This is one of the most important questions in the world of business. Everyone is in the business of selling products, because a product is simply any discrete way a customer can spend money in exchange for something from you. The word product calls to mind a physical item, be it a toothbrush or a new kitchen, but in reality, a ‘product’ is simply the way you package what you have to sell, and a stay in your hotel, a license for software or access to your expertise as a consultant is as much a product as that toothbrush.
Developing and launching a new product might be designing a new, distinctive kind of toothbrush with new advantages for your customers, or it could be coming up with a new way of packaging of your consulting service to make it available to new clients – offering a smaller number of hours a week with a new pricing structure to put your expertise in reach of smaller business who aren’t sure about committing, for example.
The most important thing in this process is that your customers love your new product. Launching a new product means publicity and focus, which can be a good thing, unless no one wants it, the reviews are bad and your new offer isn’t taken up. This means you’ve failed in public, and in showing you didn’t understand what your customers wanted you to sow the seeds of doubt that your existing products can meet the needs of your market.
Building the Foundations for Success
There are no guarantees in the world of business, but you can certainly improve your chances of success by going right back to before your product development process begins and getting the foundations right.
Begin with concept testing: expose real customers to the concepts you’re considering developing into products and look for the ones that they grasp immediately; instinctively. If your customers don’t see what your new product can do for them, why it’s valuable, you’ll have a more difficult job (or even an impossible one) convincing them to buy it when launch day comes.
It’s worth partnering with a market research agency for this stage of the process: they have the reach to get a wider spread of sample customers for your testing, and can get more insights out of them about precisely what works and what doesn’t.
You can continue to work with customers to test products as you prototype them, and even as you design your marketing materials, finding out what about these products and messages resonates with your audience and what communicates your brand as effectively as its’ function. This can, at least, improve your chances of success.