This series covers common challenges faced at each step of the product development process and how to overcome them.
Ehren-Haus rescues products. From design flaws to failing manufacturing processes, clients bring us in to solve problems and increase profits.
Over the last 30+ years, we’ve begun to understand that a lot (not all) of these product challenges could be avoided during the initial product development process. While we do assist clients from the first stages of product design, all too often, we’re brought on as an after thought.
As a result, we brought our top engineers and program managers together to create a series that addresses the common challenges faced during the product development process.
This is part 1 of 8 in the Product Rescue series. In this segment, we address the first step in any product development, Discovery.
Discovery: the birth of an idea
The discovery phase is the very first step and often, the least organized. This is where an initial concept is developed. Ideas can come from life experience, existing products, a direct need or void in the market, etc.
The first issue we run into is when companies jump from this initial idea to a product design. Often, rather than brainstorming the purpose, researching the market, defining goals and requirements, someone starts sketching. Once those sketches exist, engineers are brought in to the process and before you know it, we’re in production on a product that there is no market for.
Understand what works…and what doesn’t
This is a process. A process needs to be clearly documented and repeatable. Getting emotionally attached to an idea and jumping to production is the quickest way to fail. Define a system, set goals, and replace your excitement with logic.
Find a void – and fill it
There’s no need for a new product if no one wants to buy it. Even if you think everyone will want a dancing flamingo lawn ornament, it’s worth it to ask your audience first. You can only determine a void in the marketplace by understanding the marketplace, and that doesn’t always mean walking through a retail store and thinking of something they don’t already have on the shelf.
Ask your customer
The first thing we always ask when a client comes in for a consultation on a new product is, “What does your market research tell you?”
Your customer should be involved from day one. Before a drawing, before a name, before you even pick a material, you need to ask your customer.
Even if your new solution addresses a void for your customers, if the functionality of it creates a new challenge, you’ve got a problem. For example, a company wanted to develop a handheld device to help nurses keep up with their patient’s vital signs and medication. The product was great, priced competitively, and functioned well…but nobody bought it. Turns out, because the device attached to the nurse’s hand with a strap, they weren’t able to do their jobs efficiently with one hand.
A simple focus group to discuss how this product would be used could have saved the company millions of dollars.
Once you understand your customer’s needs, you need to define requirements for the product. Wireless range, size, material, price, etc. all need to be clearly defined before the first engineer or product designer is brought into the process.
Get technical buy in
Before the product is designed, your engineers need to buy into the product concept and be able to prove viability before you move forward. If your requirements can’t be met within your time frame or cost requirements, something needs to be adjusted before a design is made.
Set the tone
It’s easy to fly through this part of the process in an effort to get a product design as quickly as possible. Your approach to the Discovery phase will undoubtedly set the tone for the rest of the process. Do your due diligence. Become an expert on your idea and the market. Keep your emotions and expectations in check while you back up your ideas with logic and research.
Having an air-tight case for your product at this stage puts you way ahead of the game.
If there is anything we like more than rescuing products, it’s helping companies like yours avoid needing a rescuer from the beginning. Call us with any questions or concerns you have about your product and we can help steer you in the right direction.
Part 2: Design
Stay tuned for the next segment of the Product Rescue series, Design.
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