If there are two things I have learnt in my 20 years of developing print related products, it is the following:
1. Even if you create one of the world's hottest, most sought after (and profitable) products, no customers or any investor will come knocking on your door any time soon.
2. If you want to maximise future profits and create a buzz you need to add as much value to your product as possible - the responsibility really will rest squarely on your own shoulders, at least until you have jumped through a few more hoops first.
Innovators can stack the odds of success in their favour. First though they must shift their mindset from delusional to real.
You need to beat the clock
In my case, looking at it from an inventor’s perspective, tinkering too long means my first 12 months patent protection will elapse, unless I monetise within that period so I am able to cover my patent fees. I believe that whether you include patent protection or not, you need to set a time frame in order to finish your development phase so you can launch it. Give yourself three years and it will take that long, but if you set your launch date for, say, 12 months’ time, you will avoid procrastination and reduce the possibility of another company getting something out before you.
Here’s three steps, based on my own experience, of how you can fast track the launch of your product:
Tame the beast you have created. Take away the 'bells and whistles' and settle on a first version of your solution that is unique enough to compete in the market.
One key feature that works well might be better than adding four more that function less than adequately. Your customers’ feedback will help you create the upgraded deluxe version when the time is right.
My prototype Tri-Creaser was laughed at by my first customer, who almost rejected my offer to demonstrate what it could do. They did place an order – but the more polished version I produced later got me through more doors, allowing me to charge more money and to be taken much more seriously.
I would usually incentivise a project manager to own the project and challenge them to hit the deadlines. They will take ownership and total responsibility and it's amazing what they can do if you hand over such responsibility.
The 'baby' they are nurturing needs its own identity. One day it will probably need to survive without any of you being there, so as well as giving it a name, give it a character and define its worth (features and benefits).
Create a product sheet that sets out its benefits and produce a simple instructional leaflet. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer: what do they need to know to understand the unique qualities of your creation?
Your product is like a precious picture - frame it with the best packaging you can muster, if that's applicable. Put time into being inventive with the presentation.
Going to the effort of refining every aspect of your product within the maximum time period of, say, a year (depending on the complexity of the product) will add perceived value and help you to get it under the noses of the people who you want to see it.
This methodology has been key to my own successful development of over 500 products. Sometimes the most obvious and simple disciplines really do make all the difference.
Graham Harris is founder and managing director of Tech-ni-Fold and Creasestream, global leaders in print creasing technology. His invention has saved customers over £8bn to date. His book Against the Grain is available now on Amazon