Product Development 101: From Idea to Production

1. Define your product concept and features

The product must be defined by the customer’s need. The features should not be based on what the business needs, but rather on what the customer needs. Features from a business perspective may not have a direct link to the customer.

A lot of businesses are coming up with new products that are not needed. They’re doing it solely for the sake of more revenue, or because they own patents to particular items and want to make money off them. As soon as consumers see these items, they usually know that they don’t need them and won’t buy them either way.

So make sure you take your time with your own unique product concept. Focus on the features that the products needs to have, and if possible rank these features according to their importance. You will not always be able to implement all your features, so this will help you to prioritize.

2. Conduct a market analysis to identify your target audience, competitive products, and ideal customer profile

This is a key step for any startup. You need to know who your target audience is, what they want, and how they are able to find out about your product. The more you know about them, the better you can tailor your product, and also, at a later point of time, your marketing content and website to meet their needs.

A good way to start this process is by using a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). This will help you identify what opportunities exist for your product in the market, as well as what potential threats may stand in the way of success.

In order to attract customers into purchasing your products later, you need to assure them that your product will be worth their time and money. That’s why it’s important that you also conduct research into your competitors so that you know who you are up against and what their products are. Because in the end, you need to make sure your product is better than theirs.

At this stage it is also helpful to test your market and target audience. Since you don’t have a prototype yet, you can test your product idea with a questionnaire or interviews with people in your potential target audience. This might give you a great insight into what others think and need.

3. Manufacturing a prototype or mock-up

A prototype is an early sample or model of a product that is built to test a concept or process, and may be made from low-cost, quickly available materials.

The manufacturing of prototypes can be done in various ways such as 3D printing, CNC machining and vacuum forming. Manufacturing a prototype or mock-up is an important step in the design process because it allows you to see what your idea looks like before it becomes an actual product. This also helps you troubleshoot the design, identify any flaws or problems and make changes before production starts.

4. Test your prototype to confirm viability and make any necessary changes

This step is the most important because it is where you validate your product idea. You need to see if it’s a viable product and whether there are any changes that need to be made.

Many people think that testing your prototype is just about the messages, but in this stage you should also think about the way that your prototype looks. Does it have a good logo? Is it well-designed? These are all important aspects of the final product and should be considered as well.

When people think of testing their prototypes, many of them think of how their prototype will perform or how they would do A/B tests on large audiences. But it’s probably better to start testing your prototype with a small audience, who you believe fits your target customers, and listen carefully. You want to make sure you take in all their thoughts and critics. Sometimes entrepreneurs get distracted by their initial idea. You might be convinced your idea will be successful, but in the end your customers decide whether they want to spend money on your product or not.

Do never hesitate to go one step back and make changes to your product idea. It’s always better to test more and to make sure your product idea is validated, before you invest into mass production.

5. Determine the manufacturing process and production time for the item

Once you have confirmed the final design of your product, you are ready to look into the manufacturing process. The manufacturing process for products made in China varies strongly. It can be something between 5 and 40 days. This depends on the complexity of production and also your order quantity. If you need molds, the first batch production can also take longer than the next ones.

Make sure you research manufacturers and compare prices. Always consider the quality differences. The lowest price might not be the best deal for you. We also recommend you to deal with a manufacturer, instead of a trade company. On Alibaba most companies are traders, and you might get stuck in communication, since they take in your input and forward your ideas to the manufacturer. There is a great risk that misunderstandings or miscommunication is making this process more difficult.

6. Preparing for production costs, packaging considerations, and marketing plan

Before coming up with a marketing plan, it is important to know how much time and resources it will need. Make sure you start your budget planning in time, so you can look for investors or find another solution for your funding.

You should also gather ideas for what the packaging should look like. The packaging is the first impression of your product, so it should be well-designed.

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