- Forecast demand for a product.
It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: without enough customers, your business will go nowhere. So, before you delve into the complex, expensive world of developing and marketing a new product, ask yourself questions like those in Figure 10.5 “When to Develop and Market a New Product”. When Bob Montgomery asked himself these questions, he concluded that he had two groups of customers for the PowerSki Jetboard: (1) the dealerships that would sell the product and (2) the water-sports enthusiasts who would buy and use it. His job, therefore, was to design a product that dealers would want to sell and enthusiasts would buy. When he was confident that he could satisfy these criteria, he moved forward with his plans to develop the PowerSki Jetboard.
After you’ve identified a group of potential customers, your next step is finding out as much as you can about what they think of your product idea. Remember: because your ultimate goal is to roll out a product that satisfies customer needs, you need to know ahead of time what your potential customers want. Precisely what are their unmet needs? Ask them questions such as these (Ulrich & Eppinger, 2000; Allen, 2001):
- What do you like about this product idea? What don’t you like?
- What improvements would you make?
- What benefits would you get from it?
- Would you buy it? Why, or why not?
- What would it take for you to buy it?
Before making a substantial investment in the development of a product, you need to ask yourself yet another question: are there enough customers willing to buy my product at a price that will allow me to make a profit? Answering this question means performing one of the hardest tasks in business: forecasting demand for your proposed product. There are several possible approaches to this task that can be used alone or in combination.