Generating and screening ideas for new products
Successful new product development (NPD) starts with identifying good product ideas and using reliable criteria to decide which ideas to pursue.
You should take the following steps before you allocate funds to new product development.
Write a customer needs list based on the information you gather from the sources identified below. You should try to identify existing weaknesses in your products, gaps in your product range and areas for product improvement.
Brainstorm product issues
Work with your existing team members to brainstorm product issues. Your sales and service staff speak to your customers daily, hearing feedback about your products and the customers' needs. Capture the feedback, product observations and ideas from your team. Make sure you recognise their ideas and promote a shared culture of innovation.
Use your research and development (R&D) processes
Use your business's existing R&D processes. Identify modifications you could make to existing products, or adaptations for new products, consistent with feedback from your market and customers.
Review your quality assurance (QA) processes
Note any issues in your products and identify potential ideas for addressing gaps in quality.
Review your customer complaint records
Identify common weaknesses in your existing product range, and look for areas where improvement is most needed. Learn about managing customer complaints.
Review your research
Review your customer research and market research, and plan further market and customer surveys if you identify research gaps. What are your customers telling you they're looking for? What do they find frustrating or limiting about your products? How do they use your products most?
Talk to your suppliers and other business partners
Talk to manufacturers, retailers and sales reps to capture their knowledge of your products and thoughts for improving them.
Research and understand your competition
Try to understand your competition. Review your competitors' product range and consider how the market is responding to them. Do any of their products seem to be meeting needs that yours aren't?
Study catalogues and product information
Make sure you have a comprehensive understanding of existing products available in your market.
With your list of potential new product ideas, you now need to decide which ideas to pursue and which to discard. Consider your competition, your existing products, their shortcomings, and the needs of your market. Draw on the customer needs list you have developed, and the areas for product improvement you have identified.
Develop a set of criteria to evaluate your ideas against. Your criteria might include:
- most prominently identified customer needs
- product improvements most needed
- the benefits to your target market
- the technical feasibility of the idea
- the level and scope of research and development required
- the profitability of the idea. What is its potential appeal to the market? How would you price it? What are the costs in bringing it to market - overall and per unit?
- where the product fits in the market. Is there a gap? How close is it to competitor products?
- the resources it will require in development
- the marketing potential of the idea
- the fit with your business profile and business objectives.
A SWOT analysis can help you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each idea.
Your innovative approach and your steps to foster innovation in your team will help you realise your new product goals. Find out about innovation advice, grants and support.
Read more about becoming an innovative business.