Considering New Product Lines? Start Here.

Katie Fleming

Katie Fleming

Co-founder and COO of Owner Actions

Boxes of new product are stacked in a pile

Planning to sell a new product? This move can help you enter new markets, offer new items of value to your current customer base, boost your competitive positioning against other businesses in your industry, and, importantly, increase your revenues.

These outcomes aren’t a given, though. You’ll need to study the needs of your target market, your production capabilities, economic factors, and more before folding new product lines into your strategy.

Here's what you should keep in mind.

 

What should I know before I sell a new product?

Before you decide whether to sell a new product, you’ll need to assess these factors:

  • Your business’s capabilities
  • Its current capacity
  • The needs of your market
  • Whether adding product lines that complement your current inventory or help you expand into new markets could help you achieve key goals

 

Start with the following questions:

  • Does my business have the design, engineering, manufacturing, packaging, and distribution skillsets needed to create and deliver new products? If not, can we afford to add staff or invest in training to improve our skill sets?
  • Does the business have the capacity for another product line? If not, would we need other equipment lines, storage facilities, or production sites for this product?
  • Can the business afford to invest in a new idea, or will I need investors, loans, or other sources of capital to make it possible?
  • Would introducing a new product be too big a distraction to take on today?
  • Does my market have a need for accessories to my product, variations to my product, alternate products, or new sets of products that would help them meet a core need?

 

There are other factors to consider, too. Ask yourself these questions before making plans for production:

  • What does consumer spending look like today? Follow it up with this one: How might that spending change during the time it takes to bring this idea to market?
  • Will I be able to find quality, qualified workers who can help me execute this idea in this labor market?
  • What do material prices look like today, and how might changes to those prices impact the profitability of a new idea?

 

How do I find the right product to sell?

The best products address a clear, definable, common customer need. The need could be real: “There isn’t a product that solves this problem.” Or it could be a call for a solution that brings your customers more joy, more time savings, more monetary savings, more prestige, or a means for improving their lives.

If an idea isn't obvious today, look to your customers, your customer-facing employees, and your vendors and suppliers. You'll likely have your own ideas about what will be a win in your market, too. But whether you're ready to engage others or are still grappling with ideas on your own, try thinking about these questions to spot common needs:

  • What are my customers talking about when they consider my products?
  • Do my customers want more compatibilities?
  • Are my customers talking about other needs I don’t fulfill?
  • What kinds of requests are my sales and services teams fielding that I can’t meet today?
  • Are there calls for lower-priced products that may be fulfilled by offering products with fewer features?

 

To find answers, talk with your employees, suppliers, retailers, product installers, and others who have a first-hand view of what’s going on in your market. Ask what they’re seeing, what they believe your customers would value, and where they see needs going unaddressed.

Then, talk with your customers. Ask for feedback on what they need and value. Ask what they wished you offered. And, ask what matters to them in a solution—and what doesn’t. Your customers’ insights should help you find opportunities to sell a new product.

 

I’ve identified some needs. Now what?

List all the needs you’ve identified and choose the ones worth pursuing. You can often find the best ones by weighing your options against these factors:

  • Does this idea fall in line with the mission of our business?
  • Will this idea have broad appeal with our target customers?
  • Can this idea be produced profitably in the current economy?
  • Would this idea help us expand our market and increase our customer base?
  • Will this idea help the business to be more competitive in the market we serve?
  • How would this item need to be priced to maximize sales and suit our current customers?
  • How much revenue could we expect from this product?
  • Could we produce it before the bulk of our customers seek out other options?

 

Before you decide to sell a new product, test the idea. You can use customer surveys, which could be formal questionnaires or informal talks with your clients, with focus groups, and in some cases, with small-scale trial launches (provided the product is relatively simple to produce). You could even create prototypes to show your customers to gauge their interest and get feedback on whether your idea would help them accomplish their goals.

 

I’m ready to sell a new product. How do I develop a concept?

You can work with a product designer to design and test ideas. Most will help you create drawings and 3D samples of the items you want to create. Then, when you find a winning idea, your design can help you create a small test batch of products.

You may decide to produce your product in-house, or you can work with an outsourced manufacturing firm that can take on this job. There are benefits to each approach, which you can explore in our article, Should You Outsource Your Manufacturing or Produce Your Products Onsite?. If you already know your planned course of action, the following resources can help you get started:

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Be sure to get your customers’ and employees’ feedback with each iteration you design. Then, choose a model that will have the most impact for your customers, works within your cost structure, and makes sense for your overall strategy.

Consider getting a patent for any product you design. You can learn more about the process in our article What You Need to Know to File Your Business’s Patent and Trademark Documents.

 

What will I need to do to bring the product to market?

Before your first round of production is complete, form a marketing strategy to firm up the following elements:

 

You can work through this step with a marketing expert who’s experienced in product launches. Connect with your local business incubator or SCORE to find one in your area.

 

What comes next?

Importantly, you'll need to ensure that your production lines can scale to meet high demand for your product. Have plans in place to hire more production workers, rent or install more equipment, or request more capacity from the manufacturing house you choose to work with.

You should also be prepared to monitor your new product's acceptance in your market. Track sales, collect feedback, and start planning for future iterations that may serve your market even better in the future.

 

I’m ready to get started.

Log into your owner’s portal for more articles that can help you take on this task. You can also access a free checklist that’s curated to your business to help it grow and scale.

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