Developing new products and services
Markets are dynamic and constantly evolving, no matter how excellent your current products or services. Therefore, it’s useful to regularly redevelop, replace, upgrade or update your products and services to continue growing your business. Here are some practical methods to uncover a potential new product or service in your business.
To find new product or service ideas try the following:
- Attend trade shows (physical and virtual) to see what similar businesses are doing. Spotting new trends and products is a great way to come up with new products or services
- Network by attending business events and conferences. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn about developments in your industry and to stay connected with your peers
- Search online all the different industries or key words that are relevant to your business and see what other businesses are doing
- Look at research or government support websites for businesses or industries similar to yours. Often governments profile high growth businesses and there may be ideas that inspire you
- Engage on social media platforms and channels by following relevant feeds pages and groups. They are ways to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in your industry
- Third party ecommerce platforms have a wealth of ideas to spark a new thought or variation on what you’re doing
- Search for any published university or other industry research findings in case you can apply them to your business.
Finally, contact your customers and ask them what else they need, what are their issues and problems that you can help to solve.
Signs that the idea could work
While a good idea has no guarantee of success, a bad idea will most certainly fail. Here are some signs your new idea could work:
- You can sell it at the price or volume necessary to make a profit. Even the best idea ever will not last if it costs more to produce or deliver than you can sell it for. Find out early the likely cost to create or offer, and if there is a margin to be made
- Your idea cannot be easily copied. This prevents competitors from quickly copying your idea once you’ve launched
- You have market power, a great distribution channel and an established brand. This will help customers trust that the new product or service will work, as they already know and understand your business
- Your current customers have been asking for it or are involved in the design phase
- Employees are convinced your new ideas will work. They will often have a clearer insight into what customers are asking for
- You have the capacity and capability to produce any new product or service and if you need additional equipment, facilities or people to do so.
Project-manage the process
Since product development involves time, labor and finance, it’s important to plan carefully in advance. Minimize your risk by applying some sound management techniques to your planning process. Create a team with the skills needed to make the project a success and choose a team leader.
Every new product needs a champion to lead the team. Incorporate the following:
- You or one of your key employees should be appointed as a project manager, so that there’s a clear understanding of how the new product or service will fit in with the overall capabilities of the business, as well as regularly measuring and reporting on progress
- Give the team leader the authority to run the project—within an agreed budget and timetable—with the responsibility of reporting progress to you at agreed milestones
- Be customer centered and work closely with your best customers to help develop and fine-tune any idea
- Protect any innovation with either intellectual property protection, such as patent, trademark or copyright, or keep it as an intellectual asset (meaning don’t tell anyone what you’re doing).
Test the new product
Once a prototype of the new product has been produced, or a new service decided on, it needs to be tested. A soft launch done locally with a few customers is a smart way to test the waters and gather feedback. You can find out what customers think and tweak your new idea, if needed.
Testing will reduce the major risks early so you can decide if it’s worth the potential reward.
Minimize the risk by:
- Establishing the likely volume of sales and the marketing and sales cost of achieving each sale to get a satisfactory return on your investment
- Determining if your target market and industry is growing and will be able to absorb a new product or service
- Identifying any competing products already in the market and ensuring your business offers something different and unique.
Successful businesses are those that are continually looking for ways to innovate. This is an essential component for achieving growth. Whether it’s a new product or service, or one you’ve come up with that’s designed to complement existing ones, make sure you consider all the above carefully, as this will help maximize your chances of success.