How to Convert Your Product Idea Into Reality
Any product or service you can think of, including the ones you offer, began as nothing more than an idea. However, going from a simple idea to a final, finished product is never a straight route. Instead, it is a long and tortuous road that is littered with obstacles and pitfalls.
Nevertheless, today’s economy provides the perfect circumstances for you to flourish should you choose to add something new to the world. For example, you have more financing options today than ever before: from seed funds and crowdfunding, to venture capital. Turning your product idea into reality is no longer a game of means but a game of wills. In other words, when it comes to creating a new product, what matters the most is your ability to fight for your viable ideas.
Luckily, you can improve your odds in that fight by equipping yourself with the right information. This article will cover four main aspects:
- Doing your market research
- Pricing your product
- Developing a prototype
- Preparing for the launch of your product
Doing Your Market Research
As difficult as it may be, you need to see your product through your customer’s eyes. Otherwise, you’ll delude yourself, and reality will soon shake you out of your stupor. With that in mind, you should be able to see the benefit of performing a thorough market research. This will inform you of how feasible your product idea is.
The first thing you should assess is the size of the market opportunity. This consists of two aspects: your target market and your competition.
When it comes to your target market, you can either try to cater to a very wide audience or work on serving a smaller niche. This choice is of the utmost importance. It will define everything else for you, including methods of distribution and promotion. An excellent way to help you decide which way to go is to survey all the markets that stand to benefit from your product. It is worth remembering that your product doesn’t have to be for everyone. It is more than enough to have a loyal customer base that generates enough revenue for you to make the whole endeavor worthwhile.
Assess Your Competition
The other pillar of your research is assessing your competition and figuring out how much of a threat they pose to your venture.
You should try to answer these questions:
- Does anyone else sell a product that resembles yours?
- What’s their share of the market?
- Where can their product be found?
Are there any substitutes for your product, bearing in mind that a substitute isn’t exactly a competing product? (To make matters clear, Coke and Pepsi are competitors operating in the soda beverage industry. Conversely, Coke and orange juice are substitutes because whereas they both tend to cater to different markets, going for an orange juice usually precludes going for a Coke).
Ideally, your product will be unique with neither a competitor nor a substitute. Unfortunately, things are never this rosy, and your product might actually be infringing on someone else’s intellectual property. So, not only do you have to figure out who is your competition, you also need to know your legal standing and make sure not to step on anybody else’s property. Fortunately, a simple trip to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will clear that up for you. Furthermore, if you have any more inquiries, you can resort to the aid of legal counsel.
Pricing Your Product
By now, you should know if there is a demand for your product and have a clear view of the competition. With the benefit of these insights, you can begin setting a price for your product.
To start with, you need to calculate the costs of manufacturing, distributing, promoting, and any other expenses incurred. These numbers don’t have to be accurate; they just have to be close enough to give you a clear picture. In fact, once you’re done calculating the costs, add them all together. The sum of all of these costs divided by the number of units produced gives you the cost per single unit of product. Afterward, add to the cost of each unit a safety factor of 25-50% of the cost per unit so as to take all necessary precautions. Let’s call the final price “the adjusted final cost per unit”.
“The adjusted final cost per unit” is the proverbial floor for your pricing: you can’t go any lower without incurring a loss. On the contrary, the ceiling is defined by how much your customer is willing to pay. This is informed by your competitor’s prices, as well as your product’s standing in relation to those of your competition. For you, the Goldilocks zone is somewhere between your floor and your ceiling. The closer you can get to your ceiling, the larger your profits.
Developing a Prototype
Once you’re ready to start manufacturing, you can do one of two things: you can go straight to manufacturing or you can build a prototype first.
Although building a prototype is not a necessity, it is a great hedge against risk. With a prototype, you get to take your idea out of the realm of theory and straight to the world of practice. Accordingly, you can test your idea on a small scale before investing a huge amount of money in mass production. Moreover, you can improve on your idea and adjust it as you see fit. For example, you can tweak the design or change the materials if the prototype gives you a compelling reason to do so.
Another benefit is that describing your idea becomes that much easier given that you have a life size model in your hands. Add to that the fact that investors and potential clients will take you more seriously when you have a prototype than when you don’t. So you have every reason to invest time and effort in making it.
Despite the importance of a prototype, it can be completely basic in the beginning. The idea isn’t to build your product in all its glory, but to see how your potential customers receive the idea in the first place. Upon gathering enough feedback, you can go back and adjust your prototype. You can repeat this iterative process until you feel you have something you can produce on a larger scale.
Preparing for Launch
Assuming that you’ve created and tested a product that is perfect for your customers, you still have some work to do.
For starters, you need to work on your marketing plan – particularly positioning. This choice is strategic in nature and can only be informed by your market research. Positioning pertains to the kind of image you want your customer to conjure up when they think of you. For example, Tiffany might be in the jewelry business, but its position is high-end jewelry and luxury. And this is certainly what comes to mind when anyone mentions their name.
Your next move after settling on a position is to devise a meticulously planned marketing campaign to make your product a success. You will have to come up with the tactics that will make your product fly off the shelves. Or in the case of software or other eProducts, flying off the virtual shelves! There are numerous tools and countless channels at your disposal, and you need to be versatile in knowing how to use each one of them on different occasions. As mentioned earlier, your choice of the target market will largely dictate how things play out in your marketing campaign.
Here are a few ideas to get you on your way:
- Use both traditional media along with social media to send your message. You would do well to remember that, ultimately, brand recognition is your top priority – especially this early in the game.
- Since you want to build brand recognition and hype, you should start promoting your product before it launches. This way, you give people the opportunity to get excited… or at least mildly curious.
- Try to get your product in the hands of experts and influencers. Basically, try to generate some positive reviews that you can use later on in your promotion. When a trusted expert speaks positively about a new product, a kind of buzz is generated that very few other marketing tools can rival. Actually, give your product to a few ‘average Joes’ in return for testimonials that can be blasted across your social media.
- There are several different product launch strategies. Each is suitable under different circumstances. For example, the information leak is where you keep giving away tidbits of information at strategic times so as to build hype around your product. Movie trailers can be considered a sort of information leak strategy. It would be a good idea for you to research these methods and find the one that best suits you. Mix and match strategies together if you see fit.
- Try to be as social as possible, and get your product seen at as many trade shows as you can.
- Do not give up! Sometimes you’ll try out an idea, only to hit a dead end. At other times, lady luck won’t be granting you her favor. Nevertheless, you should never despair. If you believe in your product and the research indicates that it is a feasible profitable idea, then don’t let it become a product that could have been but never was.
Throughout this article, we’ve discussed the main requirements for turning your idea into an actual product that sells. You’ve seen how before you can make a move, you need to know the market you’re operating within. Subsequently, we’ve looked at how you can price your product and discussed the importance of a prototype. Finally, we ended things by considering your marketing plan. As involved as this whole process may seem, all you need is a little bit of grit, and you’ll be changing the world in no time.
What Have Your Experiences Been?
Have you ever gone to market with a product or had some false starts? Please share your experiences and advice in the comments, below.
Heather Redding is a tech enthusiast and freelance writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is a coffee-addict who enjoys swimming and reading. Street photography is her newly discovered artistic outlet and she likes to capture life’s little moments with her camera. You can reach Heather via Twitter @heatheraredding.
Images: Copyright: ‘https://www.123rf.com/profile_spiralmedia‘ / 123RF Stock Photo
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