Every company must adapt to survive, and for most that means having an effective new product design and development process.
Killer Tips for Product Design and Development
Develop a robust process that supports the generation of new ideas and the evaluation of likely new products. Every development will benefit from a rigorous process with each stage clearly defined and a set of criteria for each stage that the product must pass before it can progress to the next stage. This will avoid duplication of effort, waste of resources and keep the project on track.
Plan for success! Know what stages the new product will have to go through before it comes to market and understand the risks and potential failures of each stage. Plan for the future state of the product and how you intend to get it there.
Know your customer
For a product to become successful it must sell, and this requires a customer base that is both willing to try the product and return to buy it again. Make sure that you have done sufficient market research and understand your customer’s needs and motivations. Remember you are not just selling a product but a solution.
Senior management buy-in
All product design and development will stand of fall by the support (or lack of support) from senior management. If you are a entrepreneur then you are in command of your own resources; but for a company, it is the support from the top that will ensure that the new product development gets the required amount of resources, both financial and human, to succeed.
While your new product must be the solution to a problem for the consumer, it need not be something he already is familiar with – it may be that you have the solution to a problem or situation he does not know he has! The best innovations bring us something that enhances our lifestyle in ways we could not imagine, and that would affect our quality of life if they were removed.
Keep it simple
Never over-complicate! Product design and development can tend towards being all things to all men, but the consumer may prefer a product that is simple to understand and maintain.
Put the right team together
Any new product development needs a team of experts to make it successful. Engineers and developers will be required to create and develop the idea, but the team also needs project planners and marketing professionals, and indeed any relevant discipline to manage each stage of the development, from concept through development to testing, mass production and release. Each expert will bring their own expertise to the table and the product development process and eventual release will be stronger for it.
Benchmark what is already available
It is always worthwhile, and indeed imperative to understand what is already out there. There is no point in spending time and money developing a product that seems like a brilliant idea, only to find out before you launch it that a similar product has been on the market for months. Conversely, benchmarking can be useful in finding out what type of innovations to the relevant product are being chosen by customers, what appeals to them in terms of design and packaging, and what can be improved upon. But don’t reinvent the wheel – you are unlikely to improve it
Market research – what does the customer really want?
This leads on to market research. Never, never begin a process of product design and development without understanding what your target market is and what they are likely to spend money on. Market research will also help you to understand what a customer dislikes about a product and this could be turned into an opportunity.
Budget for success
No matter what we might think, any new product development requires an amount of investment to get it up and running. There is the cost of market research, design and development, creating a prototype, market testing – and all of this before the cost of the initial production run. There may also need to be investment in new machinery or change parts for existing machines. All of this should be taken into account t the planning stage of the process and the cost of product design and development committed up front to allow the team to operate without financial restriction.
Create a prototype and test it
Let’s assume that the market research has been positive, that the benchmarking has been successful, and the product has exited the development stage. Now it must be tested. Create a prototype of your product and test it – firstly test it within a safe environment to make sure that it operates safely as expected with no unpleasant surprises, and secondly conduct market testing to confirm its appeal to customers and perhaps create a sense of expectation.
Be flexible open and adaptable
Although you may have a set idea of what the final product will look like and how it will operate, you must be prepared to be flexible and change your idea if it proves that some aspects are unworkable, or if a better solution presents itself. Remember the point is to produce a product that will appeal to customers and generate income for the company.
Look at spin-offs and creating a product family
While designing the product, and particularly during the research stage, be open to the possibility that the product can be extended into a product family that will reach potentially new markets and generate income with minimal product design and development required.
Packaging and marketing
Think smarter. Understand what people want from product packaging (e.g. simple to remove while still being secure), and be aware of the best marketing channel for your product. If your target customer is in their teens or early twenties, then you may consider conducting your marketing campaign on social media. However if they are older, a newspaper campaign might be more appropriate.
No matter what your business, new product development will always be essential to continued growth and improved market share. Following the points above will help to make sure that you always get the best from your product design and development.