Do you have a brilliant idea for a new product but are unsure how to take it from an idea to reality? Although product development is a costly and time-intensive process, every great invention was created by someone who confidently believed in their idea and decided to persevere until it came to fruition.
With platforms like Kickstarter and CrowdCube making raising capital much easier than before and with many new direct to consumer start-ups paving the way, your idea could easily become the next best seller in its industry. But before you invest a lot of time, money and headaches into development, you should plan upfront to reduce risk and increase commercial viability. Here’s how to turn your idea into a product in five steps.
For a product to succeed in a competitive market, it must be desired by the end consumer, have a unique selling point, marketability, be manufacturable, be technically possible and have a sizable contingent of people who would be willing to buy it. Unfortunately, many newly developed products lack one or more of these elements, and they fail as a result.
To ensure your idea can be turned into a product with a chance at market success, you need to properly validate it. I’ve developed hundreds of ideas over the past 20 years and launched my own product as well. I can safely say that one of the biggest mistakes people make when developing their ideas is not properly validating them first.
The reason? People don’t like to be told their ideas aren’t viable. When you get heavily invested in what you believe to be a fantastic idea, it’ll take a lot to convince you that it’s not the best thing since sliced bread. However, the best thing you can do is take a big step back, look at your idea critically and rationally, and pick it apart to expose its flaws without letting your emotional biases get in the way. What you don’t want to do is pour money, time and energy into making something that won’t go anywhere.
In the validation stage, you want to assess whether your idea will actually be useful to the end consumer, what real advantages it offers, and whether it’s helpful enough for people to pay for it. You’ll also want to do some patent searching to see if anyone has already protected your idea, and if there’s room for innovation. Speaking to possible customers about your product idea is always a good plan too, just check with a patent attorney first on the best way to do this so you don’t lose any potential Intellectual Property rights
Once you’ve properly validated your product and decided it has real potential, you’ll probably be eager to physically create it. Before you pour money and time into developing the entire thing, though, you should build a basic physical model with barebones functionality, as a proof of concept. This will be your first prototype.
Prototyping is a super exciting part of product development, but it can become expensive quickly so it’s important to pace yourself and start out with the bare minimum. Your objectives in prototyping are to verify the functionality, usability and ergonomics of your product. It’s likely you will go through three or four prototypes until you have something ideal. Some inventions take dozens of prototypes to get off the ground. Famously Dyson created over 1000 prototypes of his vacuum cleaner. Don’t be put off though, most people I work with need 2 or 3!
Find out more about prototyping here: https://www.design2market.co.uk/services/prototypes/
After you’ve built a great prototype and have a basis to move into production, you’ll first want to look into market research. Volume manufacturing is expensive and complicated and you don’t want to jump into the deep end without getting feedback from your target audience. Gauging the marketability of your product and finding out what consumers like and dislike is crucial at this stage.
If you plan to distribute your product into retail stores, you’ll definitely want to speak to some possible customers. Often what the consumer desires is quite different from your vision. That’s not to discredit your vision, but what the consumer wants should be an absolute priority. Ideally you want to get as many suggestions and criticisms as possible so you can improve your product quickly. Encourage people to be as brutally honest as possible, because this will allow you to uncover flaws in your product and fix them early on.
It can be scary giving away details of your product at this point, and you don’t want to invalidate future IP rights, so always speak to a chartered attorney before investing in market research.
Finding a Manufacturer
So you’ve validated your idea, created a functional prototype, and gathered a lot of helpful feedback from your market research to make your product better. With appropriate changes made to your product, you’ll now want to put it into production so you can start selling as soon as possible. You need to find a manufacturer, whether that be in Europe, the UK, the Far East or somewhere else.
To protect your idea and make sure the process runs smoothly, you need to create a manufacturing specification for your product, and protect it as your intellectual property. The specification will let manufacturers know how to produce your product, and the patent will keep you safe from bad actors taking your idea and producing it to get rich themselves.
It’s a good idea to get estimated costs from a range of manufacturers, and get them to compete to give you the best price. Depending on your product, the profit margin could be very tight, so you want to bring down manufacturing costs as much as you can.
Pitching and Selling
Very few product ideas reach the stage of pitching and selling, so if you make it this far, congratulations. After you’ve made a few small test orders with your chosen manufacturer, it’s time to produce a large quantity of your products and start pitching and selling them to bring in revenue.
At this stage you may need an injection of funds to take your product to market, so looking for investors could be the correct move for your company. Your costs for production tooling, the first batch and shipping may be impossible for you to afford without external funding. Equity or reward-based Crowdfunding are options for getting off the ground when you don’t have the money to go all-in right away.
The key to pitching is to create some great imagery for your product, focus on the benefits for the end consumer, and properly target your desired customers. Ideally you’d get pre-orders from companies and retailers, or if you’re selling direct-to-consumer, have an audience built up with enough people interested in buying in the near future. This will help you build up enough volume to place your first production order.
Turning your product into a reality and finding some potential customers is only the first hurdle. After you bring your product to market, you’ll have a huge marketing mountain to climb, and that comes with its own costs and intricacies. Looking into hiring an agency could be the right move if you don’t have the skills or funding to do it in house.
Not sue how to bring your idea to market? Why not download our free pdf guide to the 7 routes to making money from an idea. Many of our clients have used the techniques, tips and tricks in this pdf to sell thousands of their products.