A simple guide to developing a product for your small business

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Finding the right product that’ll delight your customers and meet the needs of today’s society may sound like a daunting task. And as a small business you’ll likely have even more challenges without a financial buffer and large team of people behind you.

But don’t let that put you off.

As a small business owner you’ll know your business (and your customers) inside out. With the right research and planning you can start growing or diversifying the products you sell, whether that’s online, in a bricks and mortar shop, or in a café or restaurant. Our seven-step guide will help you understand the basics when it comes to developing a product.

What is product development?

Product development is the process of bringing a product to market, from an initial idea and market research to design, manufacturing, and testing.

A product can be anything from children’s toys, clothing, and gym equipment to food and drinks. Products can also be intangible items like a service or system that you sell to consumers.

How to develop a product – a simple guide

Whether you’re an entrepreneur bursting with new ideas or you simply know how to solve a problem for your customers, this seven-step guide will help you successfully develop your next product.

Ideas, ideas, ideas

This is the creative stage where you can think about what’s missing in your business or how you might evolve an existing product.

Have you spotted a gap in the market? Can you tap into the latest business trends and customer needs in your region? Or perhaps you’ve received customer feedback that’s sparked an idea for a new range of products.

It’s worth taking time on this stage to do your market research and look at competitors too. Using a SWOT analysis template can be a helpful way to analyse potential strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats that could impact development.

Filtering and screening

It’s important to go through a stage of filtering and screening your ideas, so only the best ones make it to market. Think about the amount of time and money you’d need to bring each idea to life, the potential profit margin, and analyse that against your customer needs.

Ask everyone for feedback on your ideas. You could try:

  • focus groups

  • sending out surveys (it’s free and easy to set up with SurveyMonkey)

  • social media polls

  • attending networking events

  • asking family and friends

  • going where your potential customers are

Another way to gauge demand is to try to start selling your product before it goes into production. You can build a landing page to entice people in and take advantage of limited free advertising credits on Facebook or Google Ads. If people are visiting your product page then it’s a good indication that there’s interest in buying it.

Before you move onto the next stage, make sure your product aligns with your overall business plan.

Design and prototyping

Next up is the design and prototyping phase. By creating models and sketches of your product, you’ll be able to test it, get feedback (again), and iron out any problems before you go into mass production.

If you can, try to integrate sustainability into your design process as consumers are increasingly looking for brands that are doing what they can for the environment. Perhaps that’s through the materials you use, the suppliers you choose, or how you produce your packaging.

This can form part of an ESG strategy if you’ve got a mission to support the environment, your stakeholders, and your local community.

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