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From spark to shelves: How to create a product to sell

July 2, 2024 | Published by Faire

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A woman's hands appear above tubes of balms with brightly colored packaging

Highlights

  • Map your road to success with a thoughtful product development plan
  • Shape a product customers will love by gathering constructive feedback
  • Optimize profitability with an effective launch

You’ve dreamed up an incredible product in your head, one you know your customers would absolutely love. But how do you go about making it a real, tangible object for them to enjoy? Nurturing a product idea from conception to launch is a rewarding challenge. For new brands or existing ones venturing into product creation, the process is a blend of creativity, strategy, and determination. If you’re unsure how to create a product to sell—or where to even start—we’ve got you covered. 

So you’ve got an idea. Now what?

“Product development” is the start-to-finish process of bringing a new product to market. It begins with the idea—identifying a market need, like reusable paper towels, or an opportunity, like non-alcoholic negronis—and ends with the product being available to consumers. It’s not just the initial idea that’s important, however. It’s also about turning that idea into something truly valuable to your customer.

Why do you need a plan for product development? A structured approach ensures that you are creating a good product and thinking through the logistics of a successful launch and ongoing sales. If you have a team, a solid plan keeps everyone aligned and on task straight through to the finish line. It’s a blueprint that can help you avoid common product pitfalls, like misjudging customer demand or overlooking the features that would set your product apart. It forces you to think through all the details (even the less fun ones) so that when you involve other stakeholders or investors, they’ll understand both the product’s trajectory and potential. 

And, of course, when you finally get it in front of your customers, they won’t think twice about buying it. 

Craft your product development plan

Start with the idea

You’re here because you had an idea. In the best-case scenario, this idea should solve a problem or fulfill a need in the market. Take the founders of Babiators, who saw their kids squinting in the sun and now sell safe, durable sunglasses for babies and kids. Or Viola Sutanto, founder of MAIKA, who wanted everyday bags that could seamlessly fit into her life as a working professional, multitasking mom, and athlete. 

Your idea could be an entirely new concept or an improvement on existing products. Ask yourself:

  • Is there a demand for this product? 
  • How can this product stand out? 
  • Does this product align with my brand’s values?

Dig into industry trends and discuss your idea with friends and family to home in on your concept more precisely. At this stage, having a clear vision will guide your efforts, making the next steps easier, more focused, and efficient.

Conduct market research

Next step: Gather data to support the demand for your product and understand where it fits in the current market landscape. Creating a product that’ll sell hinges on knowing your audience.

  • Who are your potential customers? 
  • What are their preferences, behaviors, and pain points? 
  • Who are your competitors? What are they doing well and where can you fill the gaps?

Market research can take many forms, including surveys, online research, focus groups, and analyzing existing data. If you have a mailing list, you can ask your subscribers for feedback. Every bit of real-world information helps to quantify the opportunity for your product and refine your concept. 

Plan ahead for success

Now that you’ve got the idea and research solidified, it’s time to think about your product’s journey from concept to customer. Try to specify clear, achievable goals and milestones, which will serve as checkpoints throughout the process. Consider potential challenges and proactively devise strategies to overcome them. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Concept development: What features, functionality, and unique selling points does your product have?
  • Prototype development: Build an initial product to test your concept and gather feedback (more on this next).
  • Product design: Use feedback collected from your prototype to continue to develop how your product looks and feels, with a focus on usability, aesthetics (including packaging), and manufacturability.
  • Marketing and branding: Develop a marketing strategy, including your launch, that generates awareness and demand.
  • Sales and distribution: How will you sell your product? Through direct sales? Retailers? E-commerce platforms? A marketplace like Faire?
  • Customer support and service: Ensure you’re set up to address questions, troubleshoot issues, and provide assistance to shoppers after they’ve made their purchase (and remember that building long-term relationships with customers will encourage both loyalty and advocacy).
  • Continuous improvement: How is your product doing out in the wild? Continuously seek out feedback and sales data to iterate and plan future updates.

Planning helps you effectively allocate resources and set expectations for timelines and budgets. A detailed plan will become a reference point that keeps your project on track and can adapt when circumstances change.

Take Tricia Chen, cofounder of Nusa Holistick: To make simple, good-for-you skincare, Tricia and her partner considered every component of the product during the planning stage and continue to prioritize those elements. “We want to make sure that our ingredients are well sourced, that they’re always the best grade out there, that our packaging and our bottles are the best they can be, and that they’re recycled,” she explains.

Bring your product to life

Create your prototype and source materials

Once you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to move on to your prototype, where your idea starts to take physical shape. A prototype allows you to test and refine the functionality of your product, identify design flaws, and make improvements. It’s also a critical way to gain feedback from potential users and stakeholders.

Before you create a physical prototype, it can be helpful to create a digital one using free tools like Proto.io, Figma, or Vectr. These allow you to get a feel for your product and iterate based on feedback, without using up too much of your budget.

As you start prototyping, you’ll need to source materials for your product. This involves finding the right suppliers to provide high-quality materials at a reasonable price. If you’re creating clothing, what kind of materials will you use? If you’re making a candle, what wax is best? If you’re testing a recipe, how will you make it? Consider factors such as durability, cost, and sustainability. Sourcing the right materials or ingredients is not just about what goes into your product but also about building partnerships that can scale with you as your product gains traction in the market. 

Take Nadège Gaultier and Laura Goninet of Confiture Parisienne, who started their journey by taking training courses for jam makers and worked with professional chefs to create an original recipe that met their high expectations without additives or preservatives. 

For a more detailed guide to prototyping, dive into this article

Test and gather feedback

Now you can see how initial users respond to your product! This step lets you review the functionality and appeal once your product is in the hands of real people. Consider keeping questions open-ended to solicit the most honest and comprehensive feedback. Some examples: 

  • Did our product work the way you expected? Explain.
  • Did you enjoy using our product on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • How does our product meet a need of yours?
  • Can you describe a situation where our product could be useful for you?
  • Would you buy our product as a gift? Who for?
  • How often would you use our product?
  • Which product features do you consider the most valuable?
  • What would you improve if you could?

It’s always nice to add a simple thank-you note at the end of your survey or even a discount code for future purchases. You should aim to gather feedback from a diverse group of people, including friends, family, and, ideally, members of your target audience. If possible, observe how they interact with your product—what works, what doesn’t, and why. Pay attention to their reactions and listen closely to their feedback. 

For example, let’s say you’re making handmade soap with lavender from your garden. You could give samples to your friends and family and include a small feedback card that asks them to spend 5 to 10 minutes filling out a quick online survey, then link accordingly. Collect and review their responses and use what you’ve learned to make necessary adjustments and improvements. 

Budget and determine cost 

You’ll need to forecast the costs associated with bringing your product to market, including research, design, materials, production, and marketing. Accurate cost determination helps you set a price that’s appealing to consumers—and allows for a sustainable profit margin.

When budgeting, consider both fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs remain the same regardless of how many units you produce, such as:

  • Rent for your production space
  • Salaries for your team, if you have one
  • Marketing costs

Variable costs, on the other hand, fluctuate with production volume, such as: 

  • Research 
  • Materials 
  • Labor
  • Equipment
  • Shipping costs
  • Unexpected challenges

In our previous soap example, this list might cover:

  • Research:
    • Scouting out other soap brands
    • Finding the best lavender for soap, as well as the recipe you want to use
    • Zeroing in on the design of the soap and labels
  • Materials: Coconut oil, lye, lavender
  • Labor: Cost of your time and/or whoever is going to be making the soap
  • Equipment: Safety gear, measuring and mixing tools, molds, cutting tools
  • Unexpected costs: The first batch gets too hot and you have to cut your losses and start from scratch
  • Marketing: Setting up a website, online store, and marketing email campaign for the launch
  • Shipping costs: Soap packing and packaging, and shipping

You should also factor in the costs of prototyping, testing, and iterating your product, as well as any external services or consultants you may need. Take a look at this article for more information about planning a budget. 

Launch your product

Before launching, you’ll want to finalize every aspect of your product, ensuring it’s polished and ready for customers. This includes putting the finishing touches on the design and packaging and thinking through how to handle an influx of orders (fingers crossed!).

Your next step is to figure out the best way to get your product in front of customers. One way to get started is to sell a small amount of your product at an in-person trade show, then move to an online marketplace like Faire, where 100,000 brands reach independent retailers in 50,000 cities and sell millions of products each year. 

You’ll want to make sure your product can be discovered online and have a clear marketing and sales strategy in place to attract retailers. To effectively sell your product you’ll want to:

After the launch, monitor customer feedback closely and be ready to address any issues promptly. 

Whether you’re developing the next great cardigan, a candle everyone just has to have, or the condiment that goes with everything, product development is a labor of love, iteration, and refinement. It takes patience and determination to see development through to the end, but from there, the sky’s the limit.  

New to Faire? Sign up to shop, or apply to sell.

Highlights

  • Map your road to success with a thoughtful product development plan
  • Shape a product customers will love by gathering constructive feedback
  • Optimize profitability with an effective launch

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