From Drawing Board to Distribution Channels—Staying On Track to Succeed
Major corporations use their own version of a multi-phase product development process to contain risk, minimize costs, and maximize profitability. Yet intelligent and savvy management of the process is even more critical to inventors and individual entrepreneurs like you where even one simple mistake in your product generation process can easily derail even the smartest budget, most ingenious plans, and well-earned reputations.
That’s where we come in.
Our 5 Phase process is designed to help you manage and optimize the complex set of steps that are necessary to bring your great idea to market. With us, you’ll minimize risk factors, learn how to deliver the product that your customers want, and maximize your potential profitability.
CASE STUDY — PicnicPal
The inspiration for this product arose when our clients wanted to entertain some friends at their home. The plan was to serve a meal outdoors and enjoy the weather, the water, and the friendship. But it didn’t take long before the food was inundated with flies and other flying insects. They were left with two options they didn’t like: either keep the food indoors and watch their friends—often still barefoot and wet from swimming— travel in and out of the house to fill their plates. Or, they could bring the food outside, only to expose it to the onslaught of flying insects.
They realized that a reasonably priced, easy-to-use solution to this problem hadn’t been invented yet. They wanted to explore designing, developing and marketing a product to provide a healthier, happier option that the public would eat up.
We began with a brainstorming session to come up with as many possible solutions to the problem as we could. Over the next several months, we conducted patent searches, developed prototype concepts, and analyzed competing options. After a full review of the models and options, we chose a netting-and-tent design that would protect food from the elements while allowing easy viewing and access. It was the best choice for several reasons. To start, it looked like both development costs and the cost of bringing it market for testing would be fairly low. We also liked what we saw for its packaging, patentability, and durability factors. Those and others on our list of key requirements for completing Phase 1 were checked off one by one. We were complete with Phase 1 and ready for the next phase.
Phase 2 of the D Squared product development process is all about drafting budgets and developing a master schedule. For this product, we devised budgets for completing key tasks in the process. Those included building production-ready samples, filing patents, setting up photo shoots for packaging and marketing, website development, travel abroad to identify manufacturing partners, and other action items that are required to get a product from the drawing board to the warehouse. Once all the requirements for Phase 2 were completed, we transitioned into the next phase.
Phase 3 is when the rubber starts to hit the road. We went into preliminary production of our product, now called, PicnicPal. We fabricated working samples for mass production reviews, conducted photo shoots, created packaging, and documented and filed key patent concepts. We did stress testing to identify and then address any failure points for quality assurance.
Phase 3 of our development process includes finding an ideal manufacturing partner for your product. For PicnicPal, we realized that a seamstress in the tailored clothing industry—not someone stitching together a typical mass-produced tent—would do the best job for us, and that would affect our choice for manufacturing partner. If we didn’t attend to this issue, we realized we’d end up manufacturing an inferior product. The additional research did cost a little more but it didn’t blow our budget. We pulled the difference from the contingency funds that we had allocated for those inevitable unforeseen issues that arise. But we did what we needed to do to find the manufacturer we could work with and ensure the quality of our product.
Once we were in Phase 4, we were set to go. We placed an order with our manufacturing partner in China for an initial production run and travelled there to oversee the process. While this was going on, we also established a new company, called The Fair Guys, that would provide the retail and wholesale services for the product. We also got busy booking home shows and county fairs to test sales to the consumer market.
In its first year of sales, we sold 7,200 units of PicnicPal. As part of the market testing strategies of Phase 4, we packed a certain portion of the units in four-color printed boxes and the rest in carrying cases. Through testing, we learned that most customers preferred the carrying case. That insight ended up saving us $2,500 per order — a respectable savings at such an early phase of a startup.
By the time we completed Phase 4, we had many indicators affirming that the product would be successful. For one, we had the numbers. Customers and potential customers alike reported that they loved our product. And we had sold enough units to justify moving forward to Phase 5.
We launched Phase 5 by documenting what we had learned from Phase 4: what went well and what did we need to improve. The primary purpose of Phase 5 is to get your manufacturing quality and cost issues well in hand so that it can effectively come through the day that an order for 5 to 10 times the usual volume comes in.
We travelled to the factory to discuss quality, to fine-tune the production costs, and to optimize the entire production process so that we could ensure a quality product for the lowest possible costs. We evaluated each step of the production process to optimize both quality and cost. From what we learned, we made modifications to the product to help optimize volume production, quality, and production cost. Phase 5 is the perfect time to take this crucial step.
Then our focus shifted to sales. We continued to book home shows and county fairs that had already proven to be profitable. By returning to the events we’d participated in previously, we started to develop a customer base and build our return sales. We were delighted to watch as attendees who had previously purchased a PicnicPal told new booth visitors how much they loved our product. Or they would purchase additional PicnicPals for themselves. After the sales year came to a close and proved successful, Phase 5 was deemed complete.
Amazon and Big Box Stores
After we finished our work in Phase 5, sales continued through Amazon, wholesale channels, warehouse store sales, and other distribution channels. Then a Big Box purchase order came in for 72,000 units—ten times our Year 1 sales. Thanks to our due diligence, product delivery and customer satisfaction were stellar. All 72k products were delivered to 150 different locations—on time. And of the 72,000 units sold, only 68 (.09%) were returned—this from a retail channel that has a 100% money back guarantee for “any reason.”