My guide to developing great products

written by Sarah Colgate

Business Tips for 2024 | Helpful tips for tourism operators

August 7, 2023

I have designed a lot of products over the years, I even had a job as a product manager for a time where I built products for a living. For me, designing a great product is a combination of customer research so you know what the needs of the customer are, knowing what problem you are potentially solving and putting it together in a commercially viable way. 

There are definitely a few more steps in the process so let’s break down each step and look at what’s involved. 

1. Identifying a problem or an issue that needs addressing.

Most products are created to fulfil a customer need. You see an issue or a problem, you do some research and find out if such a product or service already exists to meet that need or solve that problem. If it doesn’t exist or it’s not accessible to your customer, then that’s the very first step towards creating a new product or service. 

Example: When I owned Aquaduck we had a lot of international groups that would end their day of sightseeing at Sea World, which was 15 minutes back to their hotel in Surfers Paradise. Therefore their tour operator would then have to hire a bus and send it out to Sea World to pick them up and bring them back to their hotel. I saw an opportunity there. What if we met them at Sea World after our last tour and we cruised on the water back to Surfers Paradise, then dropped them at their hotel? 

This solution allowed us to get in on the group market and also gave the groups one more really valuable sightseeing component in their day, which made the tour operators life easier as well.  

2. Now do some research.

Now conduct market research, try to gather customer feedback, take a look at existing solutions that may kind of meet the need or solve the problem. 
Then analyse these potential solutions to gain insights into what is missing or can be improved upon. Look at the good bits and note those down so you can use them in your product.  
Example: The solution was currently a coach / bus picking customers up, a very basic solution where we could offer a fun innovative solution that becomes an additional experience for visitors.

3. Define your target audience. Work out who is buying this product?

Try and get an understanding of the size of the potential market, again this is research and crunching some numbers. Once you know the approximate size of the market. Identify your target audience and create user personas to understand their preferences, behaviors, and pain points. This will help you tailor your product to their specific needs as well as ensuring you deliver the right product to the right customers.

4. Set clear goals and objectives for your product.

This is defining what you want to achieve with the product, such as improving efficiency, enhancing user experience or what exactly your product does for its customer. Make it clear and concise and ensure you do not deviate from that. If you can add other goals and objectives for usability then great but you need a minimum base in order to build a successful product.

5. Visualise and come up with ideas.

Give yourself or your team time and space to work on the ideas for how the product will work, how it will be developed or created. Have brainstorming sessions with your team. Put everything on the table to start and then using the clear goals above and your financial model drop ideas out if they don’t fit. 


6. Design the product

This is where you detail the product, how it works, what it’s made of, its size and weight, length or time to build or manufacture. Build prototypes or mock-ups. Write up the design brief and test your design. Address any obstacles or faults that need to be addressed.

7. Detail the cost of producing, marketing and selling the product.

Once the product is designed and you are happy with it, then the important part comes in. The money. How much is it costing to create this product, is new machinery needed, what about new staff, will there be training required or new packaging? Work through every single expense that might be associated with the product. List those out in detail so you know what the potential investment is.

8. Create a financial model for the product.

What are the manufacturing costs or costs of goods sold. What will be the margin, the price point? Is a wholesale price needed? Does it attract GST or import duties? How much can the product be sold for and how many units do you believe you can sell at that price in year 1, year 2, year 3 etc. What discounts or value add need to be considered?

9. Overall financial impact on the business

Put the expenses and the financial model into your business’s financials and ensure they stack up. There is no use creating a product that isn’t going to make you any money. Once you have done that then look at the cash flow. What are you investing now in capital to get the product up and running? How long will it be till you make your first sale and get paid? Can your business afford that gap?

10. Do more research on the product and your market.

This time look at how you are going to market it, how you are going to distribute it. What customers do you have to access and how do you access them? Identify all the potential problems and pitfalls of getting this product to market. Do a risk assessment so you are confident all the components have been considered and addressed.

11. Get more customer feedback

Go to market with your concept, go to your customers and ask for their feedback,  their suggestions, their proposed improvements. Survey your potential customers on specifics and then take another look at your product with that data in mind.

12. Walk away and take a break from it. 

When you are building a product, service or new business we get excited. The adrenaline flows and we are on a roll. It’s important to put everything down and walk away. Take time out and move out of the environment. This will provide you with a fresh perspective. Then come back with fresh eyes and take another look. You will come up with improvements and tweaks.

13. Test it and test it again

Try it out on your friends, neighbours, staff, team, colleagues, anyone who will give you their time. Get them to provide open and honest feedback on every aspect of the product. Bring your team together and discuss the feedback, prioritse what’s important, what may or may not affect sales and address the most important elements.  Then learn to live with the rest.

14. Put your project plan together.

Create a project plan on how you are going to build, manufacture or produce this product.. Who needs to do what tasks in what time frames. Be specific, measurable and timely for every task. Share it with your team and ensure they take ownership. Once the project plan is completed you will have your timeline to market.

15. Name, USP and brand.

Often we have a name when we come up with the first idea for the product, sometimes we don’t. Now is the time to flesh out the name, the brand, its personality and attributes.  Look at all the elements you want your brand to stand for and then write your unique selling proposition so you can share with your customers why your product is so special. If you need help writing a USP, I have found this Shopify blog very helpful.

16. Create your sales and marketing plan

I find this the most exciting action in the process apart from the financial model. Outline every action that is required to get the product to the customer. Every dollar that will need to be spent on designing logo, packaging, videos, photography, writing copy, updating websites you name it and make sure you include it in your sales & marketing plan.

17. Recheck your figures

Ensure your cash flow is up to date, expense tracking is set up, budgets and forecasts have been updated. This step is often forgotten and is so important to ensuring the project runs smoothly and it doesn’t break the bank or your business in the process. 

18. Communicate – share the love and excitement

Let your team, your family, your friends, colleagues, customers  and associates know what you are doing. Send them the press release or your intro video, share your excitement and passion for this product.Ensure everyone you know and everyone your staff knows has seen the product or at least knows about it.

19. Launch it.

Go hard and launch your product into the stratosphere! Send your media/ press release and videos to every news outlet, do a media call and be ready for loads of questions. Have information sheets ready and possibly samples of your product. Cover all your basis and do a massive launch to get sales rolling. 

Conclusion

Creating a new product can be exciting, daunting and stressful so if you set out on this journey ensure you have the right process in place so you don’t miss a step and so you ensure the future success of your business and the new product.

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