You’ve researched the market and found a need. In order to know how to fill that need, you will begin with product development.
You start this process by simply stating your goal:
“How do I make a _____?”
Whether it’s a cookie, a cosmetic, or slow-burning fuel for the space shuttle, you want everyone on your team (even if that’s just you) to focus on the goal of answering this question.
Everything you do from that point forward is done with the specific goal of answering that question.
For the past 40 years, I’ve carefully followed a four-step process of product development that I created myself. It helps me organize my thinking and my time, and ultimately brings me to an answer that works.
My product-development process comprises the following four stages:
1) Search and Appraisal
What happens during each of these steps? I will discuss the first two today.
Search and Appraisal actually begins with completing the question, “How do I make a _____?”
Make sure the sentence includes the goal of the product. Don’t just ask, “How do I make mascara?” Ask, “How do I make a waterproof, colored mascara without dyes that will irritate hypersensitive skin/eyes?”
Your next step is to learn as much as you possibly can about the product category you intend to enter into. Look at competitors. Look at old and new products.
Importantly, look at all the patents in the category. You don’t want to waste time and energy working on a solution that already is patented.
Talk to customers, product users, and retailers. Visit stores where the products in this category are sold. Talk to your team about their ideas on the category: are they different from yours? Find out why. Get your hands on all the research materials you can. Become an authority. Keep a book or file of ads, promotional copy, and descriptions of existing products in the category.
Avoid spending your time entertaining new ideas. Your goal in this first stage is knowledge.
The Concept phase is where your product begins to take on a shape and identity of its own.
Begin drawing (or have an artist draw) sketches of your product, or existing products with your idea incorporated into them. Have as many people as you can work on this stage: ideally, about 100 drawings and sketches should be made, all designed to answer the “How do I make a _____?” question from Phase One.
Conduct focus groups to discuss the problem, and to get reactions from potential users. Have you gauged the need in the market correctly? The focus group will help answer that. (It’s important that all participants in your focus group(s) sign a Confidentiality Agreement, so the secrecy of your product is maintained.) Try also to get expert feedback and opinions on your sketches.
Throughout all of this, analyze and compare your sketches with important issues in mind: How much will this cost? Who can manufacture it? How quickly can they do it? What kinds of materials will it require?
The answers to these questions will have major effects on product development.
Article © Copyright 2001 Stanley I. Mason. Syndicated by Paradigm News, Inc.