It has to be said that the products you create within your business form the backbone of the business itself. There are a number of reasons for this. For a start, it is the product which will give your customers the strongest sense of what the business is like as a whole. They will see what you have accomplished, and what is lacking in your products, and probably judge your business accordingly.
But if you are really keen on what you are doing as a business, then you will also find that the product is something you really care about. It is what the whole process is about, and you want to make sure you get it right.
However, there are so many stages to the process of developing and selling a product that it is a real difficulty getting them all right. To give you a hand with that, let’s have a look at each stage in turn.
Research & Problem-Finding
One of the clearest ways to ensure you create a fantastic product is to go out of your way to try and find problems. This might sound strange, but it is only by finding problems that you are likely to also find the solutions to those problems.
It is these solutions, ultimately, which will allow you to develop the necessary products for your customers, so you can begin to see why this might be important. You need to know what kinds of problems your customers are facing, and how you might be able to help out. So, how can you discover what problems are out there waiting to be fixed?
Research. This is the first thing that any product development process needs to take care of, and it will soon become clear that it is one of the most essential aspects of the whole process. If you are about to embark on a new product mission, you will first need to spend plenty of man-hours researching the problem.
Now, it is likely that your business is already focussed on one particular area, an industry perhaps, and that will help you to figure out what kinds of problems you are likely to be trying to solve. But you should go out and ask people about some of the things that they would like to see solved. You might be surprised at some of the responses, and you might be delighted when you find that there is a common thread which was previously unnoticed by all.
It is when you hit on this kind of gold that you know you are ready to start developing a new product. With that kind of need driving it on the consumer’s side, you can be sure that it is a fairly safe bet.
Once you know what topic or topics you would like to try and focus on, you will need to begin the ideation process. Put simply, this is where you actually come up with the notions for new products, as well as spending some time discussing which are likely to be most popular and more effective and which you should put aside. For most businesses, these discussions will form a typical meeting, but it is more likely that it will be a series of meetings rather than just one or two.
Above all, you want to make sure that you are as certain as possible on what product you are actually going to develop – and you need to be certain that every team is on board before you proceed. If there is any doubt as to whether or not you should produce a certain item, you should bring it back to the drawing board and figure out what the issue is.
These meetings are going to be most effective if you have someone from each team which will be involved in the actual creation and sale of the product. This means that your developers are represented, your engineers are represented, and so too are your distribution and marketing teams. This is because everyone is an expert in their own right, and each person is likely to pick up on issues and concerns which others might miss.
You should also, for the same reason, be sure to give your members a chance to report back regularly to their own teams. This will provide the greatest possible numbers in terms of how many minds are on the project.
With the right idea in place, you can then begin to work on actually developing the initial test run of the product you have chosen to create.
No matter what it is that you have decided to create, the first real step towards seeing it in action is to create a prototype. The word prototype has certain connotations here which might not necessarily be all that helpful, but really it just means creating a test of the final product.
The important thing to bear in mind at this stage is that you can’t really go that wrong. This is true because you actually want to find faults – finding faults at this early stage is much easier to deal with than later on when everything is more set in stone. It is part of the point of prototyping that you want to bring out whatever issues there might be with the product.
That being said, you of course do still want to put plenty of effort into producing as complete a prototype as possible. If possible, you want to be able to test the product out as fully as you can, so focus on that first and foremost during this process. Once the prototype is built, you can then see for the first time what the product is actually going to look like, as well as how it is likely to operate. You can then work on starting to put the product to the test.
Presentation & Delivery
If you are keen to test it out with customers (and you should be), you will also want to think about the way in which the product is presented. This means focusing first and foremost on how the product looks itself, but also how it is packaged and delivered ultimately into the customer’s hands. There are so many aspects to this that it can be hard to get right on the first try, but it is worth looking into if you are serious about keeping your customers happy.
First of all, make sure that the packaging is on-brand and makes sense with the product and target market. Then you will want to focus on the delivery on the product, ensuring that presentation is on top form, even down to details such as the envelope or parcel it comes in.
Find online stamps and try to get hold of interesting designs; similarly, go for packaging which they might not have seen before. All of this adds up to make a huge difference to the experience of the product.
Once you have your prototype, you will want to test it – and test it rigorously. You are hoping to find whatever flaws there might be, so that you can end up with the best possible product in the customer’s hands.
At each stage of the testing journey, you should think about whether or not the changes you are making are in the best interest of the customer. As long as they are, you can be sure that you are on the right track. This should be your gold standard, and it is one which is extremely unlikely to fail you.
The act of testing actually falls into a few main areas. You need to test the product itself, in whatever ways might be relevant for that product, but you also want to make sure that it tests well with the desired audience.