Published August 21, 2006

New Product Development Process: Steps to Develop New Products and Services

You don't have to be Thomas Edison to invent things. You may have no interest in developing a better mousetrap or a bigger breadbox or a brighter light bulb. But that doesn't mean that you won't need to do product or service development.

Today's businesses offer customers many choices - global choices. If you sell widgets and so do 1000 other people, it's hard to get your name out there. Price can be a business killer to compete on, because someone's always able to do it cheaper than you. So what's the solution?

New product or service development: Taking your current offerings and somehow making them different or better. Here are the steps you'll take in product development:

  1. Idea generation. Use creative idea starters like brainstorming to help you find the ideas you're looking for. A site like www.mindtools.com has some great thinking resources for you to improve your ability to think outside of the proverbial box. Try to combine two products you have into a single package or perhaps a product and a service, something to set your offering apart from others. If you can't think of anything, try considering a partnership or joint venture with another company.
  2. Analysis. Analyze the potential success by asking some of your customers what they think. You don't need to do anything formal, just do some informal polling with the people who come in the door or through your opt in newsletter. Give them a couple of different options and ask them which one they'd buy if they were in the market for whatever you are selling.
  3. Development. If you're packaging products or services together that already exist, the job is mostly done for you. However, you will still want to consider branding them as their own item. A simple example is the combination of 3 simple products (a burger, fries, and soft drink) into another product that is separately branded (a McDonald's Happy Meal).
  4. Testing. Although you did take a poll, polls are not always accurate. After all, you're not asking people to actually pony up with any money! This is where the rubber meets the road and you need to find out if people are actually willing to buy your new and improved product. Be ready to make instant changes, if necessary, including raising or lowering the price or offering other incentives to move the product.
  5. Marketing. After the testing stage has helped you refine your product a little more, you can move on to actively marketing your new product on a full scale, hopefully with noticeable improvements in sales.

Is business growing stale? Want to breathe new life into your product line-up? Consider becoming an "inventor" and developing ideas to help you sell more products. You may want to think about:

  • Packaging two products together.
  • Finding joint ventures of complimentary products
  • Offering your product as a way for other people to start a business.
  • Finding a new use for your product.
  • Selling unassembled do-it-yourself version.

Take your business in new directions by developing new ways to market and sell your products.