The path to product development is a common one: It usually comes about when a brand wants to solve an unmet need by creating a product or service that doesn’t exist to a target that may or may not know they have a need.

The road to successful products is not always a cakewalk. There are mistakes along the way; concept and strategy work, factory glitches, packaging misfires and products that fall flat are all issues that can occur.  However, developing a successful product line doesn’t have to be a fumble in the dark.

Most lists of product development start with the 4 P’s that most have read about in marketing class (Product, Price, Promotion and Place).  These are critical to product development and the products potential for success.  However, there are other, seldom identified or discussed areas to think about as you bring your product to market as efficiently and economically as possible.

Do Your Homework

This starts at the very beginning with idea generation, idea screening and concept development all of which is important to vet early-stage plans with potential customers.  Early research helps you understand whether the product meets consumers needs and helps to solve a problem they might have or a need that is unfulfilled.  If there is an issue, research will help to determine what could be improved.

Know your competition

In the drive to understand everything about the new product, the target, packaging, advertising, etc. many times teams lose sight of the competitive activity. While it is essential to put out the right product to the right audience with the right message, it is equally important to be aware of your competition’s marketing strategies, range of products and pricing.  It is critical to keep looking over your shoulder as you move to market.

Consider your Retailers

Retailers are key to the success of the majority of products launched.  To win here, you need to understand their customer and their point of view of the market and category.  Keep it simple for them; put yourself in their shoes and consider what will help them best understand your idea and help them sell it up to their boss.  If you help them succeed, you’ll succeed in the process.

Be ready to adjust

One of the biggest issues that can occur is a product development does not adjust their plan as the process moves along. Product development is a long, complex process.  The initial plan should be thought of more as a hypothesis that can change as new information and learning occurs.  While it is critical to have a solid plan in place when you enter the manufacturing stage, prior to that, product managers and their teams need to stay flexible; ready to change and adapt as learning and the marketplace changes.

Business Analysis

Once the concept has been tested and finalized, the Team needs to conduct an analysis to assess whether the new product/service will be profitable. This should include a detailed marketing strategy, highlighting the target market, product positioning and the marketing mix that will be used.

This analysis needs to include: whether there is a demand for the product, a full appraisal of the costs, competition and identification of a break-even point.

Post Launch Analysis

Once the product has been launched and has had time in the marketplace, a post launch analysis should be conducted. This will help the Team, and the company as a whole, understand what worked, where the tripping points were and how to adjust the plan moving forward to capitalize on successes and minimize failures.  This constant adjustment and realignment are not only important prior to launch but critical to maintain and build the brand moving forward.