Understand what’s involvedInitially, it’s important to try and really understand what’s involved in getting your product ready to take to market, considering all aspects that need to be resolved prior to a product launch. Don’t simply focus on your core business and product strengths ? other aspects to consider include engineering, directives, legislation, manufacturing, packaging, supply chain, distribution, finance, and literature.?It’s very easy to underestimate one or two of these areas, especially the ones which are outside of your working experiences to date.
Have a planPull together a realistic resource activity plan and timeline that maps out how you’ll get from where you are today to market. I don’t think we’ve ever come across a single customer who has managed to achieve volume sales of a new product ahead of their target date ? and this includes multinational corporations as well a startups. Be realistic and have contingency plans in place from day one.
The marketMarket knowledge doesn’t mean talking to family and friends, it means taking real comment and feedback and analysing it critically. There are a lot of good products that people will be complimentary about but they won’t buy. Talk to potential customers and be very realistic ? do not hear what you want to hear, make sure you understand who the final decision maker is and what will drive them to buy your product. Will it really sell? What is the products true price point? Have you set achievable volumes and lead times?
Know your product sellClearly define and then be prepared and able to demonstrate your product USPs. This can be harder than it sounds in most cases, unless you have a truly standout product with well protected IP. However, once you’ve developed a clear sales message, you can invest in branding and literature, confident of a clear and consistent message.
Realising your productUnfortunately, despite your own effort and drive, getting a product to market will normally involve a number of external organisations that may not be prepared or able to move as quickly. Research thoroughly and understand all legislation that your product must comply with in order to be sold in your main and secondary markets, and what’s involved in the certification processes. Also ensure that you do not infringe the IP of other businesses.
The product financialsHave clear and realistic product target cost, based on a tested selling price and true distribution costs. Many ideas develop within small businesses with an extremely low cost base; you need to be realistic about the true costs of manufacturing, marketing and selling your product. Is there sufficient margin to support a truly commercial business, or does the product only work at a cottage industry level? Are there any peripheral costs such as installation which are easy to underestimate? It is not unusual for the installation and/or implementation costs to double the cost of a product. You need to ensure that customers are aware of these costs and you can cover them in your selling price. Finally ensure that you truly understand what your realistic selling price is.
The business financialsHave a clear financial plan, and understanding of start-up costs. Getting your product to market will absorb cash, after which you will then have to fund the manufacture of your first batch of product. This comes at a time when you probably will not have a strong enough trading history to obtain credit from suppliers, which adds to the strain of this period. It is also likely that delays will have occurred, which in turn will increase the strain. So be realistic, identify all potential costs and put some level of budget with contingency against them.
Once you’ve got to marketOnce you’ve gone to market, the hard work begins. If your product is a success, you now have to stay ahead of the field, as potential competitors will look at what you are doing and try and catch up. Make sure you formulate a new plan to stay ahead and maintain your advantage. Brian Palmer is chief executive of Tharsus,?an engineering and manufacturing firm with three sites in the North East of England.
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