Markets are dynamic and constantly evolving so no business can afford to stand still. No matter how excellent your products or services, they have a finite lifespan, so they must be developed or replaced if you’re to continue growing your business.
New products and services are the hallmarks of a go-ahead business.
You can lengthen the market life of your products through a process of continuous improvement in response to customer feedback. You can also work on extending your range through complementary products or services.
However, in many cases there’s a limit to the extent you can keep on refining – in the end, you’ll need something new.
Don’t make the mistake of sitting around waiting for events to overtake you. It’s important to take a proactive approach to identify possible market threats as well as opportunities by:
Online research is one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective ways to keep your ear to the ground about what’s happening in your industry, and it’s a great source of inspiration when it comes to new ideas.
If you don’t have the time yourself, appoint an employee to monitor things like:
In the best-case scenario, your future product developments will flow out of your core strengths. However, if this isn’t possible (for instance, because the market is moving away from your core strengths) then you may have to ask yourself:
Something else to consider is a joint venture, where you share the risk and costs of bringing a new product to market, especially if you don’t have the resources to complete the job yourself.
Since development involves the commitment of time, effort, and finance, the purpose of the planning process is to minimize your risk through applying sound management techniques:
Once a prototype of the product has been produced, or a new service decided on, it needs to be tested. A soft launch done locally – such as products sold at a weekend market or launching a new service during the weekends – is a smart way to test the waters.
What’s important is gathering feedback from the customers you meet during this time. Find out what they think and tweak your new idea if you need to.
If you’ve produced a great product or designed a new service, congratulations! It’s important, though, not to rest on your laurels. Your strategic planning should include a budget for research and development because the development of new products and services is what will keep you ahead of the competition.