Develop Your Products

April 21st, 2010 by | Print


This is post 6 of 10 in a series discussing the essential steps for launching a successful, sustainable solopreneur business. If you missed the disclaimer post, it is helpful if you take a minute to read it before going forward. Here’s the link to the post.

So far I’ve covered the following sequential steps:

1. Define Your UVP and Prime Prospects

2. Perform Your Market Research

3. Create Your Business Plan

4. Square Away Your Finances

5. License, Permits, Certifications and Legal Structures

Today’s topic discusses the creation of your products. When I use the term products in this post, realize that it includes services, too. In some solopreneur businesses, your services may be your only products. For example, as a copywriter, I offer services to small businesses, but I still have to “create my products”.

If at this point in building your business, you are still questioning what products you should develop, you need to take a couple of steps back. Your primary problem either lies in the fact that you didn’t do enough market research, you let competing products scare you off or you’re trying to have one product service too many needs.

With sufficient research of the market place, you should see what need the market has not satisfied by current solutions. At the same time, simply because someone else offers a similar product doesn’t mean you shouldn’t develop your own version. Can you create a better product? Do you need to create a similar product to round out your total solution offering? Your total solution offering may be a variety of products and services. If so, don’t try to create a one-size-fits-all and does-everything product.

Here are 8 key points to consider when developing your products:

1. Does it pass the “so what” test?
What need are you satisfying in the market? Whom are you satisfying a need for? How does your offering satisfy their need better than the competition? Where is your objective data to prove that anyone wants what you are selling? Does the market prefer quality to low price?

If you create a product that you think the market will love without seeing objective evidence (polls, surveys, other similar successful products, reports, etc.), then why are you creating it? This may sound simplistic (and it is), but I have consulted with more than one solopreneur who developed a product they loved and, therefore, thought other people would love it, too.

2. Can it easily be copied?
Do you have an opportunity to create a barrier to entry for the competition with your product? You may choose to take legal steps through copyrights, trademarks and patents through the US Patent and Trademark Office or you may decide your barrier to entry is your skill set. Can you deliver the product in a different and better way than the competition based upon your experience and skill?

If you create a product that is easily replicated, it doesn’t mean you can’t make money. However, unless you have some other advantage, you are putting your business at high risk of working harder to make less money.

3. Check the competition, again.
Unless you’re able to launch a business within a week of doing your market research, you should go back and check the competitions’ offerings during your development phase. New competitors may have entered the market or the current competitors may have launched a new product. How do these new offerings alter your products?

4. Stick to your budget.
Simple enough – you have a budget (for time and money) in your plan; stick to it. Unless you are able to raise additional capital or can justify delays, you need to get your products to market to make money. Don’t overcomplicate the design, delaying your launch while the market gets hooked on competing products.

5. Pre-sell when possible.
It is possible to have the market pay you for your development. When launching your marketing plan, pre-sell your products by offering a limited time discount for delivery of your products at a later date. This will bring in cash to fund your development, plus it gives you a good sense if the market is truly interested in what you’re developing. A strong indication if you are on the right track is people voting with their dollars.

If you do pre-sell, you have to give a date for delivery and stick to it. If you don’t, you will lose customer confidence, harm future pre-sale opportunities, give money back (that you may have already spent) and possibly even loose a good customer … for good.

6. Do your products integrate with your plan?
When creating your business plan and goals, you may (and should) have created an identity and goals … other than revenue goals. You may have created goals focused on market penetration, sales volume, imaging, and awards. Will the products you develop work in concert with building your brand and hitting your goals?

7. Is testing necessary?
If this is your first time developing a particular product, you may want to test it out to on a select group before releasing it to the mass market. Depending on your market focus, your test market may be friends, family, mentors, other entrepreneurs or if after you’ve launched your business, a select group of customers. Does the product perform the way you promised? Better to find out testing it on people you trust will give you honest, insightful feedback before potentially burning customers.

Are there any customer or legal requirements for testing? If you are servicing the hi-tech industry with a new design, do customers or legal entities require testing by third-party, independent labs for quality assurances before you can introduce your products to the market?

8. If your product creating is complicated, record the process.
Efficiency in time and money are imperative when developing your products. If you develop rather complicated products, record your process so you can minimize time, money and errors when developing future products.

Next up in the series, “Set Up Shop”.

All the Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide


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