Product Development – Prototyping & Beta Testing

Make Something

Now that you’ve gone through the process of talking to potential customers and developing an initial design as covered in our previous blog post, its time to make something. Initial prototypes are rarely polished products, in fact they shouldn’t be. Your initial goal should be to make something that only addresses the features required of your minimum viable product (MVP). Depending upon your product this may require assistance from a manufacturer, or your may be able to put together something in your garage. Don’t be intimidating by your initial prototyping lacking the polished finish of products on the market, you will get to that later, for now you are simply finding out if you’re on the right path.

If you need assistance with having your prototype manufactured. We offer manufacturing support services and have access to a network of expert prototype manufacturers to assist with delivering the prototype you need.

Show It Off

Now that you have an initial prototype of your MVP, its time to put your hypothesis to the test. Get back out the door and visit your target customers. In order to seperate the consistently desirable traits of the market from traits that only one customer may want, its important to visit as many potential customers as you can. The number of customers you visit will depend upon your target market, however I recommend showing your prototype to at least 5 target customers during this phase.

During these visits be sure to note the following:

  • Any design changes to make to your MVP
    • Can be removing unneeded features, or adding necessary features
  • Things that customers will need to be educated about
    • Understanding these points will be critical during your marketing and content creation efforts.
  • Customer feedback
  • Anything preventing your solution from being easy and intuitive to use
    • The more intuitive and easy your solution is to understand, the more affordable entering the market will be.
  • Any misconceptions your previously had
  • Value of your solution
    • Understanding the average potential customers perceived value of your solution will guide future development to ensure the final product is profitable.

Its a good idea to also observe the current solution in use to give a good reference to compare your solution to. Create a list of pros and cons of your solution compared to the current solution.

Interacting with your potential customers will guide the development of your prototype so that it best fits the market you are targeting. Without potential customer interaction its common for inventors, entrepreneurs, and development teams to go down rabbit holes of design complications which add no significant value in the eyes of the customer.

Note: During this time, if you do not have a provisional or utility patent filed yet then its critical to keep the development of your product on a need to know basis. Should your product idea get published online or elsewhere, you may lose the opportunity to patent your idea.

Back To The Drawing Board

Now that you’ve gotten feedback on your initial prototype from potential customers, its time to review what you learned and iterate on your design and prototype. Keep in mind during this phase that it is likely that you won’t be able to address ever desired feature that every individual customer wants. The goal here is to identify the key elements that make your product viable and to get rid of any product elements that are unnecessary. For this reason you’re looking for trends in product use and customer needs that are consistent among all or most target customers.

Once you’ve identified the key elements for your MVP and eliminated anything unnecessary, its time to update your product design to reflect these changes. Developing your design is covered within our previous blog post.

To assist with the development of your product design, ASR offers a wide range of services including mechanical engineering design and analysis, manufacturing support, product testing and validation, and business support.

Iterate Until Launch

This design – Build – Test – Review iteration process will continue until you’re comfortable that the product meets market demand. Due to the high cost of doing a production run and product launch, you will want to ensure that your product best meets your target customers needs and perceived value prior to launch. This may require going through multiple development iterations and can take months or even years depending upon the product and your resources.

When To Get Launch Ready

One of the best ways to determine if your product is ready is to get out and sell a few. While its great to have a target customer say they want to buy something, its impossible to know if your assumptions about perceived value and the MVP are correct until you actually sell it.

Build some more prototypes and visit the target customers you’ve been working with and offer to sell them the solution that you’ve been working with them to create. Ask them if they know anyone else who may also be potentially interested.

Discover how much they truly value your product. Go with a price in mind, which should be profitable during a larger scale production run (we will cover the basics of pricing in a future blog post). To sweeten the deal for them, you can offer to replace the prototypes with the production run products for free of charge when the run finishes.

The goal of these sales are to test your hypothesis. Given that the manufacturing cost of prototypes will likely be greater than the customer’s perceived value, the goal of these sales are to gather information on whether or not customers will pay for the product instead of gathering revenue. Revenue will come after the product launches.

Once you’re comfortable with the product and its perceived value, its finally time to get launch ready!

How to get ready for your product launch will be covered in next weeks blog post.

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