You have an idea – an absolutely game-changing idea. This product is going to innovate how everyone does something; now what? Revolutionary ideas are the life-blood of contract manufacturing, but it’s surprising how little discussion there is surrounding the idea-to-market process. Even more shocking is that, according to Forbes, around half of startups fail in the first five years. So what is the other half doing right?

Having been in business for 31 years and helped hundreds of companies make it to market, we have seen the most successful companies avoid “points-of-failure” pitfalls. The three major points of failure when bringing a new product to market: market research, product development, and manufacturing. Without getting into the intricate details of sales, operations, and logistics, we’ve assembled this guide to help you successfully avoid these pitfalls. As many entrepreneurs will tell you:

“The hardest thing about getting started is getting started.” – Guy Kawasaki

In part one of this three-part series, we’re going to dive into the market research. To reiterate, this is not a perfect playbook on how to be successful, nor will it identify every pitfall you may face. Still, hopefully, it will provide some guidance from other successful companies we have helped.

Disrupt The Status Quo

When it comes to market research, the goal is to make sure you don’t waste your time and effort on an already thriving idea. Jumping onboard to a trend rarely results in longevity. Your product must do at least two of these three things to disrupt the status quo:

  1. Be Innovative
  2. Whether it’s making an existing process easier, tackling a painpoint in a unique way, or improving a version of a current good, your product should be addressing common issues faced by consumers or businesses. An example of early innovation is Apple’s iPhone. In 2006, Apple hadn’t established any relationships with major phone carriers, nor did it have experience in the telecommunications space or “a loyal following of business users to bolster its consumer proposition.” But by the time it launched in June 2007, the response was overwhelming and consumers lined up for days for the chance to purchase one. Taking the concept of the cellphone and turning it into small, portable computer (that also functioned as an iPod) was revolutionary and has made the iPhone “one of the most successful mobile phone products ever launched.”

  3. Be Better (Much Better)
  4. To be much better than the competition, you have to think big. Your product needs to be significantly better in ease of use or capability. The key here is not a slight improvement, but a substantial one. In 1994, IBM released the world’s first touchscreen phone: Simon. Simon featured a “4.5-inch LCD touch-screen, a stylus, predictive text and a bunch of apps like an address book, camera, appointment calendar, world clock, calculator and other applications” and, though consumer reaction was overwhelmingly positive, within six months of it’s release, Simon failed.

    More than a decade later, Apple’s iPhone would see astronomical consumer adoption – from 2007 to 2011, Apple sold over 100 million iPhones. So what makes Simon fail and iPhone succeed? Put simply: the iPhone was better. Simon’s high price tag ($899.00 in 1994 or $1,610.00 in today’s dollars), coupled with it’s short one-hour battery life and glitchy performance made adoption slow. The iPhone suffered none of these shortcomings. With up to 16 hours of audio playback, 5 hours of talk, video, and web browsing, and lightning-fast performance, the first version of the iPhone was significantly better than IBM’s Simon.

  5. Be Less Expensive
  6. If you can create an innovative product with better functionality and reduce costs drastically, you are well on your way to becoming a market leader. Undercutting the market is by far the most complicated way to break into a vertical. And you may be wondering: if IBM’s Simon was priced at $899.00 in 1994, what was Apple’s iPhone priced at in 2007? The 4GB model: $499.00. The 8GB model: $599.00.

Ready, Set, Research

So, you have an innovative product that’s much better than anything on the market and you may be able to manufacture it more cost effectively; what market research should you perform?

  • Market Need: According to a postmortem study of startups, “no market need” is listed as the single biggest reason companies fail (42%). Market need is relatively easy to research but may be difficult to determine when you see a need for a product. Avoid bias by:
    • Performing keyword research: Use Google AdWords to see if people are searching for something similar to what you’re offering.
    • Performing competitor research: This is covered more in the section below, but find out how your would-be competitors are perfoming in the market. Are they growing? Or is business in decline?
    • Searching for articles: Look for articles or videos discussing painpoints your product is trying to solve. Are there products on the market already addressing these issues? If not, there is likely a strong market need.
    • Conducting surveys: While you can create surveys using a online survey tool, it may help to commission the services of a survey research provider. These groups know how to structure unbiased survey questions so you’re able to get a more accurate read on whether there’s a market need for your product. A word to the wise: your friends and family probably have an inherit bias. They want to support and champion you, so take their opinions with a grain of salt.
  • Competitor Research: Will you be able to compete in today’s market? You’ll want to take the factors below into consideration.
    • Market saturation: Determine market saturation by researching how many companies are providing the products and services you want to provide. If you are up against a monolithic corporation or several thousand smaller corporations, be prepared to invest heavily in sales and marketing to make some headway into the market.
    • Competitor cost: What do your competitors price their products at? Will you be able to undercut their pricing and still turn a profit? Or will your product be much more expensive? Unless your product is drastically better, the market may not bear a significantly higher price.
    • Competitor distribution lines: How do your competitors sell their products? Will you be competing against them on Amazon? Or would that be an easy way to gain a competitive advantage as they only sell via their website?
    • Brand awareness: Are your competitors household names or names only you know? Branding is the biggest challenge for any marketing team, so if a competitor is a household name, you may face an uphill battle. Case in point? Many people ask for a Kleenex, not many ask for a facial tissue.

Creating an innovative, game-changing product is exciting, and we love working with the brilliant minds behind the technology! We certainly don’t want to discourage anyone, but the considerations above are important ones in getting your product from a well though-through idea to a well-known household name. If you would like our advice on whether your product is viable or want to get started, please reach out to us!

In part two of this deep dive, we’ll be discussing how to develop a product, from engineering your idea to testing your first prototype.

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