From Concept To Customer

By Sakina P. Spruell & James C. Johnson

steps for bringing a product to market:

1. Plan the line or product. This is the first phase of the process, where you conduct market research and determine manufacturing costs. “Usually, the first place to start is with the success and/or failures of the previous year with the product,” explains Reneé Cooper vice president of planning for BRAG. “From there, research what is happening in that particular industry and utilize trend services to analyze the target market for your product.” Conduct both local and global research.

2. Create the design concept. Coming up with a winning design involves more than the product itself. It includes the presentation, packaging, sampling, and cost estimating. Ultimately, you will want to develop a prototype of your product. Consider hiring or seeking consultation from a patent attorney to protect your original product designs. While getting a patent can take years, having legal protection for your design through the patent- pending process definitely helps.

3. Finalize the details of the product. This is where technology, such as computer-aided design, can play an important part in your product’s development. At this stage, adjust your specifications and cost estimations to get a better idea of how much your manufacturing costs will be. A retail price can be estimated at this time as well. Make sure you settle on a price the target customer is willing to pay. The final retail price should have a decent margin for profit and recapture research and development costs. “Once I know my customer, my market, and my competition, I can sell the product at a price that will be whatever the market can bear. Of course, the margins for profit have to be built in beforehand,” says Cooper.

4. Plan the production. This means “sourcing” the product, or figuring out where it is going to be made. Domestic manufacturers aren’t your only options. In a global economy, the most cost-effective place to manufacture your product may be overseas. “Today, with global sourcing opportunities, the world really is open. In addition, companies are working electronically,” explains Cooper. “Many manufacturers are communicating with factories in real time using product data management information systems.” Before you decide to use a foreign producer, be sure to learn what overseas manufacturing entails, including logistical matters, importing regulations, and financial systems, such as letters of credit.

5. Manufacture the product. Find a manufacturer who will give you quality assurance. At this stage, all of the specifications for your product must be met. The process usually involves working closely with an agent or manufacturer and completing a contract to guarantee quality assurance and on-time delivery. “To streamline the development process, manufacturers will actually bring the idea or the concept of the design to the retailer, the buyer, or the store, and then you develop it together,” says Cooper. “It really depends on the type of product and the company structure.”

6. Distribute the product. Get to know the retail space where your product will be sold. Learn as much as you can about the

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