You and I, we're creatives and if there's one thing we're never short on, it's ideas. The creative side of me can come up with 10 product ideas in a heartbeat but the business side of me will then question, "Will it sell, though? Will my customers love it too?"
When it comes to products, being able to make a decision on what to launch and what to put in the backburner (at least for now) is especially important because creating and launching new products takes time and often involves some level of risk.
If you sell physical products, then a huge part of that risk could be in the form of inventory. The last thing you want is to be left with tons of leftover stock because your customers don't end up purchasing the new product you launched, no matter how excited you were about them. Or maybe you sell digital products and excess inventory isn't a problem for you. Well, I hate to be a Debbie Downer but the time and energy you spent on it are still valuable resources you can never get back.
So, here are 4 important steps to take to help you create and launch products your customers will love every time.
1) Validate your idea
Who better to turn to for validation than the ones whom you're expecting to purchase from you; your potential and existing customers!
Be upfront, let them know what your idea is and ask them if it is something they would be interested in. Here's what's so great about doing this: not only do you get to validate your idea, you also get to involve your customers in the process, making them feel valued. Win win! Some simple ways to execute this:
Create a poll on Instagram Stories
Send a DM to your regular customers
Include it in your newsletter and ask subscribers to hit 'Reply'
Each of these things is so easy to do but I assure it will provide you with so much more clarity. If you have multiple ideas, then this step can help you figure out which one your audience is most drawn to and therefore most worthy of your effort.
2) Look to the competition
Before you panic, no, I am not asking you to be a copycat but unless you're creating something totally out of this world, it's likely that what you have in mind has been done before and that's okay. Your product will always be unique as long as it's an expression of you, whether it's in your illustration style, choice of colour palette or technique. However, looking to your competition who's selling something similar to what you'd like to launch can be a good indication of how open your audience would be to your new product.
If the product is a best seller for your competitor then there is a high chance that it can be successful for you too. Of course, all this is based on the assumption that you have correctly identified your competitor.
3) Test the waters
I have a background in startup marketing so please excuse my lingo in this next sentence. Test the waters with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
The concept of MVP is generally used in the startup industry and stresses the importance of releasing a product to the market with only its most basic and necessary features in order to gather feedback and validation.
Yours may not be a tech startup but the concept applies. Here are some examples of what a MVP could look like for your creative small business:
You're a digital illustrator interested in expanding your product line into t-shirts. Before spending days or even weeks creating tons of designs and investing in inventory, start with just 4 or 5. See which designs sell the best and create more in that style for future launches. If you barely get any t-shirt sales, then perhaps it's just not the right time or product for your audience. Good thing you tested it out first, huh?
You are a macramé artist known for your elaborate and large-scale wall hangings. Recently, you've been experimenting with a new form of fiber art to create wall hangings for friends. You love the results but it's very different from your usual style so you're unsure about introducing it to your customers. To test the waters, you could launch a few in smaller sizes first as they would take less time to produce yet still clearly showcase this new style you're exploring. Lo and behold, your customers love it and begin DM-ing you for larger sizes. Now you know for sure you're on to something.
So before you go all in, always ask yourself how you can first test your idea by either launching a simplified version or smaller range of your product.
4) Make way for a pre-launch runway
Great! After speaking to your customers, analysing your competitors and testing the waters, you've decided that all signs point to your new product being worth doubling down on. So you should launch it immediately the next day, right? Hold your horses!
Have you ever been to a concert? The ticket states 8pm but surprise, surprise, the main act never comes out at 8pm. Instead, the first opening act takes the stage and 30 minutes later just as you think it's finally time for Beyoncé to show up, the emcee introduces the second opening act! Why do they do that? Hype, my friend. Hype. When the lights first went out in the stadium, you were excited. But now? You're wayyyy beyond that. Your enthusiasm is through the roof and you cannot wait to scream Beyoncé's name at the top of your lungs.
A pre-launch can do the same for your business. Instead of bursting out of the bushes and surprising your audience with a new product randomly, tease them into it! Your audience may like what they see from the very first time you show it to them but a little teasing can get them head over heels in love for it. Here are some ideas how:
Set a countdown timer for the official launch date on Instagram and ask your followers to turn on post notifications
Post BTS process shots across all your social platforms and website
Tell the story about the inspiration behind it
Announce a special bonus for the first xx purchasers who are subscribed to your mailing list (a great way to grow your email list!)
The length of your pre-launch depends on how big of a launch you're doing. A full product-range or collection launch can warrant a longer runway so you have more time to build up hype but in general, a week should be ideal. Just make sure that during this time you're busy like the bee creating all the buzz!
There you have it! So before you go head first into launching a new product next time, go through these 4 steps to make sure you see the fruits of your time and effort.