So you’ve just come up with the next revolutionary product idea and need help figuring out how to bring it to fruition? Although seemingly daunting, new product development doesn’t have to be a complicated process.
There is no doubt that smart decisions are required throughout the entire product development process – 96% of product innovations fail to return the cost of capital and two thirds fail within two years. The easiest way to ensure your new product development goes as smoothly as possible is through proper planning and a structured process road map that can give you a clear path from initial idea generation to the getting the final finished product on the shelves. Following a structured path will facilitate a focused yet flexible approach and ensure your product is developed in an efficient, detail-oriented fashion. At Inertia, we’ve gone so far as to create, control, and measure the performance of our product development process under an ISO9001 framework. Below we outline an ideal path to take when embarking on a new product development project.
Step 1: Idea Generation
As with most development projects, the first step to new product development is generating a concept. When it comes to initial concept generation, the ideas will range widely. Although having a wide range of ideas is beneficial to the process, it’s important to have a system to sift through the ideas and decide which to keep and which to toss. The best way to start vetting ideas is through a SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Incorporating market trends, this type of analysis can be used to pin down ideas that will differentiate your business from the competition while considering key components to product development such as cost, timeline and return on investment.
Although early in the process, you might want to consider bringing external feedback into the mix to gain some initial insight on audience reception of your product. New products have about a 10% chance of succeeding so this initial feedback is crucial to assessing how the market might respond to your product and whether your new idea is worth pursuing. You can gain this insight through various means, including conducting focus groups, requesting suggestions from employees and business partners, examining your competitors’ successes and failures, or even hiring a firm to conduct market research.
Step 2: Idea Screening
The process of idea screening is essential to the product development process as it ensures ideas that are unachievable for whatever reason – cost, market potential, etc – are removed from the pool as early as possible. This will save you considerable time and money further down the line. Before the screening process, it’s important to set specific criteria for ideas that should be pursued or dropped and to stick to those criteria so unfeasible product ideas are dropped as early as possible.
According to Entrepreneur.com, only about 10 percent of “new” ideas are unique enough to receive a patent. As you narrow your ideas down, it’s important you do significant research into related products and businesses to make sure you have a viable idea.
Even if ideas do not prove worthwhile at the moment, keep them stored somewhere for later reference. These failed ideas could serve as lessons or even launching points for new product ideas in the future.
Step 3: Idea Development and Testing
Now that you’ve narrowed down the concept and have screened it thoroughly, it is time to test it. No matter how confident you are in the product concept after screening, there are always blind spots that you may not have considered. At this stage, it’s important to conduct some kind of focus group with your potential customers to test the idea and gauge their reaction – using some sort of simple prototype or mock-up that helps people better understand your product. When it comes to prototypes, at this point in the product development cycle it is more important to create something quick and inexpensive than achieving what you believe to be perfection. This interaction can also facilitate a discussion that can help develop the product concept further with their feedback. It’s important to be open and willing to accept criticism and to reflect on what people are telling you at this early stage so that you can pivot or adjust your concept to gain better market acceptance if needed.
Step 4: Business Analysis
After you’ve tested and finalized your concept, it’s essential to invest some time into determining the profitability of the product. As an organization, it’s wise to build a system of metrics – both input, such as average time in each stage of development, and output, such as the value of launched product or projected sales – to determine the feasibility of new products. This business analysis stage should also involve a full appraisal of development costs, competition, break-even points, etc. We see many first-time inventors skip this step because they have their my-idea-is-so-great blinders on, they just want to plow straight into spending money to design and develop before they know whether they have a viable business that will pay back their investment. The product development process is usually the largest expenditure when it comes to launching a hardware / physical product business.
Step 5: Product Development and Marketability Testing
Once you have accumulated confidence that people are likely to buy your product idea and you have a solid business model, it’s time to move onto product development. This is where most of the work and cost is incurred and can typically take anywhere from 6 – 24 months to get your idea into the hands of paying customers.
Typical activities during this time include industrial design, mechanical and electrical design, prototyping, testing, certification, and so on.
The culmination of this phase usually results in creating what we call a production prototype. This is often in the form of a limited production model or a prototype.
Once you have a prototype, you can utilize it for customer testing to gain feedback on the products look and feel as well as its functionality and applicability.
There are many types of prototypes that are produced for different purposes along the product development cycle. At Inertia, we offer many different three dimensional prototyping methods that can be produced at any point of production or functionality. Rapid prototyping can yield many benefits. It decreases development time and can accelerate the manufacturing cycle, leaving more time and opportunity to perfect the design before official production.
Step 6: Product Manufacturing & Supply Chain Management
After you’ve tested the product and have determined that it is marketable and worth pursuing, you’re ready to start the manufacturing process. Inertia has extensive experience finding, qualifying, and managing contract manufacturing companies. It is wise to carefully consider who you choose to partner with, making sure their values align with your business’ and they can manufacture your product in a manner of quality required while respecting your budget and timeline. Same goes for working with third party logistics and order fulfillment services. It’s more important to find a company that aligns with yours rather than what might be considered “the best in the business”.
Step 7: Promotion and Commercialization
Once the product has been developed, tested and manufactured, it’s time to finally send to market! Launching a new product is tricky – product launch failure rates are around 30–49% depending on the industry. However, you can ensure a successful launch with proper planning. It’s important to be very strategic in how you’re going to introduce your product into the market – 90% of a product’s success is marketing it and getting it out. You should have pricing and marketing plans finalized and a viable plan for your sales and distribution team to pursue.
Step 8: Post Launch Review and Adjustment
Once your product is launched, it’s important to have a retrospective with your team where you process efficiency, celebrating “big wins” throughout the process and identifying areas that could be improved. It’s also imperative you perform the same kind of retrospective review on the product launch itself and market reaction. Being self-aware and reflective is the best way to learn from your mistakes and continually improve your process.
Successful new product development relies on structured processes while also keeping the system nimble and flexible to ensure the development process goes as smoothly as possible. Partnering with a new product development company that can perform any and all steps in house – from concept development to prototyping to testing to final manufacturing- is the best way to ensure quality product development and production. At Inertia, we are committed to helping our customers realize their visions in an efficient and successful way. As a new product development company with expertise in every other stage of the process, our team is positioned to produce a quality product that will resonate with you and your customers. Give us a call today to learn more about how we can help your business turn your new product vision into a reality.