The Roadmap to Effective Product Development

November 18, 2016

10:30 am

The path to success is never a straight line. In the area of product development, this is more true than ever. And unfortunately, that curvy path can easily leads to a dead-end. Just look in the graveyard of Kickstarter. But there are amazing success stories too. As we kick around what we think is a great product idea, we are also asking ourselves these questions:

  • How can I develop this idea?
  • Who can I get to help me?
  • How can I possibly market the idea, get funding, and actually produce it?

These challenges force many to keep their ideas in an incubator. They procrastinate and never move forward because the whole process just seem too overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are some important steps in the process that may motivate you to get going.

Test the Waters

A lot of creatives believe they have a value proposition, get to work on it, spend months or years developing it, and ultimately discover that there is not a real market for it. In most instances, lots of time and money has been wasted in this pursuit.

An MVP (minimum viable product) can cut time and money when it comes to product development. You may have a clear idea of your final product, but think about how you can cut that down into smaller chunks and begin with just “part 1” of that final vision.

When Leo Widrich had an idea for an app that would schedule social media postings for clients he began with a small version of the product that would only allow a client to schedule tweets. He himself used Twitter to promote the concept and began to get a positive response. He also was able to get plenty of people to sign up for the paid options he offered. From there he went to work on the full product development for Buffer, probably the most popular social media scheduling app on the web.

Get Feedback Early

What Widrich did and what so many other successful product developers do is get feedback very early on any product they are considering. This feedback can come from a “test” group that you set up to try out your MVP and provide feedback and comments. This will tell you if there is a market for your product and will help you revise and improve the product as you continue through the development phase.

Often, this means that a prototype is designed, especially if a physical product is involved. The founders of Glif, a smartphone holder and tripod combination, produced a prototype and a few copies using a 3-D printer. They created an explainer video and submitted it to Kickstarter, getting the funding they needed to go forward and develop the final product.

Pre-production prototypes can also be provided to related and trusted product review sites. This can provide great exposure for a target market.

Design Is Critical

Whether you are creating a new app, an online training program, or a tech wearable, you cannot scrimp on quality. The founders of Glif were not design engineers – they drew their prototype and found the right engineer to design it. Dave McDowell, CEO at Austin Nichols, a recruitment and placement firm, reinforces this:

“Whether a company is manufacturing automobile parts or a new consumer electronic device, the principles remain the same. Quality in design, development, and production is crucial. The end product must be one that users of that product find meets all of their expectations. Anything less destroys the reputation of the producer. For this reason, the right people must be involved every step of the way.”

The message is clear – do not scrimp. If you have discovered that there is a market for an online training program, through some early “testing,” then develop the finest program possible, bringing in experts along the way and providing a delivery system that is educationally sound and engaging. Through his work as a writer for CopyBlogger, Brian Clark realized that there was a market for a training course on building a successful business. His ultimate product, Teaching Sells, has been a huge success, because it was well-designed and units of study feature true experts in their fields.

Pricing Has to be Right

Yes, pricing matters in product development. You cannot price correctly until you have figured in all costs of development and getting a product to market. And if you have a product that may be placed with retailers, then your profit margins will definitely differ. At the same time, you have to gauge what our customers/clients will pay. Sometimes you can do this by pre-selling. Obviously, you can also check out your competition.

Protect Your Product

Check out the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office information, regulations, and processes so that you can trademark your product and at least apply for a provisional patent. This gives you leverage against any theft of intellectual property or physical product, and you have a year to file for a permanent patent. 

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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien