PLH 024 | 7-P Process

Product developers, inventors, marketers, entrepreneurs, and curious listeners, lend us your ears: the success of your product does not rest on how passionate you are or how great you think your product is. There is a fundamental process that you must follow, which involves having the right things, in the right order, and the right resources before going deeper into the rabbit hole. Here at Product Launch Hazzards we give you the right resources through our membership Expert Office Hours podcast, where our seasoned industry experts answer your questions by sharing their insider know-how– and on this episode we will put these resources into context by tackling the fundamental 7-P process of product launching. We have done this over 250 times throughout our careers as product innovators and entrepreneurs, and we will impart the lessons we have learned from studying and researching other people’s as well as other companies’ product development process. Discover how we came up with the 7-P process, how we put it in the right order and how you can save precious time and resources by applying it.

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We wanted to talk with you about something that’s foundational and fundamental and the process that we do things. It’s also going to explain a little bit about why we have the experts the way that we do and why we talk about this, the right resources being done in the right order with the right things. We usually say that the opposite way, the right things in the right order with the right resources, but because you’re on the site, you’re starting with the resources. You’re meeting them first. We want to make sure that you start to put that into context. There is a right order to doing things because if we’re not doing them in the right order, then it means that we don’t have the right information, so we have a higher opportunity for failure, a higher likelihood of failure.

You do things in the wrong order and that can be the critical mistake. That is why your project fails. It has nothing to do with how passionate you are or how great your product is, but simply by not having a critical piece of information that should have come before it creates this fatal flaw. That’s what we want to avoid. After doing this in the last decade, we did these 250 times. We certainly know that this works and this is the order of which we do things. I have also done a lot of research on a lot of study of other people’s product development process and big, big companies like when I worked for Herman Miller. This is their process, although they don’t talk about it like this, but it’s the way that everything gets set up. It’s a way that things are “gated” which you may have heard of that term if you studied product development process in any way, shape, or form. Gating is a common term. Gating prevents you from going on to the next stage because you didn’t have the right pieces of information. When you’re moving quickly, you gloss over that and you forget that.

By doing it this way, what we’ve discovered is that we can keep moving quickly and we’ve put things in the order at which they’re most likely to succeed. We’re most likely to not have to redo things because we were missing a piece of information and luckily, we caught it or it’s not likely to slip through the cracks because we missed that piece of information. That’s a cost factor too because if you’re not redoing things then you’re not having that added cost and that added time. As far as we’re concerned, time to market is money. Time to market is lost revenue so it costs you. Those are some things that we want to consider. We’re going to talk about what we call our 7P Process. We’ve discovered that there’s lots of people have different names for them, but they’re pretty similar to this process. They may not all use Ps. We talked about this one all the time and you’ve already heard this one before.

Prove It is critical because I’m sure all you are very passionate about the products that you want to bring to market and you should be. If you’re not passionate about it, then you shouldn’t do it. Just because you’re passionate about it and you believe there is a big market for it, it does not matter what you believe. I’ve seen many people over many years say, “I know there’s a market for this. I’m confident.” I’m glad you’re confident, but sometimes that confidence can have you blow a whole lot of money on something that if you had spent some time proving there was a market that as Tracy often says that, “The dogs will eat the dog food.” When you put it out there, you would be able to save yourself a lot of time, a lot of headache, and more importantly, a lot of money and not risk your financial future on something that is unproven. You need to prove it.

Think about it this way. You’re proving a hypothesis. That is a scientific process. Our 7P Process is set up in that way to be a scientific process. It is one of those things where it is absolutely easy to make sure that you are a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’re making it so. What we’re looking for here is for you to say, “I’m going to be open to the information of what I gather along the way. I’m going to prove my hypothesis is correct because I believe in this, but I am not going to close my mind off to refining it, to make it better, make it salable, make it right. Maybe find out that the idea I had isn’t right for this market, but it might be right for this market over here.” We want you to look at it from that perspective. It is not about disproving your product idea. It’s about refining it and proving that it will work in the way that you intended it to having an impact on society or consumer product goods, whatever it is that your intention is for.

[Tweet “It’s not whether or not it’s a good product or a bad product. It’s that it has the right product-market fit.”]

Don’t look at this as a negative part of it but doing this versus Thomas pointing out is the most critical pathway to being successful later because it informs all whole lot of things that you then have to do to make it work and it gives you a lot of feedback as to who your market is. It gives you a lot of feedback as to what your price needs to be, what the key features are, what the most salable thing about it, what it’s the biggest opportunity is, what it’s biggest differentiator is, which is likely to be the patentable feature. All of these things will lead to being a better product for you at the end and our end goals, launching and being very successful. That’s the first thing. The other thing I want to say before we go on is that the little chart, do not worry because it is in the resource library for you to download and print for yourself. It’s absolutely just there, go to the Resource Library in the member area, and you’ll be able to scroll down and it says The 7P Process. You should be able to find it fairly simply. That is definitely one you want to get, probably print out in large format as you can, stick it up on your bulletin board or have it handy until you learn it, know it backwards and forwards. It’s a handy reference.

As we move forward in this, you going to have little break outs of each one of these. We have whole thing planned for Prove It and Price it and all these things that are coming. I want to touch on a little bit of things is that the real thing that you’re assessing here in Prove It is that you have a right fit product. It’s not whether or not it’s a good product or a bad product. It’s that it’s a right fit. You have a certain market in front of you. If you’re going to sell on Amazon, it’s an Amazon market. It’s the marketplace in which there are big, significant amount of women on the platform right there, shopping there. You want to make sure that it’s a right fit for that market. If it’s not, is there a different market that you should be going after are finding that’s worth it? That’s also another thing. You want to make sure it’s a big rich market. You want to make sure that it’s large, it’s not too small a niche for you for the investment that you’ll have to take to get this off the ground. That’s why we call it right fit. Then we’re going to go on to the next one.

The second one is to price it. This is critical because there are many different ways you can price a product and you may have found out as you’re proving it that there’s a market for it, but the market may not pay the price you hoped they would or thought they would or maybe you sold way too many of them and you’ve underpriced the product. It can happen either way. With Price It, we’re going to talk about one of the two major ways that you can price your product. You can price it based on it’s costing me X to manufacture it or to buy it from the manufacturer or distributor. Then I’ve got to ship it in and that’s going to cost me this and then you add up all your costs in terms of getting it to the point of sale, whether that’s Amazon’s warehouse or on the shelf somewhere. Then the retailer or the marketplace needs to make X margin, take all your costs and then add your margin on top of it and that’s your price. That’s what I would call a cost-based pricing.

Market basis versus cost basis, which means that you, the formulas that you guys use to decide if this is of interest, a market for you, organic keywords, number of searches, like all of those things are already giving you a price sensitivity. You guys have an advantage. The inventors, they don’t start with that. They start with their idea and then figure out how to make it and what it should cost. They’re at a greater disadvantage maybe because it’s never been done before. They don’t have something to base it on. Most often, we find that the inventors, it’s not that they have something so original that it’s never been done before, it’s that they don’t have experience in any of those materials, products, or manufacturing area. Probably, it’s some comparable product out there that if we looked at it, we can say if we combined this one and this one, they cost this in the marketplace if we were to source them. We can be fairly sure that it’s going to cost a factor of that, and get a pretty good estimate going and we do that. We look at it from both perspectives whenever we’re working on a project because cost is important. If your features can’t be built into it and still achieve the market price you want, then you can’t do it. We have to know both at the same time and work both directions because we also want to make sure we’re building an enough margin for where you want to go. Profit is important and margin is important if you want to hit on the shelf. We’d like to preserve those kinds of margins.

In general, I’m more of a fan of market-based pricing because that’s probably applicable to more of you on this platform than not. Reality is a product is only going to be a successful product if people will pay what you’re asking to buy the product and you’re making a good margin. To me, I prefer to establish and determine what that retail price needs to be and then work back for the margin that I want to make and then all the different costs associated too. Then can you get down to the amount of money that you can afford to pay for this item to be manufactured. We get a lot of people who come to us to help them with design for manufacturing DFM. It’s very common term. We prefer it to be “designed for market” because we realized that there are a couple of things that are different about it.

First off, there are a hundred different ways sometimes to make a product. Different material choices – there’s so many different factors. We could choose something different if we knew the market price that we needed to achieve. We prefer to start there, look at that and say, “What can we do that is going to make a difference for this market that is going to make them want to buy it and how can we design that in?” It’s the critical advantage in manufacturing. It’s a critical advantage in marketing, and let’s design to that. That way, we don’t get caught up in bells and whistles that actually mean nothing to a marketplace. That can happen if you go from a cost basis to a market basis like you’re like, “Let’s add this feature and that feature.” The next thing you know, you price is so far out and you don’t know what to take away anymore. We like to do it the other direction. In that way you get what is minimal design, but you get maximum value for it. That’s what we call a maximum valuable product instead of a minimum viable product. You’ve heard those MVP terms before.

Let’s move on to step three. Our 3P is Plan It. We cannot say it enough, “Hope is not a plan. Hope is not a strategy.” It’s not a strategy. It’s not a plan. This is not the way to go through and develop a product because there too many cost factors, there’s too many hidden landmines, and there’s a lot of hazards. We have to avoid all of those in the planning processes. It’s a significant part of that. Why do we wait to plan it and don’t do that first. That’s a question I get all the time when I’m out there and it’s a valid question. The reality is until we’ve proven it and we’ve priced it and maybe gone back and forth and tested that price by proving it again because you could do that, we don’t know if we’re going to go forward. Why waste the time on planning ahead of time? Now that we’ve defined some of those unknowns, it makes it easier to plan with more accuracy. That’s why we put the Plan It there.

The Plan It is we have flexible plan. It’s not written in stone because we don’t know lots of things right now. At this stage, we’ve got an idea. We think it’s pretty good, we think we’ve dialed in the right kind of price. Maybe we’ve made a small prototype or made some kind of prototype, but we haven’t gotten into serious design mode yet. We don’t know minimum runs. We can guess at it. We maybe say, “For this typical plastic part, you’re going to need to make a minimum of a couple thousand pieces.” That’s pretty typical in this marketplace. We do have some basis for us, but it’s not a guess. It’s not dialed in because there might be nuances. We might have to make a whole new tool. The minimum run might be 10,000. These things are going to get refined and redefined in the plan, but at least we know going forward and we have a goal. Here’s where a critical factor happens. Do not underestimate your timing. If you were trying to make a season, a holiday season, a selling season, a summer season, do not underestimate that because you will miss it and then when you miss it, you’re a whole year out. This is the most critical part of Plan It. A lot of people don’t layout that critical path timeline of what it’s going to take to, “I can get that product manufactured in 30 days.” Maybe you can, but then you’ve got a whole lot of logistics getting into the port, getting on a vessel schedule if it’s in Asia, and then getting on a vessel over the ocean to the US port, depending on that port, then you’ve got days getting it off the ship and into a warehouse and out of that temporary warehouse.

PLH 024 | 7-P Process

7-P Process: The biggest cost a lot of companies face is the cost of carrying inventory or the cost of waiting for sales to occur if they miss those windows.

Those are known days. The amount of time it takes the tool, the amount of time it might take to refine that tool and get it right and get the best part off of it, those things are undefined timelines. For instance, a client came to us and said they wanted to launch something in the holiday and they’d have to have everything in their Amazon shop by November at the very latest but they’re okay with that. We looked at that and we said most products we’d have to say no, it’s not possible. This product is small, it’s likely to be easy to airfreight. We can probably make a small run because of the material choices that are there, the tooling takes about half the time of certain plastic tools. We looked at all of that. We said the factors are in their favor for this to be yes, at the outside, it’s aggressive and we need to be on schedule and on time for everything that we do and on top of everything, but it’s doable.

Normally, we would be hesitant about it because we’re a little more conservative because we know how many things do go wrong. If it went wrong, then they’d be out a whole another season and we don’t want that to happen for them. That’s a significant investment. We want them to be able to capitalize on the holiday season. We would have turned away that project. That’s the way we work on it. We would’ve said, “Why don’t you come back to us late summer when you’re ready and you can hit the spring launch for this?” That’s the kind of information that you must have when you put this plan in place. This is a great time to utilize the product launch and its platform and get feedback and information on your plan. Do I have enough time in my plan for this? When’s the optimum time to add to do this step? When’s the optimum time to get someone in to make sure I’ve got my distribution line or my shipping and my duties and all of that information? When’s the optimum time for that? Make sure you’ve got that plugged into your plan.

We can’t emphasize this one enough, so sorry to go on and on about it. It’s so critically important to you being profitable and successful and meet the timeline. Because if you were to miss it and hit January, you would have a third, if not maybe a quarter of the sales you would have had if you had been on time two months earlier. The question is, “Should I do it now?”It points to the pivotal thing, which is time is money. The biggest cost a lot of companies face is the cost of carrying inventory or the cost of waiting for sales to occur if they miss those windows. You gear up and ship product in for that third, fourth quarter and you miss it, now you’re going to sit on it and return for how long and that ends up being a big cost. This is a good time for you if you’ve got multiple projects and multiple products going through for you to evaluate which one has the best likelihood for success for the timing that you want. That’s when you start to look at that plan and face your product launches. Start thinking about which one can wait until spring, which one can wait till next summer, and be looking at all of those things in this planning process. Definitely don’t miss this in a plan.

A good plan takes into consideration that sales channel cycle and understanding it. If you’re an on the shelf cycle, if you’re going to present to retailers, please talk to Tim Busch on our platform here because he is the expert at when buyers are buying. There are certain buying seasons for various products when their planograms open, when they take in new vendors, and it’s a whole lot earlier than you think it is. It might be sometimes eighteen months earlier. If you think you’re going to get on the shelf by end of the year, it’s not going to happen in most cases because you might be off their buying cycle. It’s a whole different aspect of Plan It. It depends on which market you’re going forward. Sometimes buyers will have only a three- or four-day period where they’re going to make their buying decisions. They’ll have all these vendors in which, first of all, you have to be invited or you have to pitch them to get included in that type of a buying.

It’s almost like a mini trade show within their own company where you ship in your product, they get to review it, they look at the pricing, and if you’re not invited to participate in that, you’re going to be beating your head against a wall for a long, long time before you’re going to be able to even begin to think of selling to them. Just make sure you know your market and what you’re dealing with and how hard it is, but again, that comes down to planning and getting the advice of a good expert who knows what those cycles are. Sometimes they change. Especially at the beginning of the year, they’ll sometimes look at their overall plan and they’ll redo their budgets and they’ll redo their cycles and they’ll redo their plans. That’s where you want an insider who can get in and find out that information and validate it. Is it different this year? That’s critically important and that is a significant part of it.

Let’s move on to the step that everybody loves. This is the product fun step. Number four is to Prototype It, design, develop it, do all of those fun things that most people like. This is where we iterate. This is where we dial in all the specific details of what that final product is in every single way from the function of the product, to the look and feel the product, the materials, the colors, the packaging. You’ve got to get this all completely defined and have no unknowns. Nothing left to chance or afterthoughts. Tom already has done an Office Hours on prototyping and some of the different methods that we use and that are available to do. This is where we’re talking about also the refinement of it. I don’t want anyone to think that we waited this long to design things. Design happens all along the way because all of this information is informing design. For us, this is refining the product, it’s refining what we want. When we hit this stage, we have enough information to do final prototypes, to do functional prototypes, to do anything that requires investment in cost. If you have to pay for something, this is the time we wait to pay for it because we’ve gotten enough information along the way.

We might have done some drawings ahead of time, maybe some 3D print models because we haven’t had a 3D printer here. We certainly probably done renderings to do some side-by-side comparisons and get some market feedback, but we’ve probably not dialed in the full prototype with all the things that we’ve learned in the product and the features until this stage. The other thing that we do at this stage is what we call development. It’s designing, but development is also refining what is going to be the criteria for how this is made, what is going to be the quotation specification, what might be the quality requirements we have, the critical factors like all of those things we outlined because we want to be clear when we go to our manufacturer to get the quotations and the information, what we are expecting. Sometimes, prior to this stage you might have had two different kinds of samples. You might have had more of an appearance sample that looks the way you want it to in production and have then a functional prototype that doesn’t look like it will, but actually works. This is the time where you got to bring those things together. Make one final sample that you can absolutely confirm. This is what it’s supposed to be. Sometimes, that can be done prior to manufacturing. Sometimes, it’s the very first piece manufactured after things you tooled. That depends on the product and the materials and the situation.

This is the point where we do what we call pre-sourcing. This is where we’ve selected some factories that we think would be the most likely for us to work with. We’ve gotten quality samples back from them that have nothing to do with the product we’re making. They might be in the right materials or the right genre so we can check their quality. We send somebody in to audit them. All of this is happening under it because sometimes we might have to make that prototype with them because we can’t do it ourselves because of the combination between materials, technology, processing, and whatever it might be. We need to work with them to do that. This is the stage at which we are involving manufacturing, but it might not be our final selected source because we’re not at final quotation. Very often, this is also where we’re dialing in the information that we have. We said we think it’s going to cost this. We believe it’s this because we were using this much material, it should take this long to make. This is a time to validate that and allow those manufacturers to create a final quotation based on making a sample.

[Tweet “Trademarks are only valid on goods that are actually produced.”]

They prefer that because it means that they’re much more aware of anything that they couldn’t tell just by looking at it as they start to try to make it. Not every product can be made like that. If they can, this is a preferred time to do it because you will get them better quotation that holds, the price holds. That’s why we do that at that time. We also dial in packaging requirements, not the final design of the packaging, not the exterior of it, but requirements to how to safely transport something, make sure that it doesn’t break in process. Make sure the way it’s laid out in the box makes it easy to assemble and logical to the user. Those are things that we also do at this stage of it because that’s an important part in your quotation as well. How big does your box end up is a final, very important piece of information and yet one that people skip too much or too often. They don’t have that detail and it means that you can’t dial in all the costs that you need to make a final decision if this is good to go and because you won’t know the landing costs. That’s one of the places at which we make sure to at least do that rough.

From there, we also determine whether or not something’s ready for the fifth step, Protect it. This is when people get often way out of order. They usually think, “I’ve got this idea and I really believe in it. I’m going to go spend all the money and go and patent it right away.” They do that as step one before they’ve proven there’s a market for it, before they priced it out. I see people spending tens of thousands of dollars on intellectual property, attorney costs and government fees and things like that. By the time they then start on their project and get to this stage that we’re telling you this is the right time to do it now, they’ve often find, “There’s all this other stuff that we came up with along the way that should be added in the applications or be covered in the intellectual property protection.” You then end up redoing things, doing it over again, spending more money, and it ends up much bigger project item. Filing a second patent and extension, there’s a whole bunch of things.

I want to be careful here. If you must disclose something in the Prove It stage, we highly recommend filing a provisional because a provisional is very inexpensive. If you did something wrong, you can trash it and start a new provisional at this next stage. It’s okay to do that early on if you want, but do not be filing full patents until you’ve gotten through this development process because your features might have changed in the Prove It and Price It phase. In this Prototype phase, lots of new things and new opportunities for patentable features might come up as well. New ways to make something that you didn’t imagine. This is why we wait to do that. This is especially the time to wait to file design patents. Do not file design patents before this stage because design patents don’t hold up very well. We learned this on office chairs, for instance. We would patent the front design, the back design, and the base design. You have to break it all up to file a big design patent on the whole thing and would mean that if somebody did 10% difference anywhere on the product, including the back, it all of a sudden invalidated the design patent and that was proven in court.

That 10% number is not a hard and fast rule. That’s an educated estimate based on our experience. I’ve seen it even be much less than 10% of a difference between a patented product and one that was actually a legitimate copy but they left the detail out and they went the distance in court, and guess what, the patent holder lost because they had done this design pattern disclosing the entire product, everything. Think of it from head to toe. They had everything in the drawing and there was one little change somewhere, it was less than 10%.That court ruled in favor of the infringer, the one who had copied, which I personally didn’t agree with that from a design perspective, but from a legal perspective in the court ruled.

My point here is that if you’ve prototyped it finally and you made 10% changes to your original that you filed because you filed too early. You’ve made changes in the manufacturing process and how you have to make it and it creates a visual difference. Now all of a sudden, you’re not even covered under your own patent that you’ve filed. Earlier is not the time for design patents and possibly waiting as long as you can on utility patents is smart because of the high cost of them. Also because new things might come up that you could add, add it to claims and other things. That’s why we wait on here. Provisionals could happen anywhere through the process whenever you need the protection and that’s the critical factor there. Sometimes you need it before you talk to a factory. Make sure to do that at the right time. We have a couple of attorneys on the platform, Jason Webb and Rich Goldstein. There are lots of people you could talk to you about that so please make sure that you’re consulting them on your timing for things. That was step number five which we call Protect It. We don’t call it Patent It. Protect It because there’s also copyrights and trademarks and this is the time to do it. Because this is another thing that I discovered with logos. You designed this cool logo and you think it’s great and it looks great on your website, but you go to print it on your product and it doesn’t work or the product only allows you to do one color version of it. You end up having to file your trademarks again or you end up having to try to brand register it.

This has happened, you’re trying to brand register Amazon and they reject you because you’re overlapping with someone which is highly likely that you would have gotten rejected at the patent and trademark office too for your trademark. You might as well wait on that. Make sure that you’re in alignment. Wait till you’re at the stage or be willing to do it again. That’s something that you may have to do with the trademark. Critically important to make sure that you add that protection at this layer though, because a trademark, as Jason pointed out when we did his interview and his first episode with all of you. Jason pointed out that a trademark is only good on goods that are actually produced. It’s only in use. It’s a commerce mark. You want it to be on your product. If it doesn’t work being printed on your product or being engraved in your product or however it gets marked on there, then you need to redo that logo. That’s a good time for you to wait to protect that as well.

Now we get to six, which is also our fun one. We’re going to Produce It. We’re making it. There’s a lot to that. There’s manufacturing, there’s packaging, there’s QC, there’s QA, there’s shipping, there’s MOQ to deal with, which is minimum order quantities, there’s quality, there’s customer service. You’ve got to shift your selling store up, you’ve got to get your Amazon listings – there’s a whole ton of stuff you got to do at this stage but it all starts with being ready to kick the PO off. That’s where I sit back and say if you’re not ready at the end of the Protect It to put your money down on it, if you’re not ready to pay 50% down or a third down or whatever you’re able to negotiate on it, if you’re not ready at that stage, you are not ready to be starting this production stage. Hold off. Check your timing. Make sure it’s right. Don’t wait too long though if you’re trying to hit a holiday season or you’re trying to get orders in before Chinese New Year. Make sure you’ve got everything in. All of a sudden, you’re going to need all this stuff. You’re going to need a QC document, you’re going to need a quality control specification. You’re going to need all of these things. You’ve got to make sure all of that is in line and your package is ready or technical specifications are ready, you have all the information you need to issue a purchase order. It’s a great time for you to go dial that in.

PLH 024 | 7-P Process

7-P Process: You don’t want to miss every moment that that product is sitting in a warehouse or on a shelf and is costing you money.

In the resource library we share with you our critical factors document, our specifications documents, use them. They’re not right for every product. There’s lots of stuff you could skip there. There might be stuff you need to add. Especially if you have electrical products. If you have batteries, if you have circuit boards, if you have any of those things, you should add a whole section of all kinds of testing and other things. This is the time to do testing, to do actual UL listing if that’s what’s required, but actually physically test your product for point of destruction like when it falls apart. Use testing, whatever it might be. Cycle testing. Abrasion for fabric. It can also be just testing to make sure that the product actually does what you ask that it would do or that you specified it would do. You talked about quality things and it’s very true. Especially if you’re doing something that does use batteries or involves electrical engineering in any way. Just because you provide requirements and you detail them outright, you set the expectations up with the manufacturer from the get go for what you expect and need this product to do and be, then the manufacturer makes it, but how do you know that they did it right?

It may actually work initially and perform the function that’s intended, but how do you know that the circuit board has been manufactured properly so the right amount of electrical current is being put into the rechargeable battery with the charging circuits that they’ve created on there. These are things that are beyond most of our ability to actually verify and control. This is where you need a resource. This is where you need to consult an expert. This happened, and I’m not going to disclose who it is, to someone that I was writing about and discovered. They sent us a product for testing. We used it and it fell apart. I thought, “How did this happen? How did they let this go through?” I picked up the phone to call them because I’m not the kind of columnist who’s going to out them as having a bad product. I would never do that. I picked up the phone to call them and say, “What’s going on here? Did you realize that you have a problem?” We send them pictures of it and they were shocked. They were so upset about it. As I started talking to them, I realized that their design intent, that what they were going for, the market opportunity actually made it so that it deteriorated some of the good things that the standard products on the market have the good practices. They were trying to make it softer and in the process of making it softer. They made it weaker and less durable.

It was totally valid. The market wanted it softer but because they didn’t then keep the testing up that product because they had no product category experience, they didn’t keep up the normal test standards. And the factory didn’t volunteer it because they were following, “The customer is right.” The customer keeps asking for softer so we made it softer. They don’t volunteer that you should be doing this testing. You have to ask for these things. You need to get an expert involved in. So, I said, “Well, it’s material. Did you abrasion test it? Did you color fast test it? Did you tear test it? Did you tensile test it? Did you do all any of these tests?” They went, “What are those tests?” “Those are the standard textile test that every product should be considered or run through,” and they went, “We knew nothing about that.” They weren’t then verification testing and the factory wasn’t use testing to begin with because it wasn’t in the specifications. So, now’s the perfect time like at the start of this, before you get your place at purchase order right at the beginning of that, to make sure that you’ve check marked off those and that you’ve attested your initial prototype. We always do that if we can physically or we’ll test the first part off the tool or the first fully manufactured part. Make sure though that you know what those tests that you’re going to run it through are and what the requirement for passing is.

This may be illuminating to a lot of you that while you’re going to manufacture, it’s time to produce your product where you guys were talking about testing and confirming things and compliance issues and all these. This is a huge part of producing something. Setting up the expectations from the get go to be accurate to what you needed to be and what the retailer may require that it is. I want to touch back on the electrical engineering idea. A lot of you may specify that you want a product that does involve batteries, electronics in some way, even if anything that plugs into a wall. Forget how electronic it is, but anything like that that you say, “Factory, I want to do this,” and you let the factory engineer it. That’s fine. Any manufacturer over in Asia who’s going to make something electronic for you, you have every right to say where’s the electrical circuit diagram, the wiring diagram, the printed circuit board diagram with all the different chips they’re using identified on there. All those chips? They’re available. Their chips are known and there are certain kinds of chips that perform certain functions. You can then have an independent company here in the US, a trusted electrical engineering firm, or proper engineering person.

Test labs also will test that it was manufactured properly, but I’m also talking about making sure it was actually engineered properly by the factory before you get to the point of manufacturing it. You need to test it once its manufactured. This is not something that big brands are exempt from. They make mistakes, too. Tom knows this firsthand of products where the whole thing was engineered wrong and batteries were leaking and possibly could catch fire on staples floor. Things can happen like this. Big brands aren’t exempt from this problem, too. Verifying things are made correctly, designed correctly, engineered correctly is a critical part of this process and responsibility of you as the brand and the person that places a purchase order and it’s going to sell it. I know this probably is scaring the heck out of a lot of you right now. That’s okay. You have to take it all seriously. If you’re going to sell products like this, you need to have the budget to be able to do it right because, believe me, your budget will be completely blown and you’ll be out of business in a hurry if you have an error on the sales side of things after a product’s already in distribution. It gets completely recalled.

It gets overblown in terms of this idea of the costs for this, but you’re going to spend tens of thousands of dollars making a run-off product and that’s on the low end. I’ve seen people who have to make $100,000 runs depending on the products that they have to make. Having somebody do the 10% added cost for quality control who knows what they’re doing, especially on your first run, which always has issues, is critical. That is not too much to pay. That is a critical factor to making sure that you didn’t waste your money. These are some things. I don’t want you to be scared off by the cost or the time involved with it. It’s not. It’s some verification check marks. Make sure you’ve got your checklist. Make sure you’ve got your specifications outlined. Believe me, they’ll flex. You’ll learn things. You’ll say, “We have this problem. We need to tighten our controls because we’re seeing things that are outside of tolerances.” You’ve learned something before it got out into the marketplace and you’ve got bad reviews. This is a critical point in step six.

Here’s the one that has bought the cost explosion and if you’ve done everything right up to this point, you could still go wrong if you didn’t plan this part as well, and that’s Promote It. That’s number seven. This whole cycle is a whole promotional plan process. It has to go right in line with that Plan It cycle that you were doing at step number three that you have to have your promotional plan and you have to have a team on it. This is where we see people go so wrong. You are caught up in doing everything and wearing all the hats. You’re doing all of it. You’re doing the production, you’re doing the prototype, you’re doing all of these things yourselves. When you don’t have a resource team, the thing that falls off is perhaps the promotion. With Amazon sellers, it’s all promotions and the product start to fall off. It’s one or the other. There’s always seems to be a balanced tip.

[Tweet “Getting an idea to market is more than product development. It’s a comprehensive product launch process that removes risk and insures success.”]

This is where I want you to think about hiring into your weakness. This is where you find yourself a resource who is going to balance that out and take it so that you can spend the time on the thing that you’re expert at and if you’re an expert at promoting is going to make a huge difference in the product. Just make sure your product isn’t junk when you get it so put somebody in who can help you with that. Spend some money there on a resource who knows what they’re doing. It’s worth it. If you don’t know how to promote it, if that’s not your thing and you’re all about the product, great, good for you, but get somebody in to make sure that promotional plan is sound. Make sure you are going to hit the ground running and you’re going to maximize your promotion opportunity from the moment it hits the shelf or the warehouse shelf and that you are going to maximize your opportunity for sales because it’s seasonal for so many companies.

You don’t want to miss your season and you don’t want to miss your opportunity. You don’t want to miss every moment that that product is sitting in a warehouse or on a shelf and is costing you money. Make sure that you’ve maximized that by doing both plans in tangent and in parallel so that they do converge at some point. They converge right at that step number seven, Promote It. The reality is we all have certain talents and abilities usually focused in certain areas more than others. Like Tracy said, play to your strengths and hire to your weaknesses. It’s important to have an overall plan to have some kind of a road map like the 7P Process. Definitely make sure you go to our resources section and download that so you can make sure you’re on top of it all.

Make sure that you’re going to see where it’s going to dovetail, where the promotion plan overlaps and there’s downtime. This is the thing, there’s a lot of tooling happening during the tooling part, you’re sitting back, you placed your purchase order, you’re monitoring it, you’re checking your emails, you’re checking with your resource, who’s checking the factory, whoever that might be, you’re checking in with them and getting updates, but that’s the time where you’re working on the critical path, the final emails, the direct response marketing page, your Shopify shop, whatever it is that you’re doing in your promotion. That’s a time to do it in. You’ve planned that so you have all your information gathered up to that point. Finding those dovetail points when you have opportunity and openings to work on stuff and then know what you need to work on is critical as well.

One of those timing things that I always think is interesting is like people don’t realize how early they would benefit from having photographs. A lot of times, we, for our clients, take photographs and we set them up and we do that. We take first set photographs over in Asia right at the factory after the first part comes off of it rather than wait for it to be shipped here. To do that, we use them as placeholders. We do sometimes have to go in and Photoshop them a little bit, make the quality a little better, but we’d go in and we’d take care of that because we want to do a lot of planning on our market materials and planning on what everything’s going to look like. When we then get that first product here, we might retake those photos. Very cost effective, but it keeps us running and doesn’t make us lose ground and gives us an opportunity to also know, “If I just retook these photos, this angle, I’d have such a better photograph and it would show up better.” You learn some things as well in the process. You can maximize the costlier photo shoot that you will do here in the US or wherever you’re doing those photos for your product line. These are some things that go through my mind as we do it. The plan is so critically important, anchored by step number three.

It can be a little overwhelming, but don’t stress over it. At least there’s a road map. You can go through step-by-step. Prove It, Price It, Plan It, Prototype It, Protect It, Produce It, and Promote It. If you do things in that order, you’ll have all the right information you need. As you move forward, you will have a higher likelihood for success, less opportunity for failure, and you’ll be able to make sure that you can meet that critical factor timeline of getting to market. You have a higher likelihood from meeting that as well which means more profit and more opportunity for sales. All of those great things happen from following a process like this. It’s more than product development, it’s product launch success.

I’m sure some of you have questions. Write those down. Save them for future Office Hours session with either of us. Also, you can write those in if you’re unable to be live on an office hour session, you can communicate. You can email. There’s a form straight on the membership area so that you can email them straight into us. Say that this is for Office Hours, whatever the date and time of the Office Hours if you had a specific request or say that this is for the next Office Hours with Tom. You can also say that as well. You can join in on the next call that we have, and you can type in your question. You can raise your hand, we can ask you on video. There’s a whole bunch of ways that you can participate. Joining in live is the best way for you to get your very specific questions answered. We hope that you’ll join us for the next Office Hours.

Tune in to Tom and Tracy’s next Office Hours. Connect with and find out more about Tom and Tracy in the Experts Directory.

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About The Authors

PLH 001 | Product Launch ExpertsTom Hazzard

An inventor with 37 patents and an unprecedented 86% success rate for consumer product designs, Tom Hazzard has been rethinking brand innovation to design in success for over 25 years. Tom’s patented innovations provide entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes a system to spread their brand, grow valuable consumers, and diversify into higher converting revenue streams without a lot of time, cost or effort. Tom is co-host of the Forbes-featured fast growth WTFFF?! 3D Printing podcast as well as host of two new podcasts, Feed Your Brand & Product Launch Hazzards borne out of his core business, Hazz Design, where he has designed and developed over 250 products that generate $2 Billion in revenue for retail and e-commerce clients.

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