Developing a new product can seem like a daunting prospect. Most people would have you believe new ideas come in a stroke of genius, or some crazy dream. 

And while there’s obviously an element of creativity involved, the actual product development process is a lot more methodical, based around careful planning and problem solving. 

Here, we’ll be talking about product development, outlining some simple steps to help you get your product from an idea to the marketplace:

  • Research
  • Ideas – SCAMPER
  • Market testing
  • Reworking
  • Sourcing Materials
  • IP (Intellectual Property) protection

After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It probably involved a fair amount of planning.

Research market needs

Every successful product has worked because it solved a problem. It doesn’t have to be a huge problem. More often than not it’s just a problem of convenience – sliced bread was a hit because slicing bread is a pain.

With that in mind, the best way to get started with product development is to do some research in your industry. What problems do you find coming up time and time again?

You’ll probably experience some of these problems yourself if you think about it. But posting surveys on social media sites is also a great way to get information like this. 

Check out sites like Linkedin, Facebook, and Reddit. They’ll most likely have dedicated pages and threads about your specific industry where you can create polls and surveys.

Ideas – SCAMPER

When you’re in the ideas phase, a lot of people use the SCAMPER model to help get the creativity flowing. SCAMPER is an acronym – each letter stands for a different prompt. 

S – Substitute 

A lot of great products took off because they provided a substitute for an existing product. For example, fake leather is a cheap, animal friendly, substitute for leather.

C – Combine

You can also combine existing products to produce a more convenient one. For example, building a camera into a phone. 

A – Adapt

Adapt an existing product or technology for a new product. For example, roll on deodorant used the same mechanism as ball point pens. 

M – Modify / Minimize / Maximise

Change the size of an existing product for a specific purpose. For example, smaller toiletries for travelling.

P – Put to another use

Use the product you’ve already got to do something different. For example, Amazon started by only selling books. Now, they sell everything. 

E – Eliminate 

Remove a middleman to save costs and offer a cheaper product. For example, Harry’s shavers and Movement watches.

R – Rearrange / Reverse

Changing the order of an existing business model. For example, fast food chains ask that you pay before you get your food, instead of after. 

Market testing

After you’ve come up with an idea, you should find out if it’s a good one. 

First, try talking to people about your idea. Usually, you’ll want to talk to people close to you, like family and friends, just in case somebody tries to steal it. Draw up some basic sketches so they get a better idea of the look and feel of the product. Finally, ask them if it’s something they’d use or if they have any advice on how to improve it. 

Next, build a prototype and do the same thing. Show a limited number of people, let them use it, and ask for any feedback they have. 

Some products are simple enough that you can throw something together yourself, but more complicated designs will need outside help. 

Reworking the product

Take on all the feedback you’ve gotten from the previous stage and make some changes to your product. Build a new prototype and get more feedback.

You might have to do this and the previous step a number of times until you’re happy with the final product. 

Sourcing materials

When you’re sure you’ve got a good product on your hands, it’s time to start sourcing materials on a larger scale. 

This is known as building a supply chain, and will involve sourcing:

  • Vendors
  • Raw materials
  • Storage 
  • Shipping

It’s generally a good idea to look for multiple suppliers and manufacturers for the same materials and services if you can. 

This will allow you to compare their costs, and will give you a backup option if you run into trouble with your first choice. 

IP (Intellectual Property) protection 

When you produce an original product, it’s automatically protected against IP (intellectual property) theft under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. If you can prove you made it first, you’re usually okay on that front. 

But to be safe, there are extra steps you can take to protect your product.

Copyright

Copyright prevents anybody else from using your work without permission or passing it off as their own. It normally applies to writing, art, films, TV, music, and web content. 

You don’t have to apply for Copyright protection, but some people do choose to watermark their work to be safe. 

Trade marks

Trade marks protect words, slogans, images, and slogans. 

Again, it has to be original, distinct, and not misleading. You should start by checking the HMRC website to make sure it’s not already an existing trademark. 

Normally, a trademark application costs £200. You can apply to register a trademark through the HMRC website. 

Registered designs

You can also register a design through the HMRC website. 

A design counts as a product’s appearance, shape, decoration, or configuration. 

Like trade marks, you’ll have to check there’s not an existing design already registered. It normally costs £50 to register a design. 

Patents

You can register for a patent to protect an original design, like a new invention and how it works. It needs to be an original design, not just a modification of an existing product. 

You can still patent a part of a product. For example, if you design a new part to improve an existing machine, you can patent the individual part. 

You can apply for a patent through the HMRC website. Bear in mind, it can take a number of years and cost quite a lot of money.

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