7 Things You Should Do Before You Develop A Product (Series)

Welcome to Part 1 of our 7 Part series on things you should do before you develop a product. We love working with businesses to bring phenomenal products to life, but not everyone who reaches out with us is truly ready to engage with a firm like ours, at least not yet.  Even serious startups and corporations sometimes haven't done enough of their own research to get the value out of working with a high tech product development firm like Ovyl. We want to help enable as many of those individuals and organizations as possible to develop their products whether that's on their own, with us, or with another partner. To that end, we've compiled a list of some of the work that we believe every entrepreneur should do before they engage with a designer or engineer. Some of these may sound obvious to you, but they made the list because we often see them overlooked. If nothing else, I hope you take away a feeling of confidence that you're on a good path. And with that, let us begin.

  1. Competitive Research (this post)
  2. Look At Your Product Critically
  3. Draft Your Business Plan or Launch Strategy
  4. Get a Sense for Your Brand
  5. (coming up) Build a Prototype If You Can
  6. (coming up) Budget Appropriately
  7. (coming up) Talk to Others About Your Product

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Part I - Competitive Research

The first and most important thing to do before investing a dime into developing your product is to do at least some competitive research. I'm the worst at this, but many entrepreneurs are like me - we have so many ideas that we get excited about that sometimes we jump to thinking about how to market them or how to build them and off we go down the rabbit hole of excitement before we stop to think if maybe the thing we want already exists.

alice in wonderland disney GIF
Me skipping competitive research to go down this rabbit hole about the best domain name

As a rule of thumb, if you haven't found a product that would compete with yours, keep looking. Don't consider just "direct" competition, but consider any alternative or combination of alternatives. And if it doesn't exist, then there may be a good reason, but more on that later. For now just take these two steps: find your competition, and analyze them.

1) Find your competition

There are a lot of ways to find competitors, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you do at least these steps then you'll be ahead of the curve.

  • Google it — You may think you've done this already, but did you do it thoroughly? I recommend thinking about all the different ways people might type in a query that would show the product you envision. Unless you've made it to page 3 of 5 different searches, you should keep digging. Even IoT products should come up.
  • Amazon it — I don't know if that's a thing, but you know exactly what it means. And on Amazon, because there are a plethora of products and manufacturers it makes it even more important visit more pages and to try different search terms.
  • Other Sites - I've also used sites like Facebook Marketplace, Pinterest, ProductHunt, Etsy, and eBay and Reddit. Look for review sites, forums, and other places where people gather online. As a general rule, I suggest searching for at least a few hours on other sites.
  • Ask a friend — Maybe your product is more niche like a medical device. Whatever it is, do you know someone who might know a lot about your market? Ask them if there is anything on the market like this, and what they like or dislike about the current options.
  • Go to a Conference or Tradeshow — These are increasingly happening digitally today, which makes attending a lot easier if you're not yet ready to commit to a trip. However, if you're serious about developing the product, then I strongly recommend going to the most relevant industry tradeshow(s) and conference(s). You'll see the latest products and learn a lot.
2) Analyze your competition

While you're searching take detailed notes about what you find. Who are your major competitors? What are they missing? What do people complain about in reviews and forums? You can learn a TON from these people, because they are your potential customers.

Similar to finding competition, there are a lot of ways to analyze competition, and those are the subjects for other posts. In this post I'm just going to cover the questions you should ask and it's up to you to answer them and find tools for analysis. If you'd like more insights here, let us know!

  • Features & Benefits — Start by tracking the features and benefits of competitive products. What do they do (feature) and how does that make the user's experience better (benefit).
  • Pricing — ****How your competition prices your product will tell you a lot. Do they sell only wholesale? Bundles of 4? Are they advertising sales and discounts? Are their prices advertised or hidden behind pay walls or sales reps? Is their pricing premium for the market?
  • Marketing — What problems that customers experience do they address in their messaging? Are they marketing towards a more niche or more broad audience than you? What mediums are they using to reach customers - digital ads, social media, blogging, mailers, tv commercials, billboards?
  • Reputation — Check for reviews on Amazon, Google for sure, but also try to dig deeper. Look for forums like reddit where people are discussing their likes & dislikes. Find youtube videos where people unbox or review the product.
May 7, 2021
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