Launching a new product
This can be a daunting task. Follow the steps below to help bring your next big idea to fruition.
What’s the big idea?
There is no such thing as a bad idea. Ideas can come from all directions. Friends, colleagues, customer feedback and more formalised market research can all generate new concepts for your business. Be open to suggestions and use both good and bad feedback to guide your thinking
Reject the rejectable
Having said there are no bad ideas, many will be inappropriate or unworkable.
Do a SWOT analysis – listing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each idea – to see which will successfully fit within your overall business goals. Run you SWOT analysis pass others to get objective opinions.
Don’t be tempted to invest in something just because you think it’s a good idea. Gut reactions can be expensive. Separate your ideas into what can be achieved now, what can be returned to later and what can be disregarded immediately.
Do the rough costs
Don’t try and overreach yourself and attempt to develop too many ideas at once.
Prioritise your ideas and consider each one in turn. Estimate how much the development will cost, how big the market will be and how much profit you could reasonably expect to make. Use worst case scenarios to ensure your estimates are realistic. Reject anything that doesn’t appear profitable.
Research the market
There is a chance that your fantastic idea is only fantastic to you. Before investing a lot of money developing a poor proposition, set up small focus groups to get honest feedback on your plans from strangers (existing customers or potential users would be good).
Find people who are not afraid to rip your ideas to pieces. Record all their comments, good and bad, as these will help to formulate your marketing messages when it comes to launch.
Make sure your idea meets with their expectations and find out how much they would be willing to pay. The price is driven by the market and not by what you would like to sell it for. Unless of course you are launching something new.
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Create the business plan
Bring all your research together and finalise your expected costs and pricing structure.
As well as production costs you should include all additional anticipated expenses such as transportation, marketing (including packaging and point-of-sale) and sales people.
Once you know all the costs, you can play with the variables to ensure that the product is viable, shaving cost and increasing margins until you find a model that works.
The business plan should also include the strategy for reaching your target market, an assessment of the competition and an estimate of when you will start making a profit.
Building a prototype will help you investigate the manufacturing process and any associated problems that may arise. A straightforward product design is essential.
Don’t make purchasing decisions based purely on price or skimp on materials or manufacturing. Quality builds reputation and allows you to charge more for your product.
Choose your manufacturer carefully. Attend trade shows and get industry recommendations. If you need to hire an agent to find a factory for you, ensure that you check it out personally before any production is agreed.
Create guidelines for every for every manufacturing detail. Specify everything and check every aspect of the production process. Ensure contingencies are in place should something go wrong or a component becomes unavailable.
Nothing will be perfect to begin with so don’t sign off anything until you are entirely happy with it.
As well as developing the product you should also be mindful of the way it will look and feel. Start to develop the branding for the product and how it will look on the shelf. The packaging should be obvious, clean, compelling and engaging. It should suit the environment in which it is being sold, immediately capture the customer’s attention and be environmentally friendly.
Test the prototype
Go back to your focus groups with the prototype and get more feedback. Now that they have something tangible ensure that it still meets their expectations. Does it feel right? Is it the right shape? What colour should it be? Will it stand out from any competition? This is your chance to find out what really matters. Don’t waste the opportunity.
Use any feedback to refine the prototype until you have something that ticks all the boxes. Do not rush this. Refine as many times as necessary to ensure your product is as good as it can possibly be. Accept criticism graciously as it is better to have your product evaluated at this point than be dismissed by customers after launch.
Get ready for lift off
Once the prototype has been agreed and put into production, keep an eye on cashflow. Shipping times, shelf life and storage will dictate how much stock you carry. Make enough to fulfil orders, but don’t overstock.
If your product has different variations (for example: style, colours or sizes), be sensible and offer your customers limited options without overwhelming them. Not only is too much choice confusing but, until you know exactly what does and does not sell, you could be left with a lot of unwanted stock.
Produce the marketing plan. This will detail the primary target market for your product and the means in which you intend to reach them. Website pages, promotional literature and point of sale materials will be confirmed and produced.
Agree final prices and brief the sales team.
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Protect your ideas.
Before launching your new product protect your Intellectual property. You have invested a lot of time and money in bringing your new product to market and the last thing you want is for competitors to immediately steal your ideas and undermine your profitability.
Intellectual property protection helps you to stop others stealing or copying: the names of your products or brands, your inventions, the design or look of your products and the things you write, make or produce
Copyright, patents, designs and trademarks are all types of intellectual property protection.
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Put your marketing plan into action and continually review its performance. Make changes based on the review to ensure success of the launch by tweaking any subsequent marketing activity.
Customer feedback of the product should be sought to identify any teething problems that were not picked up by testing. These can then be addressed in future production runs.
Ensure that retailers have all the information and marketing materials they need.
If you are pitching to retailers, ensure your pitch is simple and aimed at their customer base rather than them. Include three memorable selling points. If your pitch is unsuccessful, don’t give up. Ask for feedback as it could be that your pitch was wrong rather than the product. Follow up any buyers who express a provisional interest without placing an order.