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How to launch a successful product

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Roger Quinn |
Successful productWell-known companies have well-known products bringing them a steady cash flow. To stay ahead of the competition, they introduce new products every year and - more than 65 percent of them fail. What to do to avoid that?

Product failure by definition happens when three years after a launch, the product is no longer available on the market. In the United States, companies spend about 260 billion dollars annually on new products that fit this description.

One of the best example of that practice is the Iridium satellite phone system. Iridium was a Motorola subsidiary — it eventually was spun out and went bankrupt — intended to provide a satellite alternative to land lines and cell phones for international business travellers.

Motorola spent eight billion dollars building the satellite system and handsets. Then the product launched in the early '90s, and no one used it. Motorola had gotten all wrapped up in building the system but had never paused to find out if there'd be a demand for it. It's a common mistake among companies launching new products.

One of the most common excuses why company act so irrationally is "We don't have time to do this." Instead, they put their foot on the product-development gas, get a product out the door, miss the market, and repeat the process. But if a market is so competitive that taking 60 days to research it before executing is the only difference between success and failure, I promise that it's not a lucrative market to begin with.

So, what your company should do before launching a new product? Let's say you've got a one million dollar budget for a new product. Instead of hiring engineers to design it and pushing for production - stop. Take five percent of the budget, 50,000 in this case, and do 60 days worth of work to validate the market.

Start by spending two days to assess the market fundamentals. This involves objectively evaluating your experience in your proposed market: how well do you really know it? You'll also need to weigh issues including the size of the market, how fast it's growing, and competitor activity.

Assuming everything looks good, the next phase involves interviewing at least 100 people in your target market, either face-to-face or over the phone. You'll spend most of your time and money here.

Find prospective customers to interview the same way you'd find real ones: purchase lists from publications that target your market, contact trade group members and trade show participants, use social media to reach consumers. It's far easier to find people who are willing to talk about what they'd like to see in a product than it is to try to sell them something.

When you determine that people want your future product you have to make sure that the shift from information gathering to product development is effective, you must set the right sales and marketing budget, create a product requirements document, and finally get it out on the market.

And remember: Making the product "as quickly as possible" in the most cases means "to fail as quickly as possible". Take your time and make it right.

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