8 painless ways to generate new product ideas

The word “new” is one of the most powerful in the marketing vocabulary and every company needs a significant number of its product line graced with this adjective in order to stay relevant and capitalise on changing consumer behaviour. What can be difficult however, is knowing how to generate the ideas that will go on to spawn successful new products.

There’s a romantic notion that all great ideas come from a light bulb moment, delivered when it’s least expected. While a fair share of entrepreneurs will attest to this, it’s also possible to approach product development in a more systematic way.

Busy people who don’t have the time to hang around and wait for inspiration to strike need to develop a strategy to help tease out new ideas. 

Here are eight tips for getting the ball rolling:

1. Look to the competition 

Browse exhibitions, conduct your own online research, and visit distributors’ premises to see what other businesses are up to. Despite what people say, there can be money to be made out of being second into the market. Apple is a case in point, it’s now a market leader in the smartphone and tablet arenas despite not being the first brand to introduce them.

2. Look at other market sectors

Indirect competition – companies making products that perform a similar function to yours but which are made in a different way – can be a great source of ideas. I once worked with a manufacturer of cardboard packaging that wanted to extend its product range. By looking to companies in the plastic packaging market they happened upon growing demand in key markets for more sustainable packaging, which took their product development in an entirely new direction.

3. Look at patent applications

Where patents are registered and what they are for can be highly informative and spark parallel ideas. In addition, there can be mileage in looking at patent applications which have remained dormant but which could present good licensing opportunities today.

4. Look inside your own company

Ask the sales team. They are an important resource on the front line and will have significant insight into how customers are feeling about your product. Many firms commission masses of market research to find some kind of remarkable idea from the outside, when they should begin by asking their own workforce for feedback on what improvements or innovations could be made. It is then the place of market research to stress test and develop these ideas.

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