Even if just one customer wants it a second time, it’s no longer small. Being someone who believes in this strongly, the title is keeping in mind the market forces. So, please, only think of a brand as small or large when it is bared out on a spreadsheet or when the calculations are done. Outside of that, small or big, brands require work, ingenuity, and constant care. This article has been written like a conversation prior to launching a product. It is not an absolute authority on building a small brand. That usually is a unique journey for everyone.
In the lab or office, it is only a product. Only the market and the customers decide if any product is a brand. And that decision is made everyday; rather, it is made with every single purchase.
Developing the product–thinking of where to start?
Research usually provides a good starting point. Unless you dreamt a perfect prototype (if there’s a product that you have absolutely mastered then research can be dunked) – research, research, research. One of the joys of a connected world is having access to actionable knowledge from across the world. That can shorten the product development time and help the team to focus on delivering quality and customisation. Time, money, people are limited resources. Fanciful waste- maybe not!
Product research to know what is out there. There are enough templates online which can be populated or depending on the product a simple grid can be made like the one given below.
Example of a simplified product research grid (can be more product specific):
Customer research is useful in multiple ways. It can help in deciding the product features and their priority in development, core messaging through customer buying behaviour & lifestyle fit. It can provide useful insights in setting up the distribution network by understanding the purchase infrastructure, frequency of purchase, the reasons for NOT buying the product. Finally, understanding of customer habits, their value system, role models & influencers can help you decide the communication strategy.
How to continue the product development cycle?
The team can continue on their product development journey along with the research. Insights can significantly improve the product, if you can identify the things to be implemented and set aside the feedback that has been considered but not taken. The key to the usually feared budget exercise is to break it up and write it down by activity and stage of implementation e.g. social media budget could be broken into ad-testing (development stage), ad-awareness (launch stage), ad-sale (launch stage).
Does it help to build a guide or a tool kit before a brand is launched?
For any measure of surviving the days/weeks/years it takes to build the brand, a toolkit is handy. Basic tool-kit can consist of a product guide, a market guide and a skill guide. A product guide contains the vision, technical specifications, activity budget, product communication; customer use cases, research inputs among other things critical to developing and using the product. Market guide can have details of the communication strategy, vendor list with quotations, online sites, database of support service providers, and sample development chart with timelines. A skill guide maps the core skill of the team with the skills required for the job and lists out additional skills which can help build a low budget support team in time of crisis e.g. Susan from sales can also make short videos, Dabs from product is also very good with customers.
Staying on the job can be one of the hardest tasks with the team battling fatigue, demotivation, and personal stops. This without the push that large brands provide in terms of everyday customers to be sold to or serviced can make some days harder. Luckily, no one’s watching- you can take your time and with a little fix- food, entertainment, travel, family time teams can bounce back full capacity.
For the first few months, it helps to remember every day why the team has set out on this task. Keep the answer to this question visible to everyone.
This will help in taking a lot of key decisions and also get out of sticky situations or not to take some short-cuts, and provide steam on the dull days.
We’ve built it; it works; should we bypass testing?
Product testing can be smartly planned as an on-going activity at every stage of development. Along with that when the team is ready with a market ready product; a planned testing can assess the product for its technical features, real time operation, packaging and communication. Product testing by an authorised agency for technical specifications and safety procedures is critical for the customers to develop faith in the brand. External market testing can be done by a professional agency if the budget allows. If there is a budget constraint, market testing can be done in-house by setting up testing desks that simulate the customer’s real life, they can help the team gain valuable insights. And, when the product is ready it can be given out to known people who are potential customers for their feedback.