If you’ve ever seen a ridiculous product and wondered who approved it and why, in the godforsaken world of economics, it exists (jog your memory with this BuzzFeed most-ridiculous-SkyMall-items list), then you’re onto something. All you have to do is direct that attitude toward about 95% of products, and you’ll have an amazing track record. This Forbes article demonstrates just how difficult it is to successfully introduce a new product.
Below I discuss the most important strategies for success and the most common reason so many products fail. If you’re starting your own business, don’t panic: check out this course on product management for non-product managers.
Unprepared For Success
Believe it not, most companies are not prepared for a truly successful product. It’s almost as if they don’t even believe in themselves. Many times, a product will begin to gain momentum, but the company has not taken the necessary steps in planning and is not able to handle the volume. In other words, demand exceeds supply and there’s no way to catch up.
The explanation for this is fairly obvious: companies pour the majority of their creative and capital resources into creating a product and then there is little left over for actually designing an effective supply chain (get free advice with this blog post on the 6 best supply chain strategies). When supply hits, you simply have to be ready. The window will not stay open forever.
Why do most products fail? Because they resemble those in the BuzzFeed article I posted at the beginning. Most products are novelties, or even simply “good ideas.” A good idea is useless unless it is has a verifiable aim. A solar powered hat is cool, but who needs it? You either have to create a product that customers need or you have to follow Apple’s mantra and show customers what they need. The former tends to be easier; or at least, less costly.
But the moral of the story is this: no idea should leave the dry-erase board until a need for it is proven. This Bloomberg article charts billionaire Russian Alisher Usmanov’s rise to wealth. How did he get started? By manufacturing plastic grocery bags that he probably sold for $0.0001 each. And yet, every grocery store in the world needs plastic grocery bags. Now he’s a billionaire.
Ahead Of Its Time
If you have a revolutionary device, make sure you take revolutionary measures to simplify its use or learning curve. Most people do not want to devote a month of their lives to figuring out how to use a product they just spent $500 on. That’s what was genius about Apple’s middle-age years in the early 2000s. The iPod was an incredible piece of technology, but it was so easy to use a toddler could teach himself how to use it in five minutes. A confused customer isn’t going to spend a single dollar, so advertise accordingly.
There are intelligent ways to be ahead of your time, and analytics helps. This course of methods of design synthesis will teach you ways to synthesize research to identify innovations and new product features.
Invest In Sales
Your sales team can be the difference maker in a new product launch. You don’t need account managers, you need salesmen and saleswomen who can attract new customers. New customers will be excited about a new product and, subsequently, will spread the word. This is one of the most valuable types of advertising. A friend or family member is infinitely more reliable than an ad on Facebook.
Why are new customers so important? Think about any time you start to read a new book series: Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, whatever. About half-way through the first book you feel like you’ve discovered something that everyone needs to know about. Thus, you tell everyone you see for the next month. But when you’re on the third book or sixth book (in the case of Harry Potter), you’re only concerned about what you are getting out of it. In other words, new customers talk, old customers keep to themselves. Invest in sales.
Advertising: Think Simple
To begin with, you can get a lot of advertising done for free through social media. You will have to pay, as well, if you want to invade other users profiles, but your own profiles are fairly valuable and 100% free. This awesome class on social media marketing can help you get the most out of these avenues.
More importantly, you need to simplify your advertising. This is easier said than done. The majority of companies that offer incentives and lotteries and other gimmicks are wasting their money; believe it or not, people are smarter than you think. You need to use advertising to address one of our original points: why do customers need your product? Once you’ve figured this out, stick to the tried and true methods of advertising: TV, print, etc. There has yet to be a report on how mind-blowingly effective internet advertising is. I’m not saying you should use it, but you shouldn’t rely on it exclusively.
Your work is never done. Whether you’re tracking your advertising effectiveness or modifying strategy, you can never set a product on auto pilot and fall asleep on it. Think about some of the longest running, best selling products of the last decade: the iPhone, Microsoft software, Android, etc. These products receive frequent updates: we are on the iPhone 5S (8 versions, I think, in seven years) and more editions of Microsoft Office and Windows than I can count.
Even if the general product is the same, it needs to be improved, the marketing needs to be updated and you have to work relentlessly on keeping it relevant. Why does a product as old and well-known as Coca-Cola need to invest hundreds of millions of dollars annually into advertising? Because they know what it takes to keep a product going.
Get more details on successful product development with this five-star course on how to launch a profitable product: from idea to revenue.