3 Critical Product Development Steps

New product ideas are like snowflakes in that no two idea can follow the exact same path from concept to product. The specific sequence of events will always be at least a little bit (and sometimes a lot) different. However, there are 3 critical steps that usually separate the winners from the losers. In some way or another, you should seek to carry these steps out. Here they are:

1) Validate the product idea

Notice that we said validate the product idea, not just come up with the product idea. Coming up with an idea is easy. People come up with them every day. But not every idea can become a successful product in the marketplace, and why would you waste a second developing one that can’t? Luckily, there are ways to analyze an idea to determine its viability. The main ways are:

  • Do thorough market research on similar products and make intelligent¬† comparisons between them and your idea
  • Ask people who aren’t afraid to hurt your feelings what they think of the idea
  • Talk to people in the field about your idea (don’t be afraid of them stealing it.)

If your product idea can withstand this type of scrutiny and still looks like a winner, by all means, pursue it. But do not spend time or money developing a product without  validating the idea first.

2) Define what you want to do with it

A valid product idea is a great start, but it is not enough. To get any real traction, you need to determine what you want to do with that idea. What is your ultimate goal for this product? Is it:

  • Selling the product in stores
  • Selling the product outright to a manufacturer or retailer, or
  • Licensing the product to a manufacturer or retailer

Each option is attractive to different people for different reasons, and there is no one “right” option. It comes down to what your own strengths, weaknesses, needs, and risk preference are. The point is simply that whichever option you choose will influence your product development decisions, everything from how fast you have to work to how much money you spend and who you work with.

3) Develop a plan with specific, dated deadlines for each step

Once you have a valid product idea and know what you want it to ultimately become, you can develop a plan for making it happen. Remember: any plans you make in advance are subject to change when circumstances change or opportunities and obstacles prevent themselves. Don’t become obsessed with sticking to the plan. That said, it would be foolish to get started with no plan whatsoever. You should set some dates that you hope to do the following things by:

  • Finalizing the design of your product
  • Determining how your product will be manufactured (and who, if not you, will manufacture it)
  • Making contact with decision makers at retailers or other places of importance

Having at least some idea of how and when these things will get done will keep you focused and ensure steady progress.

The Takeaway: Don’t jump into developing a product unprepared. Validate your idea, determine what you want from it, and write out a plan for getting it done. And get started!

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