New Product Development: 6 Pitfalls to Avoid - Ronins

New Product Development: 6 Pitfalls to Avoid

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At Ronins, we’ve seen our fair share of product development blunders over the course of decades of consulting work with wide-ranging organisations. Many of the issues we encounter are common among businesses and industries. The majority of them are easy to avoid, but their impacts are nonetheless substantial.

The top six product development pitfalls we have observed are listed below, along with advice on how to prevent them.

1. Waiting for the perfect launch

There is rarely a magic moment when everything is ready and the big launch can take place. There are always more things you could do to make your product better, reach more people, or work out more 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. If every new product is a kind of prisoner, your goal is to help it escape. Don’t wait for a perfect launch, with a perfect name, a flawless logo with patent-pending, enough funding and all the approvals in place. If it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing now. You shouldn’t wait until every feature is ready and every bug is ironed out; you want to get it into your customers’ hands as soon as possible so they can start using it and suggest improvements.

2. Over-complicating development

When you’re new to the process, 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’ll 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.

3. Focusing on marketing before validating the idea

One of the biggest mistakes we see companies make is focusing on marketing before validating the idea.

The most important stage is ensuring you have a product/market fit. That’s when you have a product that can sell to a large number of people.

Going from an idea to product/market fit is hard, and takes time and effort. Get your product in front of as many people as possible at different prices, and gain precious feedback from them about what they want and their willingness to pay.

Inevitably, this takes 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 can waste a huge amount of money on development and marketing costs, which may set back your business years.

You usually learn if you have product/market fit when sales start coming in. But if sales aren’t coming in fast enough, it may well be because something is amiss.

4. 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.

There’s a tendency to assume we know what customers want when we design the product for them, but without asking, we can’t be sure if we fully 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 may 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 researching. But it’s 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 they really want or expect from your product.

5. Stressing over the 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 classic failure mode: teams spend more time looking at what the competition is doing than at what they themselves can achieve. They make plans based on what the competitor will do, and become sidetracked from their own vision.

It’s understandable. Competitors are highly visible while the company’s own capabilities aren’t as obvious unless you’re close enough 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.

6. Being short-sighted about your innovation

Innovation doesn’t just happen randomly. It’s the 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 and 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.

Avoiding pitfalls

It can be disheartening to see the same errors being made repeatedly, especially when they are preventable. Many of the aforementioned issues can be avoided without time-consuming post-mortems, drawn-out change management activities, or costly IT purchases. They are fundamental to human beings and the quirks of how we communicate – or don’t, respectively.

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