customers. Make sure to include the packaging and storage of the product within your supply chain too.
Pro tip: Anticipate hiccups in the supply chain. To combat it and avoid unneeded stress, add more days to your timeline to accommodate any issues that arise.
Step 7: Get the Word Out
30,000 products are introduced to the market each year and the grim reality is that 95% of them fail. Don’t worry. You can stop holding your breath because the majority of the time it’s not the product–it’s the strategy around the product.
Know Your Customers
To be fully prepared to take on the competitive market start by identifying your target customer and determining your unique selling proposition (USP). This basically means, what does your product provide or solve for them that others don’t.
This is where a beta test comes in handy. Don’t be afraid to get your product in the hands of consumers as a test run so you can make any tweaks to both the product itself and the strategy before it hits the market.
Know Your Competition
Do yourself a solid and put some time into researching your competition. What are they doing right? Where are they lacking? These answers can help you hone in on areas where they are vulnerable and so you can fill the gap with your product.
Choose a Multi-Faceted Approach
Even if conversions through social media are strong, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify your marketing. Utilize social media, sure, but also allocate some of your budget to paid ads, email marketing, blog posts, events, contests, and special promotions like discounts for new customers.
Will all of them work? No, but the point is some will. View these beginning stages as a planned, strategic trial and error for your marketing efforts.
Hear What Customers Are Saying
Even by this point, you’re still learning what makes your customer tick. While you should always be iterating your plan, strategy, and approach, it’s difficult to know how to pivot without getting their direct feedback. Invest in online and offline tools to collect, scan, and analyze how customers feel about your product. The more in tune you are with them, the better you can position your product for them.
Have Support at Every Step
Feeling a little overwhelmed? Been breathing in a paper bag since step 3? We get it. Developing a product and getting it to the market is a painstaking and tedious process with a lot of ups and downs. And as a first-timer, it can feel even heavier. Take it one step at a time and lean on all the support you can; like your fellow founders, creators, and entrepreneurs at growth10.
growth10 is a community of hundreds of peers and experts that have been in the exact position you are now. You’ll have direct access to their insight and advice throughout the whole process. Have a question? Post it and receive immediate feedback. Additionally, you can sidestep the big mistakes and start scaling faster now by checking out the free (and official) growth10 manual for founders, Entrepreneurial Landmines.
Developing a new product is an intense process. Let growth10 guide you through the process with experts who accompany you for the ride.