Bringing your vision for an original product to life is frequently one of the biggest hurdles for aspiring entrepreneurs.
The product development process can seem almost mysterious, and when you hear the origin stories of other great businesses, the journey to a finished product rarely resembles a straight line.
Tina Roth-Eisenberg, for example, realized that semi-permanent tattoos were lacking when her daughter brought some home, and mobilized her community of fellow designers to create Tattly.
David Barnett, on the other hand, had to teach himself how to use 3D design software so he could prototype PopSockets, the now-popular phone accessory.
On their own, these inspiring stories don’t provide an end-to-end blueprint for product development, but the similarities they share reveal some of the steps founders consistently take on the road to starting a business and shipping a finished product.
New product development is the process of bringing an original product idea to market. Although it differs by industry, it can essentially be broken down into five stages: ideation, research, planning, prototyping, sourcing, and costing.
Here’s how to develop your own original product idea and what to consider at each stage.
Many aspiring entrepreneurs get stuck on ideation, often because they’re waiting for a stroke of genius to reveal the perfect product they should sell. While building something fundamentally “new” can be creatively fulfilling, many of the best ideas are the result of iterating upon on an existing product.
The SCAMPER model is a useful tool for quickly coming up with product ideas by asking questions about existing products. Each letter stands for a prompt:
By asking these questions, you can come up with novel ways to transform existing ideas or even adapt them for a new target audience or problem.
If you’re still looking for your “aha!” moment, we also put together a list of sources for coming up with your own product ideas, from analyzing online marketplaces for inspiration to reinventing historical trends.
With your product idea in mind, you may feel inclined to leapfrog ahead to production, but that can become a misstep if you fail to validate your idea first.
Product validation ensures you’re creating a product people will pay for and that you won’t waste time, money, and effort on an idea that won’t sell. There are several ways you can validate your product ideas, including:
However you decide to go about validating your idea, it is important to get feedback from a substantial and unbiased audience as to whether they would buy your product. Be wary of overvaluing feedback from people who “definitely would buy” if you were to create your theoretical product—until money changes hands, you can’t count someone as a customer.
Validation research will also inevitably involve competitive analysis. If your idea or niche has the potential to take off, there are likely competitors already operating in that space.
Visiting your competitors’ website and signing up for their email list will allow you to understand how they attract customers and make sales. Asking your own potential customers what they like or dislike about your competitors will also be important in defining your own competitive advantage.
The information compiled from doing product validation and market research will allow you to gauge the demand for your product and also the level of competition that exists before you start planning.