From idea to product - The 5 steps
So you've come up with the next big product that is going to change the world. The next few years of your life is going to be solely dedicated to bring this idea to life, getting it to market and making sure to keep your market engaged.
So how do you do it?
There are many ways to get there and you do not have to go through these steps chronologically. Depending on the type of product you have, you will want to tweak and add some steps as you go along.
Step 1: The Idea
Firstly, you want to ensure that you have every aspect of your idea thought out. This is important as then you know what to concentrate on. It is almost always better for you, and much easier, if you choose one big problem to solve and develop a solution around that. You will want to do your research to check if there are any similar products out there. You want to start speaking to people around you and get their thoughts on the idea. Most times, they will have ideas to help you. The main part of this stage is to gather as much information as possible.
You will also want to start an idea journal to document all your thoughts and processes. Make sure it is dated and properly documented. This is important when you start applying for patents.
Important note: The notebook must be bound is such a way that pages cannot be inserted or removed. The pages of the notebook must also be numbered. Your entries must be dated and everything must be presentable and specific enough to be understood
Step 2: The Market Research
This is where the "business" comes in. You will have to build your product and sell it to your customers. And almost always the latter is the more difficult part. Customers are incredibly fickle and even the best products in the world die if people are not willing to pay for it. You have to do a mix of Primary research and Secondary research - both types feed into each other so be sure to keep an open mind and go back and forth.
At this stage, you have to decide what are the "Market" questions you want answered. Some examples include:
1. How big is the market? - Is this applicable only in your local market or can you sell in internationally? What would be your sales channels internationally?
2. What is your target market? Who, very specifically, is going to be buying your products on your proposed sales channels?
3. Are there any competitors with whom I will have a hard time competing against?
4. What is important to your prospective customers?
Step 3: Build and test your prototype
This stage is about your product. Main questions here include whether the your assumptions about the product are right and whether you could actually build it.
Now that you know who your customers will be, you can start designing your prototype around them. You will want to keep in mind what you learnt about your customers in Step 2.
There are a few approaches to this step. You might start with a simple prototype to test your assumptions and build from there. Or you might also want to build a Proof of Concept to show stakeholder and investors about the viability of your idea. It is important to think about what is foundational to your product. For example, if you want to build an electric car that can run for 1 million kilometres without a charge, you have to be sure that battery technology is where you need it to be. Are you able to fit all the necessary batteries into the space of a normal car? Is it actually safe to drive such a vehicle?
You can choose to build the prototypes for yourself or you can work with a design and prototyping firm that can help you with this. Most firms will work through this process with you to make sure that you are testing the right assumptions. Most firms are also broad enough to be able to work with most technologies to get to a prototype. They may also have access to specialised knowledge within their network that may be able to help you.
Step 4: Iterate and improve on your product
This is the stage where you test and iterate on your product. You will want to make a few prototypes and give it out to your prospective customers. There is now a myriad of technologies available to make small batch manufacturing possible. These may not be as beautiful as the end product but the idea of this stage is to test how your customers use your product and how you can improve it to be the best for the masses.
From personal experience, at this stage most people will tell me, if i am giving it away to my prospective customers then i'm cannibalising my future business? or if the customer doesn't like the product then they may not use it again when it gets better (effect on brand reputation). If you are afraid of cannibalising customers, then your market may be too small. You are doing this test with 50-100 people (or less), if this is your only market then you should not be building this as a mass market product. These people may also serve as advocates when you have a better product later on. On point 2, most customers who are willing to test have a problem that needs to be solved and they think it can be solved with your product. If your product works as well as it should, they would be willing to invest to solve the problem.
Step 5: Build a business
Get the foundations of your business built at this point. Do all the necessary administration, apply for your patents, get your investors in order and build your team. Make sure everyone understands your values and goals. Form a team that is complementary and is able to work well together. Get members who see your product and your business as a mission rather than a job. Enjoy each other's company and watch your business grow.
Always remember that the process is one of iteration. At every stage, revisit the previous steps and make sure to change your assumptions, if necessary. Markets and consumer preferences shift, be sure to keep on top of that too. Have fun with the process and make sure that your are learning at every stage.
Meka 3D Printing is able to help you with any design and prototyping work you may require. Our team has worked with individuals and companies to bring many ideas to life. We excel in testing assumptions to build Proof of Concepts to secure internal or external funding. Speak to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.