If you work on a product development team, engineering, or marketing team, you’re likely involved with new product concept development, testing, and messaging. Bringing a new product concept to market is extremely challenging; the logistics and amount of people involved alone can cause huge headaches. Furthermore, if the product is not well-received in the marketplace and sales are not meeting expectations, the product development teams are often the first to be blamed.
New product concept development is high stakes. If you have any role in the process, we’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts from our personal experience, and from years of experience working closely with product teams.
New product concept Don’t: Don’t Develop the product simply as a response to poor sales
Oftentimes, companies may see lagging sales in some of their flagship products, or, a competitor has come out with a product, and so the company decides to explore releasing a similar product to keep sales up. This approach is reactionary. Likely, you’re not addressing the root issue.
First off, why is your current product not selling as well as it used to? Is it outdated? Have customer habits changed? Is your pricing off? Are there aspects of the product that could simply be refined so you don’t have to start from scratch?
You won’t know unless you do some customer research. Qualitative research can you help you understand how your current customers view your product. Make sure your research includes both current customers and customers who no longer buy your product so you can get both perspectives. A mix of focus groups, online panels, or in-depth interviews will provide a wealth of insights into why your sales are lagging. As a bonus, if you do decide to develop a new product or modify the current one, the qualitative research will provide a useful roadmap for development.
New product concept Don’t: Don’t proceed without doing a thorough competitive review
Context and the product’s positioning are critical aspects of a new product’s development cycle. Do you have a solid understanding of the marketplace – the current marketplace? If you work in tech, particularly, the marketplace shifts like a sand dune. Before you invest tens of thousands of dollars into product development, have the marketing team do a thorough review of the environment that you will be releasing the environment into. This may include everything from marketing audits to social media listening. Your end goal is to have a firm grasp on the pulse of the marketplace and understand what your customers are hearing (and buying) from the competition.
New product concept Do: Do your market research early
Time and time again, we’ve seen companies spend months (or years) on a new product concept and, just prior to release, invest in market research to understand how people will perceive and use the product. This can work well if the product is well-received, and only minor tweaks are needed, but typically what happens is that the focus groups and ideation sessions reveal some glaring gaps. The product team has to go back to the drawing board, and this almost always throws of the release timeline and requires a further investment into the process. Market research should be step 1 – first get a pulse on what consumers want. Then develop the product. Test again the prototype. Release the product. Re-test to refine.
New product concept Do: Make sure you include prototype testing
Focus groups are an amazing forum to test new product concept ideas, but in the middle stages of development, you’ll want to make sure to host groups that include prototype feedback. Let your audience see the product. Use it. Experience it. With mobile ethnography formats, you can allow your target audience to provide real-time feedback from their homes and offices as they use the product. They are then brought back into a focus group setting to get more detailed feedback, but the key point here is that they should be able to really see how the product works in practice so that they can provide accurate feedback to your teams.
You put so much work into new product development – just a few crucial steps can make all the difference
New product development doesn’t have to be as expensive and time-consuming as it has been in the past for your company. Take strategic steps early on in the process by employing market research and doing an in-depth competitive analysis. Throughout the development process, test the ideas with customers, and continue the release with research that tracks and helps your team iterate the product to customers’ needs.