It’s no secret that small business owners wear many hats. They are marketers, managers and much more. Perhaps their most important role is that of product developer. New products promote business growth and enable business owners to respond to industry trends and consumer demand.
This makes product development the vehicle that allows small business owners to direct their companies into the future.
There are several key steps that small business owners need to consider when developing a new product, such as evaluating whether a product is right for their brand, providing employees with the right training, and anticipating what’s to come in the future.
Evaluate the idea
Product development always starts with an initial concept or idea. For small business owners, that idea might be an entirely new product or an enhancement to an existing one. In either case, you need to determine whether the idea is right for your business.
First, you need to assess if the product is a long-term strategic fit for your brand and whether it supports your business goals. Don’t look to incorporate products that are only going to be around for a short period of time or that would be an odd fit for your business.
Next, ask yourself if the product would appeal to your customers and fit within your business goals. In certain cases, it might make sense to enhance a current offering or add an additional product within an existing menu of services, rather than create something entirely new.
Finally, it’s important to consider the impact to the footprint of your business. Will the new product require additional machinery or space? In most cases, new products should complement and be easy to implement with your current product mix.
After you have determined whether a product is right for your business, the next steps are to develop the product and train employees on communicating. When developing a new product or service, remember that it’s okay to advance in stages and to fine-tune the product as you go. It’s very rare to release a product that will never be refined.
Employees are often the first touch point for customers, so it’s important for them to know how to talk about the product and how it will be used. Small business owners should develop product communications with the end user in mind. It is important to address the customers’ concerns rather than your own. Once you determine what customers are looking for, train employees on how to communicate with them in a way that satisfies their wants and needs.
Training also gives small business owners the opportunity to solicit feedback from the employee and improve the product development process more quickly.
Look to the future
When the product finally makes it to market, it’s time to think about what’s next for your business. Not many businesses that focus on one single product have a long shelf life. Diversifying and staying engaged with customers is key to business growth and success.
Pay attention to how customers are acquiring your products. Businesses need to offer products that satisfy customer needs but also make those products easy to purchase. Consider alternative ways to market and sell your products, such as online.
It’s also helpful to stay informed on industry trends and what your competition is up to. Doing this will help small business owners build the right product development portfolio and subsequently grow their businesses and direct their companies into the future.
If you need assistance in developing the best products for your small business, work with a SCORE mentor.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.