Ten Hard Questions You Should Ask Your Product Developer
What are the 10 most important questions you need to ask a product developer before handing over your project?
What is involved in developing my product, from start to finish?
It’s naïve to think that once a product is designed and engineered, customers will find you, and the revenue will start rolling in. In some cases, a product design can be patented and licensed to an established company in exchange for royalties, but this is the exception, rather than the norm. You will have to “put some skin in the game” and get your product to market to prove its worth first. This means securing other go-to-market functions, like patents, packaging, tooling, branding, marketing, and distribution.
Can you help me manufacture it?
Make sure your product developer has experience in Design for Manufacture (DFM) engineering. This will ensure your product will be cost-effective to make. But part costs are not the only consideration – there’s also the cost of the customized tools to mass produce the parts, and the labour cost of assembly to consider. Your product developer should have proven suppliers locally and overseas to suit your Cost- Quality-Time requirements.
What if the product doesn’t work?
Good designers and engineers will design what you ask them to. Great designers and engineers minimise the risk in your product development project. Consider undertaking a feasibility study or proof-of-concept stage before you start. Also make sure there are checkpoints throughout the project so that the development path is flexible enough to handle new information or challenged assumptions.
Who owns the intellectual property (IP) created during the project?
As the client, you should own all the intellectual property associated with your product. This includes trademarks, registered designs and patentable features. The exception to this would be where you agree to share the risks and rewards with the designer in exchange for consideration, such as financial investment. Be sure to receive and understand your product developer’s detailed Terms and Conditions before handing over your project.
Can you help me fund my product development project?
Product development can be an expensive undertaking, especially when you take into consideration the other aspects of getting your product to market, mentioned in question 1. However, there are often funding sources available, especially if you’re willing to export your product. These include angel investors, government grants and loans. Your product developer should be able to recommend a range of funding sources.
Why are you the best people to help me realise my vision?
As the client, it’s your job to ensure your vision becomes a reality. There is more than one company who can help you do this – don’t let them tell you otherwise. Don’t be afraid to put your product developer in the hot seat and explain to you why they should have the privilege of helping you realise your dream.
Do you understand the core value proposition of my product?
Your product will evolve from initial idea to commercialized product. Various influences such as competitors’ offerings and consumer feedback will help refine your product offering and increase your chance of success. But don’t let the integrity of your vision be diluted. The very essence of your value proposition must be understood and championed by your product developer to thrill your customer and the market.
What will you do to understand my target market?
Consumers can be fickle. Often they don’t know what they want until they see it, and even then, what they want changes over time. Not to mention that market segments have different desires. Don’t design your product in a boardroom. Get out in the real world. Test early and often. Negative but honest consumer feedback at the beginning of a project is useful. At the end it can be disastrous. Make sure your developer has access to your market.
Do you have specific experience developing this type of product?
There are thousands of products in many product categories worldwide. Designers and engineers have a wealth of knowledge in manufacturing materials and processes to help you quickly develop a product suitable for production. The advantage of working with a design and engineering consultancy is the breadth of knowledge, insight and experience across a range of diverse products and industries, they bring to your project. Your developer doesn’t necessarily need experience with your exact product – in fact, a fresh perspective may be what you need. If your product has special requirements, like electronics, AI integration, waterproofing or vibration damping, then specific experience can save you time and money.
If you think my product won’t succeed, will you tell me?
Designers and engineers should be open and honest, and easy to communicate with. Your experienced product developers will have successfully navigated various pitfalls. They’ll help you identify the risks associated with your project, and help you develop contingency plans to address them. They’ll also stay informed of the latest trends, successes and failures, which can be used to inform your decision making. A great product developer is accountable to the client, not just the project timeline and deliverables.
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