You have an amazing idea for a game-changing product. You have financial backing, and a channel for sales. Now, you just need to turn it over to an industrial design firm and wait for the money to roll in. Right? Oh, if only it was that easy. When it comes to integrated product development, a good idea is only the beginning. Here are ten more things an entrepreneur needs to be successful in the marketplace:
If you have a million-dollar idea and it costs a million dollars to get your idea to market, don’t expect high returns. For an idea to be successful, it must be both valuable and profitable. A valuable idea is one that customers are willing to pay for, because it is worth its price. A profitable idea is one that generates enough sales to cover development costs, while also generating a healthy profit. Before taking your idea to the market, make sure it’s not just a good idea, but a good deal.
It costs money to make money. Entrepreneurs should be prepared to invest in product design, research, engineering, manufacturing, marketing and development in order to turn their ideas into saleable products. While the expense of getting a new product ready for launch can be significant, the payoff of long-term sales could be much greater. If you have a marketable idea and you have the financial backing to support its development and distribution, you’re already two steps ahead of your competition.
Many people dive into product development and design without realizing how important it is to get their product into the marketplace. Or, they may understand marketing, but not sales. Simply put, marketing is generating awareness of your product. Sales is closing deals. You need to have a plan for both. At IDM, years of experience have taught us how to ask the right questions and confirm that our clients have solid marketing and distribution plans in place.
The first step in creating a product that will appeal to your audience is understanding what your audience wants. You can’t design a product for everyone—but you can (and should) design your product with a specific target audience in mind. Clearly decide who your target is, and who they are not. Then, include only those product features that are valuable to them. If a feature is not valuable to your audience, it should not be included in your product design. Key to understanding your audience is the idea that when you say yes to everything, you may not do anything well—but when you clearly focus on what your audience needs, you can develop the best product for them.
Many entrepreneurs are tempted by the idea that more is better when designing a new product—but adding more features increases cost and complexity, and may detract from your product’s primary function. For example, if you’re designing a refrigerator, its primary function is to keep food cold. You may add features like the ability to play music or watch a video—but if your refrigerator does not keep food cold, it won’t be valuable to your audience.To avoid feature creep, we recommend designing a minimum viable product, or MVP, an idea proposed by Frank Robinson, owner of SyncDev, in 2001. An MVP is a version of a product with just enough features to allow early customers to purchase and use your product, and then provide feedback for additional product development. By releasing an MVP first, you can avoid unnecessary work, get a working product out sooner, and respond to real feedback faster, refining your product after it is already in the marketplace.
Once you understand your audience and design a product that meets their needs, you can begin working to build a brand connection with them. The most successful brands—names like Nike, Apple and Starbucks—create meaningful, engaging product experiences for their customers. When a product experience works, a connection is made—a relationship is formed—and the customer feels a personal affiliation with the brand. Read our article, “Design Leadership Gives a Brand Its Voice” to learn more.
To be commercially successful, your product needs to be scalable. After all, if it is profitable to sell thousands of units, it will be much more profitable to sell millions. At IDM, our goal is to design products that are scalable and repeatable. By designing scalability upfront, we may be able to increase throughput without increasing manufacturing costs. When developing your product idea, don’t ask, “What is the minimum amount we should sell?” Instead ask, “What is the maximum?”
While we recommend designing an MVP, we don’t recommend releasing a product that does not meet quality standards. This is where the “V” in “MVP” — viable — comes in. If your product fails in the marketplace, you may never recover. One way to assure quality is by working with partners who are certified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).IDM Tech is ISO 9001:2015 certified. This certification means that IDM has documented its manufacturing standards, and consistently meets them. Doing so allows us to put processes in place that are scalable, and make adjustments when it is beneficial. If we encounter a quality problem in the manufacturing line, we document it, correct it, and learn from it, every time. Our rigorous process ensures complete accountability, transparency, and trust for our clients, who know we will always do what we say we are going to do.
When designing a new product, you are bound to discover challenges. The ability to tackle problems and solve them is essential to your product’s success. For example, when working with a client on a smartwatch designed for older adults, we discovered that our client was using the word “waterproof” in their marketing language. However, the watch we were manufacturing was only water resistant up to two meters. Truly waterproofing the watch would mean creating a $300 product, rather than the $99 product that resonated with the customer. This might push the watch out of the affordable range for its target audience—all for a feature our audience didn’t really need or value. Rather than altering the design and raising costs, we advised our client to simply change the language in their product marketing, in order to align expectations in the marketplace with what their product could deliver.
No one wants to spend time developing a product that will never make it into the marketplace. The most successful entrepreneurs know how to get their products in front of the people who want them. That means having access to a distribution channel that feeds directly to your customer. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if you have an idea, the customer will come to you. You need to have a door to walk through—not a wall.This does not necessarily mean that if you don’t know someone at Wal-Mart, you’ll never get anywhere. However, you do need a way to get your idea to the market. For example, one of our clients, American Agriculture, was created by a farmer who had an idea for an irrigation filter. Initially, he tried to sell the product himself through direct advertising and industry shows. However, once he formed a relationship with an irrigation distribution channel, his sales increased by 400 percent.
In a recent article published on Medium.com, it was reported that only .005% of ideas succeed in the marketplace. You can increase your chance of success by ensuring your idea meets the ten criteria above. While it takes a lot more than an idea to be successful, the good news is, you don’t have to do it all alone.
IDM partners with entrepreneurs to turn great ideas into profitable products. We bring design leadership through an integrated approach to product design and development, providing support throughout the entire product development cycle, from concept, strategy and design, to engineering, manufacturing and fulfillment. We take a vested interest in product outcomes and business results—because we are invested in your success.
If you’re an entrepreneur with a winning idea, a distribution channel, and funding for development, we want to be your partner in design, development and manufacturing.
Anne likes things neat and tidy. As an avid gardener, she knows a pristine landscape doesn’t happen by chance—there’s always someone pruning, watering, and tending to the details. Anne is that person for IDM. “I shape things,” she says, “often behind the scenes, to make sure we deliver what we promise.”
At IDM, Anne works to “make excellence a habit” by overseeing our ISO certification program. She also helps cultivate a culture focused on customer satisfaction—whether that “customer” is internal or external. With her self-described “relentless smile” and what Frank Lloyd Wright calls “an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen,” Anne keeps us alert, on our toes, and bringing our very best each day. “I love working with bright people who are passionate about what they do,” she says.
When she’s not digging in the dirt, you might find Anne nurturing her love of reading at the local library.