How to Conduct Idea Screening for Your Next Product
Whether you’re working on a product design for your very first business, or figuring out what to add to your existing lineup, having an effective product development strategy is one of the keys to being successful. Not every concept you come up with will be useful, popular, or possible, and most businesses can only focus on one product at a time. The right development strategy will help you to weed out the bad ideas from the best. That’s where idea/concept screening comes into play. The term describes the initial process used to evaluate new product ideas and compare them to one another in order to determine which are the most promising and worth pursuing. Although the method behind the evaluation is different for every business, all idea screening shares a few common elements. Those elements include:
- In-depth concept generation
- Criteria development
- Quantitative research
- Qualitative research
In-Depth Concept Generation
Before you can even begin the screening process for your product concept, you need to first develop that concept into a detailed design plan. Extensively evaluating an idea that is only half-formed is a waste of time for you and any others who may be helping you during this process. A well-developed idea should include:
- Customer Research: Every product must have an audience in order for it to sell. Research on the customers who make up that audience is a must, in order to gauge whether or not the product idea will be popular with them or if it misses the mark.
- Product Problems: There’s no such thing as a perfect product, even if entrepreneurs and designers may deny that claim. However, most businesses want to strive for something that is as good as possible before they put it up for sale. As part of the idea screening process, include a brainstormed list of all the problems and weaknesses that may come up with the product. A product with easily overcome issues is more likely to make it through the screening process than one with insurmountable flaws.
- Customer Complaint Records: If your past customers have provided you feedback of any form regarding your other products (if you have them), take a good look at what they have to say as part your idea screening process. Does your new idea address a frequent complaint? Does it meet a new need? The better a concept fits the requirements of your customers, the better its chances of success.
- Supply Lists and Pricing Estimates: If the parts of your product are too difficult to source, or cost more to make than is reasonably affordable for your business, the idea is unlikely to make it through screening.
Criteria Development for Idea Screening
The thorough product concept you constructed in step one of the screening process will likely have knocked a few contenders out of the running. Products without an audience, with high price tags, and with more problems than solutions are easy to eliminate from your concept lineup. However, many ideas are just as likely to have survived thus far and need to be vetted carefully so you can be confident that the one you eventually decide to pursue will be the right direction. That’s where criteria development comes in. Every business has certain needs and hopes for their products. Creating a list of needs specific to your company will help you sort the good ideas from the bad. For each element of criteria you come up with, develop questions to ask about your products to see if they meet standards. A few common criteria include:
- Product Benefits: How many ways can a customer benefit from this product? What are those benefits? Do the benefits help the target audience or do they help a different audience? If the audience benefit of the product is low or non-existent, it’s less likely to be successful and perhaps not worth pursuing.
- Audience: What is the audience growth potential for this product? Will it help me bring in a new audience to my company while serving an old one? What are the needs and wants of my audience? Does this product meet those? If the purchasing audience is small or will take a lot of resources to reach, this product idea might not be right for your business.
- Market: Is the market for this product over-saturated or is it completely new? Is there a need for this product in the market? How many competitors will I have for this product? If there’s a lot of existing competition from other businesses, it may be unwise to enter this market.
- Manufacturing: Is the manufacturing process for this product quick and easy or slow and complicated? Can this product be reasonably priced or will it be too expensive for my average customer because of the manufacturing costs? A product that is difficult to manufacture may not be worth producing for the long-term.
- Improvement: Can this product be improved down the line? What improvements would make it better? Are the improvements too expensive? If the product has too many flaws that can’t easily be corrected, it might not be the right one to pursue.
- Branding: Does this product fit our brand image, business objectives, and other branding done by our business? If the product doesn’t match your brand, it’s less likely to be successful.
- Profitability: In what areas do I have to spend money to successfully develop this product? How much profit will this item make once it hits the market? If you won’t earn enough money from this product, it isn’t worth spending time on development.
Having criteria to contrast your product idea against is a great way to successfully conduct idea screening. However, you may find that you don’t have the necessary data to answer the questions posed by each type of criteria. That’s where quantitative and qualitative data come in. Quanitative research collects statistics and hard facts about your product and industry. Types of quantitative research include:
- SWOT Analyses: SWOT stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.” Both strengths and weaknesses are the internal factors that affect the potential success of your product ideas, such as design and price. Opportunities and threats are external factors that may affect product success, such as trade tax, industry size, and more.
- PESTLE Analyses: A PESTLE analysis is another study that examines some of the factors that may affect how well your product does in the market. PESTLE stands for “political, economical, social, technological, legal, and environmental.”
- Market Analysis: A market analysis takes a look at the competition in the market your product will enter. Most market analyses take a look who the competition is, which products they offer, how those products are priced and sold in the market, and how they market their products.
While quantitative research looks at numbers and statistics, qualitative studies use observation to gather non-numerical data on a topic. Qualitative research may be conducted through the use of:
- Focus Groups: Focus groups are gatherings of people who come together to discuss a certain topic. In the case of product idea screening, most focus groups are conducted with a group of customers to gather information on what they most want to see in a new product.
- Surveys: A survey also conducts similar research to a focus group but can be sent to a wider range of people and may generate more response interest. However, a survey may also yield a narrower variety of results because they usually aren’t as long or open to discussion with others in a public focus group.
- Testimonials: Reviews and testimonials of your products AND those of your competitors can be another excellent source to gather data regarding what audiences are looking for in new market offerings.
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