So you have an idea for a product?
That’s great and I don’t want to hear about it. Once someone knows that I manage a product design company they automatically want to talk about their idea if they have one of course.
If it was really such a great idea you would have already made it or made a prototype or at least some sketches of it. If it’s just an idea usually that’s all it will be. If it’s the next million dollar product don’t you think it deserves a fantastic presentation at the very least?
If you lead with that my immediate response would be “That’s the next million dollar product, awesome, that’s exciting, so do you have one I can see?”.
The response is usually “No, well it’s not made yet that’s why I want to talk to you about it”.
“Wonderful”, I say, “so do you have a product presentation?”
“No” they look at me a bit confused.
“Ok what about a product description, with use cases” I enquire…
“No” they look slightly embarrassed.
“What about a short description and a sketch” I further pry.
“No” they almost look defeated as they say this.
It’s the next best idea and you have not written anything about it nor sketched what it may look like? or how people may use it?
This really tells me a lot about how you feel about the idea. If you have not invested any time in developing it, you have almost zero confidence in it. It could very well be the next million dollar product, but it will go nowhere if you don’t develop it. There is nothing special about ideas, everyone has them, some people have ideas better than others.
Developing your Idea
Developing your idea into reality is something very special.
One person usually does not have the combined expertise to take an idea into reality. So it’s important to develop the idea enough that you can properly communicate it to people.
One of these goals here is to create a stunning product presentation that will inspire people to work on it. The first step is to create a short description of the product. The only question you want to answer right now is the following:
What is it? Think about how you would describe it to a friend. It’s that simple…
Now, search if it already exists. A simple google search will usually be sufficient. This can be done easily by using keywords from your description. Deeper dives should be done at US Patent and Trademark Office.
Don’t get discouraged if you already see your product idea out there, maybe you can develop a niche or modify it in a way that you would still be competitive.
Most products out there have really poor placement and presentations. An important point should be made that smartphones were around for 15 years before Apple released the iPhone. So if your product is already out there, please don’t accept that it can’t be improved.
Why people will buy my product?
Ok, so now that you have a good description you need to understand why people will buy your product.
Also, it does not necessarily have to be for an individual it could be for a company. Is your product for a consumer or company? Is it Business to Consumer (B2C) or Business to Business (B2B)?
There are only two reasons people buy something. One to gain pleasure and secondly to avoid pain.
This seems to be a bit of an oversimplification of the motivations around the buying patterns of people, however, it’s technically true. If you are selling to a company, substitute pleasure for profits.
Take some time to write down the reasons why a person would buy your product. Here are some questions to answer:
- Are they buying to gain pleasure, avoid pain, or a combination of both of them?
- What makes your product special? USP, unique selling points?
- A person buys your product, how will they feel and how will their life change?
The Perfect Customer
Once you have a good idea of why people would buy your product then it is wise to think about your perfect customer.
As stated before this could be an individual or a company. Knowing your ideal customer will help define your product and improvements that would be unique to your demographic.
Write down a description of your customer. Here are some questions to answer.
- What age range are they?
- Where do they live if that is important?
- Are they male or female? Both?
- What is there lifestyle? Active, travelling, foodies, gardeners, environmentally conscious etc, only list the important aspects of their lifestyle.
Here is an example:
The product we have created is a set of utensils for camping and travelling.
My ideal customer would be a male or female that lives a semi-active lifestyle and is environmentally conscious. They are a type of person that will not use plastic utensils or straws.
Their age range is the early 20s to late 30s. They have an average salary. They want to buy things that last, and with proper care, they will still use them when they are older.
Above is a short description, some I have seen have been a page or longer. Also, they may include pictures that summarize the customer or their lifestyle. The more descriptive you are with this the better usually you will connect with your ideal customer.
User Case Studies
Now that you have a description of your product and ideal customer the next step is to develop a user case study.
Case studies are frequently created after you have a product or service. This allows you to understand what you have done wrong and correct any issues.
It also helps you develop improvements. Outstanding case studies are used to market a product and as an example of perfect performance or product features. This is a different approach, since you don’t have a product, this is an imaginative exercise.
Attempt to describe what happens from the moment a person buys your product to them using it. Here are some questions to answer:
- What was the buying process?
- Once they received your product how was it packaged?
- While unboxing the product, what was their experience?
- What are their first impressions when seeing and holding it? Engage your five senses when describing this, sight, touch, auditory, smell and taste.
- When they first use this device how do they feel? How would they recommend this to a friend?
- How has their life changed after they started using your product?
The more you can see someone actually using your product usually the greater success you will have in creating it and selling it.
Remember to make this a fun exercise, be playful in your descriptions and writing. As you finish these exercises share them with your friends and colleagues. Most people will provide constructive feedback that will help you hone your vision.
This article is a guest post from John Hubble, Product Development Engineer at Hubble Engineering