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New Product Development: Avoid These 6 Pitfalls

Waiting for perfect timing
There is no magic moment when everything is ready and the big launch can take place. That’s because there are always more things you could do to make your product better, or to reach more people, or to work out the bugs. The important thing is that you keep making those improvements; whether it’s before or after launch doesn’t matter much. The progress you’ve already made will keep paying off, even after the official product launch.

New products don’t get launched; they escape. Every new product is a kind of prisoner, and your goal is to help it escape. You don’t want to wait till it has perfect timing and a perfect launch and a perfect name and a perfect logo and a patent-pending and enough funding and all the approvals in place. If it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing now. You don’t want to wait until every feature is ready and every bug is fixed; you want to get it into customers’ hands as soon as possible so they can start using it and telling you what’s wrong with it.

Over-complicating the development
When you are new to a field, there is a tendency to over-complicate the process of product development. Every feature you can think of is going to be essential, and every flaw that comes to mind must be addressed.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a lot like writing a paper for school. In school, your work always starts off with an idea. But you will never start writing until you have thought of every possible objection someone might raise, and addressed them all in your introduction.

This is over-complicating things. The point of writing or developing something new is not to meet objections or anticipate criticisms. It’s to find out what’s right about the idea by trying it out, which means starting sooner rather than later, even if you know you are going to have to change it later.

Focusing on marketing before validating the idea
The biggest mistake I see companies make is focusing on the marketing before validating the idea.

The most important stage is product/market fit. That’s when you have a product that can sell to a large number of people at a large number of pounds.
Going from an idea to product/market fit is hard, and takes a lot of time and effort. You need to get your product in front of as many people as possible at different prices, and you need feedback from them about what they want and their willingness to pay.

Inevitably, this takes a long time and it’s not easy for companies that are used to shipping products every few months or quarters. But if you rush this stage, you’ll waste a huge amount of money on development and marketing costs, which will set back your business for years.

You usually learn whether you have product/market fit when sales start coming in. But if sales aren’t coming in fast enough, it’s because something’s wrong with the product/market fit.

Not appreciating customer feedback enough
A common pitfall that arises when customers are not involved early enough in the process is that the needs of customers and what they want to buy may not be clear.
We tend to think we know what customers want and we design the product for them, but without asking them, we can’t be sure if we really understand their requirements.

The best way to make sure you haven’t missed something is to ask customers what they want and take their feedback seriously. If you don’t, you’ll end up with a solution that does not actually solve their problem.

It can be tempting to skip this step because you believe you already know the solution and don’t want to spend time on this other stuff. But it’s very important that you ask your customers for their input and listen to what they say. The more you ask, the more you will learn about your customer and what he or she really wants or expects from your product.

Stress over competition
Stress over competition comes from an unhealthy focus on your competitor’s products and actions, and not enough attention to your own company and what you can do.

This is a classic failure mode: the company’s employees spend more time looking at what the competition is doing than at what they themselves are doing. They make their plans based on what the competitor will do, and not based on what they can do.

The reasons for this are pretty obvious. The competitor is visible; the company’s own capabilities aren’t as obvious, unless you’re close enough to it to see them firsthand. The competitor may be doing something exciting, even though it isn’t likely to work out well in the long run; your own boring-looking actions may be much more promising. But it’s easier to get people excited about a new product if it’s an improvement on something else than if it’s a completely new direction.

Being short-sighted about your innovation
Innovation doesn’t just happen randomly. It happens as a result of a deliberate strategy, a process that is carefully thought out and evaluated. It is a cycle of creativity, investment and execution.

Innovation isn’t just about having a great idea. Being the first to have the idea isn’t enough. The key to innovation is being able to create, invest in and distribute ideas that are useful or desirable enough to catch on with customers.

Successful innovation requires an understanding of the complex interplay between customer needs, customer desires and technology. It also requires an understanding of how to best execute those ideas so your company can benefit from them.

The companies that consistently produce innovative products and services do so by focusing on the overall innovation process: how they discover opportunities, evaluate them and move them through the pipeline to market – all with a consistent focus on meeting customer needs and desires.

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