I often get inquiries from individuals who want help designing a product, when it would behoove them to first design a business. The point being, even a great product has abysmal chances for success if there is not a good sales and marketing engine behind it.
Design and manufacturing has gotten easier these days, as it has become more accessible. And it can be tempting to overlook the even-more-important aspect of business development. So I find myself sending out emails like this:
Sounds like your first step would be to develop a business plan; that is, determine who your customers would be, determine if the market size for this product is sufficient, develop a marketing strategy, and understand your sales and distribution channels. The biggest point (and it can be tricky) is to validate your market before spending much money.
What we specialize in usually comes next. We take the idea and design a product that can be economically mass-produced. Let me know if/when you are to this point. Hope this helps!”
Design your business first.
There are different strategies for market validation, depending on the product type. In the software or web-service field it could be as simple as constructing a landing page and asking for email addresses. Physical products can be a bit more difficult, and sometimes a description in words isn’t enough. The truth is, you may find that you do need a bit of product design early on to produce a pretty picture (product rendering), or even an appearance model or prototype, to convey your vision.
But at this stage of business development, the design of the product should serve the development of the business—not the other way around. After all, you may find that the market is invalidated, in which case you should abandon the project. I don’t have the secrets for market validation, and it can be a tricky endeavor, but it crucial for reducing your monetary risk.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.