person contemplating a product plan

A Rock-Solid PRD Can’t Guarantee Product Success. You Also Need a Business Plan.

To achieve the ROI you expect, you need to think about marketing, promotion, supply chains, and your digital presence from the onset of product development.

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Casey Branson, Nathan Careless, and Gray McCord

August 29 th 2021 | 10 minute read

There’s more to achieving product success than creating a kick-ass design. You hire a design firm to take your product requirement document (PRD) and deliver an end product that meets your business objectives — but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. The best product idea and design can, and will, flop when you don’t factor in all the elements you need to build, promote, and sell it.

If you haven’t laid the groundwork for manufacturing your product — or if you fail to develop a robust marketing plan to reach your potential customers — you’re setting yourself up for an expensive and disappointing failure.

You need a comprehensive go-to-market strategy. By taking these four actions in parallel to the product design process, you can dramatically increase the likelihood that your new product will become a market success.

1. Create a Realistic Financial Plan that Extends Beyond Product Development

Bringing a new product to market is expensive. And although product design and development might command a large percentage of your budget, there are other financial considerations to keep in mind. Failing to account for these other investments can make or break your product’s success.

We once worked with a startup that got nearly everything related to the product development process right. They had a great team, put together a solid marketing plan, and figured out supply chain logistics. Their excellent product won awards. But one small oversight killed them. They failed to factor in Microsoft’s Windows licensing fees — a critical component for their product and business. The result? They ran out of money, their startup went out of business, and their product never saw the light of day.

Nothing derails a product’s success faster than running out of money. That’s why you need to be sure to allocate funding for:

  • Marketing, advertising, and promotion
  • Building up your product inventory
  • Investing in your digital presence (website UX, apps, digital payment platforms, etc)
  • Licensing fees, patents, and other costs of doing business
  • User testing and quality control

Since it’s hard for one person to think of every conceivable cost that might crop up, involve as many people in this process as possible to decrease your chances of missing a crucial detail.

2. Invest Heavily in Product Marketing and Promotion

You likely conducted some market research when you developed your initial product idea and the related PRD. You may have even developed a Marketing Requirements Document (MRD) to lay out how designers and engineers need to meet specific user needs in the product’s design. However, in order to achieve your sales goals, you need to influence potential buyers early and often. That means thoroughly understanding your target personas and tapping into their unique wants and needs.

Move Beyond Outdated Marketing Modalities

If you take nothing else from this article, let it be this. Your old ways of marketing and advertising will not cut it. The world has changed. So if you want your product to have a chance of standing out in a saturated attention economy, you must invest in marketing.

This means marketing your product on the channels consumers and buyers use today. Influence the heck out of your social media followers. Buy Google, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn ads (depending on where your audience spends its time). Get creative and sponsor a few popular podcasts. Hire brand ambassadors and social media influencers to tout your product in their circles. Do whatever it takes to elevate your new product out of obscurity and into top-of-mind awareness.

If you think this will cost you, you’re right. The good news? Funds spent on marketing can easily lift your valuation and leave competitors in the dust.

Don’t Neglect Product Design and Quality in Favor of Marketing

Although we advise investing significant dollars into marketing and promotion, it’s possible to go too far. Don’t sacrifice product quality and integrity because you’re spending more on marketing than you are on design, testing, and quality control.

Think about Peloton. They began an aspirational and inspirational marketing campaign in 2019 that transformed them from a little-known fitness brand to a $1.8B company. Peloton invested a sizable chunk of their go-to-market strategy on marketing and advertising. And it worked. By using everything from TV ads to social media campaigns to celebrity endorsements, they hit us over the head with how amazing their product is and what it means to be part of their fitness community. Even their delivery trucks are mobile billboards for their product.

But we’ve also seen the reports about pets and children who have been injured (or worse) when getting too close to a Peloton Tread. From our vantage point, they should have spent a little less on marketing and a little more on making sure their design met product safety requirements.

The bottom line is you need to allocate significant resources to marketing, advertising, and promotion. But be sure you’re marketing a high-quality, well-designed product that will stand the test of time.

3. Identify and Solve Your Product’s Supply Chain Dependencies

Your product isn’t just designed for the market and your end-users. It also needs to be designed in such a way that it can be manufactured, mass-produced and delivered to your customers. That’s why we have Design for Manufacturing (DFM) specifications we use to measure the viability of our design concepts.

If you want a superior design that can actually be produced, it’s essential to nail down all of your supply chain dependencies long before we cross the t’s and dot the i’s in the DFM.

To create your supply chain plan, think through details such as:

  • How will the product be manufactured?
  • What materials need to be sourced now in order to meet initial volume goals?
  • How will you pack and ship your product to get it from the warehouse to your buyers?
  • What if a part breaks or wears down? Will you have replacement parts readily available?
  • What is your plan to offer customer service and support?
  • Have you created necessary documentation such as user and repair manuals?
  • How will you pivot when things don’t go according to plan?

That last question is really important. Assume right now that things will go wrong along the way — because they inevitably do. For instance, you may need to change design dimensions so the product fits into ready-made packaging rather than paying extra for a custom packaging solution. Or you may discover a safety issue that needs to be remedied at the last minute. You can’t plan for every eventuality. But craft your plan with plenty of buffers and extra cash so you can stay the course when the unexpected happens.

4. Shore Up Your Company’s Digital Presence

Your customers are most likely going to check you out online before making a purchase. If they’re evaluating a particular brand or researching a new product they’ve just heard of, they will Google it to immediately validate whether or not the product makes sense for their needs.

You’re not doing your company or your new product any favors if your website is outdated, your e-commerce platform isn’t set up, or you don’t engage with social media. Your digital presence needs to convey that you are a professional brand with the same level of detail and consistency as your product.

Evaluate and take steps to improve your website’s UX, customer portal, payment system and social media channels. Are you planning to release an app that supports your product? Don’t wait until the 11th hour — get on top of it now. Do you want to offer self-service options? Get those ironed out. Need to hire or outsource online customer service reps? Figure it out long before you launch your product. Ensure that all the elements of your digital ecosystem are working in tandem to promote your upcoming product.

A Successful Product Starts and Ends With a Plan

Your product isn’t your product. Your whole business model is your product. There are a lot of moving parts to consider. So while your product idea is progressing through concept, design, and development, you should be busy putting your comprehensive plans in place.

Create a realistic financial plan, market the hell out of your upcoming product, iron out those supply chain dependencies, and level up your digital presence. Doing so will ensure your product has the very best chance of bringing you the ROI you expect.