Zero to Sixty: The 6 Phases of Product Development
It starts as a spark
Any new product, whether it’s tangible or intangible, follows a specific course from the initial idea all the way to its introduction on the market. Six steps ensure that it is useful, cost-effective, and worth producing.
The initial stage of product development is the idea. Sometimes this comes about as a result of a need in the market or a competitor’s offering, but in other cases it is a brainstorm that doesn’t necessarily have an impetus. Ideas for new products must be screened; pursuing each concept without a general idea of their utility or affordability would quickly run a company into the ground.
Once the company has a viable product idea, it must ensure that its customers are also on board. Focus groups can introduce the concept and gauge reactions; more informal questions are also useful in smaller settings to pinpoint the level of interest. If it doesn’t seem worth pursuing, the idea is nixed and the team returns to phase one.
There’s an idea, and customers want it. That’s great, but now comes the moment of truth, when a company has to analyze whether the product is worth producing and marketing, as well as how it would impact other sales or business credibility. This step can easily be the death of an otherwise promising product, as it forces a hard look at numbers that could make further product development unrealistic.
In many ways, this is the fun step: the actual development. If a product has been deemed worthy, it’s now time for a prototype—or several—to refine the idea into something concrete. This phase proves whether the business analysis holds up to real-world production and costs, and determines whether there will be an actual product. If the prototype is too expensive, or too complicated to keep as is, the company will have to back up and retool the idea.
For customers, test marketing can feel like being specially chosen. A test market is generally a select number of cities—or a subset of the customer base—that is given the opportunity to try out the new product or service for a short time. This allows the company to have real-time responses that they can use to ensure the product is ready for a wider market.
Most customers only see the final step in product development. A marketing effort usually promotes the product, and then it is launched across all sectors. To reach this phase, there needs to be enough product available, or enough staff hired, to support the demand.
Welcome to the market
Through the six phases of product development, an idea grows from a thought in someone’s brain to a fully realized part of the market. It proves its worth as it passes through each step, hopefully leading to a success for the company behind it. This established succession has become the standard for new products everywhere.