A business, any business is a rich tapestry. There are a huge amount of factors that will determine its success of failure. Your branding will play a key role in showing prospective customers what you have to offer and why, in an age where customers can afford to be more fickle than ever, they should choose you time after time at the expense of your competitors. Your marketing is important, too. What’s the point of being the best there is at what you do if nobody even knows you exist? You need to be able to identify and communicate with your target audience on their level and a robust marketing campaign can enable you to do exactly that. Then of course there’s your standards of customer service. Your customers need to feel valued, appreciated and listened to and their every interaction with your employees must reflect this or they will waltz straight into the open arms of your competitors. Your online presence is also a pretty big deal. You need to be able to expand your reach as much as possible and your website and social media presence are a huge part of this. Not only must your online presence be eye catching, engaging and easy to navigate, it also needs to be stocked with regularly posted, engaging and informative content in the form of blog posts or vlog posts. This will not only give your business a voice and a personality of its own, it will show users all over the world that you are an expert in your field and know your onions.

But while all of the above are essential building blocks in the construct that is your business, the whole thing can come tumbling down if there’s a single block missing. And that block is your products! No amount of flashy marketing can elevate a product that is ill conceived, poorly constructed or poorly attuned to the market it inhabits. Even the biggest brands have an embarrassing back catalogue of products that failed spectacularly from Crystal Pepsi to the Nintendo Power Glove. In order for your business to thrive, you need to ask yourself a lot of searching questions about your product before it hits the shelves…

Do your target audience want it?

There’s a fine line to be walked when it comes to launching a product. The line between listening to what your target audience want and telling them what they want. Many a product has failed because the business that made it failed to ascertain quantifiable demand within its target market but went ahead and pulled the trigger anyway. When this happens, businesses end up with problem products which fail to make back their manufacturing costs. Needless to say, when developing a product, the process starts and ends with market research. Your target market should be involved with the inception and development of the product to ensure that it meets their needs and fulfils a function that’s worth paying for.

Is your IP protected?

You may not think that corporate espionage is a going concern in an SME such as yours, but if your intellectual property is also your USP and your products are what separates your business from your competitors, it’s vital that you take steps to ensure that the ideas for your product are not stolen and sold on to your competitors.

Idea theft is a legitimate concern for small businesses built off the backs of big ideas, and the more people you discuss your product with before development begins in earnest, the more you open yourself up to its risk. Thus, you should be very tight lipped and ensure that you know and trust everyone who will be involved in the product’s development. If you need to pitch your product idea to a panel of investors or shareholders, it makes good business sense to ask them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement prior to the meeting.

If you’re sure that your product idea could be a goldmine then you may also want take extra special precautions. Trademark your product name and apply for a patent. A provisional patent may be a good money saving measure if you don’t have the capital free to patent your product at this early stage of development. Keep in mind, however, that these provisional patents expire after 12 months after which they cannot be renewed.

Do you have product validation?

In many cases, a pitch is all it takes to secure a sale. There are many cases when the promise of an exciting product is enough to secure sales in the form of pre-orders. Properly incentivized with the promise of access to extra features or accessories that will be charged extra when the product goes to market, pre-orders can be a great source of product validation. This means that you have identified quantifiable interest within your target market and you can show prospective investors and shareholders that their faith in you is about to be rewarded.

Can your product be sustainably packaged?

In today’s ecologically aware consumer climate, an environmental conscious is a necessity rather than a novelty. Consumers want to buy from businesses that are prepared to make a difference when it comes to operating in environmentally friendly and sustainable ways. Not only that, they’re happy to pay a little extra to know that their products haven’t been created, sourced or packaged at the expense of the environment. Research suggests that 66% of consumers would be willing to pay extra for more sustainable products. Thus, it’s important to weigh your product packaging options. Although more sustainable packaging may put a dent in your bottom line at first, you will be more likely to enjoy more sustained sales as environmentally conscious consumers flock to your product.

Will it be distributed in all the right places?

Sure, direct sales will account for a lot of your business, but will your distribution network get your product prime shelf space with the kind of retailers that your customers recognize and trust?

And if not… Why not?