Entrepreneurship -- Product and Service Development

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Adapted from the Field Guide to Nonprofit Program Design, Marketing and Evaluation.

Product (or service) management includes a wide range of management activities, ranging from the time that there's a new idea for a product to eventually providing ongoing support to customers who have purchased the new product. Every organization conducts product development, whether it's done intentionally or unintentionally.

This module provides a wide overview of considerations in developing and managing a product. How a product is developed or managed is depends very much on the nature of the organization and its products, for example, retail, manufacturing, wholesale, etc. Note that different people might even have different categorizations for the activities described below.

NOTE: Nonprofit organizations often provide services in the form of "programs", rather than "products" -- although the services from the programs are certainly "products" to groups of clients. Therefore, readers from nonprofit organizations might be better served to read the following guide:
Basic Guidelines for Nonprofit Program Design and Marketing

Sections of This Topic Include

Basic Introduction to Product Development and Management
Approaches to Developing Products and Services
Product Idea
(Are You Planning a New Business Around Your New Idea?)
Product Verification and Funding -- Can Your Idea Become a Viable Product or Service?
Product Development -- Building Your Product or Service
Product Production -- Ongoing Building of Products or Services
Product Distribution, Advertising and Promotion, Sales and Service

Also see
Related Library Topics

Also See the Library's Blogs Related to Entrepreneurship -- Product and Service Development

In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blogs that have posts related to Entrepreneurship -- Product and Service Development. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

Library's Business Planning Blog
Library's Building a Business Blog
Library's Customer Service Blog
Library's Leadership Blog
Library's Supervision Blog



Basics Introduction to Product Development and Management

Businesses can generate revenue from selling more of the current products to more of the current customers (customer maximization), more of the current products to new customers (customer development), new products to current customers (product development), or new products to new customers (diversification).
Product Managers -- How Do You Measure Their Success?

To Broaden Your Perspective on Product Development and Management

Many of the activities in product development are also activities in the overall process of marketing.
Basics of Marketing (from idea to evaluating to developing to producing)
Life Cycle Planning (everything has a life cycle, including products)

Broaden Your Perspective Even More?( Or If You Need an Investor or Funder)

If the reader is highly motivated at this point, then he or she might scan the information about the basics of business planning. Business planning is usually conducted when starting a new organization or a new major venture, for example, new product, service or program. Essentially, a business plan is a combination of a marketing plan, strategic plan, operational/management plan and a financial plan. Funders or investors usually require a business plan. Far more important than the plan document, is the planning process itself.
Basics of Business Planning

Approaches to Developing Products and Services

There are five different approaches that people use to develop a product or service. The following article provides an overview of each of the methods. Additional articles provide additional perspectives.
Approaches to Developing Products and Services
How to Develop a Prototype
Could Fewer Products Lead to More Profits?
Product Launch 101 -- 7 Things A Great Launch Can't Do
Product Launch 101: Creating A Product That

Also see Intellectual Discipline in Product Development

Idea for New Product or Service

Sources of Ideas

At this stage, someone has an idea for a new product or service. Ideas can come from many sources, for example:
1. Complaints from current customers (see Customer Service and Customer Satisfaction)
2. Requests for Proposals from large businesses, government agencies, etc.
3. Modifications to current products (see Innovation)
4. Suggestions from employees, customers, suppliers, etc. (see Creative Thinking)

Also see How to Find a Product to Market (short, reflective piece on developing an idea)

Protecting Your Ideas

It's likely that someone else will think your idea is a good one, too! Therefore, it's important to protect your idea as much as possible, for example, by getting copyrights, trademarks or patents. See U.S. Intellectual Property Law

You may want to "package" your product with others, or sell your new product as a set of products. The following link might help you in this consideration.
Naming and Branding
Intellectual Property

You might also want to minimize the chance of an employee taking the idea and starting their own business. See
Non-Compete Agreements

Are You Really Ready for Entrepreneurship?

It's one thing to have a good idea for a new product or service, but it's another thing to actually develop and provide it -- that's the essence of entrepreneurship. The following link is to a resource that will guide you through complete consideration of whether you're really ready for entrepreneurship or not.
Entrepreneurs -- Are You Really Ready to Start a New Organization or Product?

Are You Planning a New Business Around Your Idea?

If you are planning to start a new for-profit business or nonprofit business around your idea for a new product or service, then you will benefit from reading information in the topics Starting a For-Profit Business or Starting a Nonprofit Organization. Note that information in these two topics will guide you through assessing the feasibility of your new business -- information in the rest of this topic about product management will include assessing the feasibility of developing a new product. It's likely that if you are starting a new business, you will eventually need information in the rest of this topic about product development.

Product Verification and Funding -- Can Your Idea Become a Viable Product/Service?

You Need More than a Good Idea

Just because it seems like a great idea doesn't mean that it can become a product. A viable product needs to be profitable (or, in the case of a nonprofit, at least sustainable), including being producible and marketable. Also, the product should be related to the purpose, or mission, of your business. Businesses can go bankrupt by trying to be too many things to too many customers, rather than doing a few things very well.

If You Need an Investor or Funder for Your Idea

For-profits that need investment money will benefit from the following link.
Fundraising (For-Profit)

Nonprofits that need funding will benefit from the following link.
Fundraising (Nonprofit)

As noted above, you very well may need a business plan to convince the investor or funder that your idea is viable to become or product or service. See Basics of Business Planning

Verifying that Your Idea Can Become a Good Product or Service

At this point, you will benefit from understanding the basics of marketing, particularly how to conduct market research and a competitive analysis. If your idea still seems like a good one, then it's important to know how you will position and identify your new product to the market. You'll certainly want to know how much you might charge for it (that is, its price to the customer). The following links will guide you through these considerations.
Marketing Research (is there a need for your new product? by whom? how do they want it?)
Competitive Analysis (who are your competitors? what are they selling? can you compete?)
Pricing (how to come up with a price, based on development costs, etc.)
When Is The Right Time To Create A Product?
What Is Your Product Saying to Consumers?

If you plan to promote, sell and/or distribute products over the Internet, you'll want to review information in the topic E-Commerce.

Product Development (Building Your Product or Service)

At this point, you've concluded that your idea can become a viable product. Now you're faced with actually building the product itself. The particular process you use to build your product or service depend very much on the nature of the product or service. The following links might help you as you develop your unique process to build your product.

7 Things You MUST Do To Make Your Product Launch Easier
Why Launches Suck (And How To Fix Them)
Why Some Products Sell Strong (And Others Wither)
Why Affordable Products Hurt You And Your Customers
6 Tips to Delivering Customer Value (a Leadership Challenge)
Inside Technical Specifications
What is a Bug List?
What’s next for design?

You certainly should develop and implement a project plan to build your product.
Project Planning (method to carefully plan and track development of the product/service)

You should seriously think about developing and implementing a project plan to build your product.
Operations Management (wide variety of practices to build your product)

Businesses are coming to learn that it's never too early to integrate principles of quality management into the design and development of products and services.
Basics About Quality Management

Product Production -- Ongoing Building of Products and Services

Again, the particular processes you use repeatedly to produce your products and services depend very much on the nature of your product or service. The following links will help you to develop the new product or service, including regularly tracking how many versions you have produced.
Control Function of Management (variety of ongoing management activities to coordinate operations)
Basics About Quality Management
Operations Management (wide variety of activities in regard to overall operations of organization)
Configuration Management (tracking the various new versions of the products and services)

Product Distribution, Advertising and Promotion, Sales and Service

There are several major methods you can use to get your products or services to your customers or clients. The following link will help you select the most appropriate method(s).
Distribution

Advertising and promotion of products and services are often some of the most under-rated activities by new business owners. Many people strongly believe that if they build it, buyers will come. In this increasingly expanding and competitive marketplace, you must ensure your products and services are prominently in the minds of your customers and clients. This requires ongoing advertising and promotion.
Advertising and Promotion
Product Launch 101: Building A Growing List Of Qualified Buyers
Bringing a Weird Product to Market
Christopher Van Buren: Product Launch Liftoff

Even if your products and services are prominently in the minds of your customers and clients, you need to facilitate the process of their buying (or, sometimes in the case of nonprofits, using) your products and services. This often requires cultivating an ongoing relationship with customers and clients to understand their needs, explain how your products and services can meet those needs, and facilitate the "closing" of the sale, that is, where they sign "on the dotted line".
Sales

Customers are increasingly knowledgeable and intelligent in their buying habits. Depending on the nature of the product or service, a warranty (or promise of ongoing repair and/or support for some period of time) can greatly reassure customers when considering the purchase of your products.
Warranties

Not only can high-quality customer service earn a strong reputation for your business and products, it can also support continued purchases and revenue (and even new ideas for new products and services) from current customers.
Customer Service

All of the product development activities so far come down to achieving one, ongoing major outcome:
Customer Satisfaction


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For the Category of Product Development:

To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

Related Library Topics

Recommended Books

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Also see

Business Development -- Recommended Books

Business Planning -- Recommended Books

Program Management -- Recommended Books

Financing Your Business -- Recommended Books

Capacity Building (Nonprofit) -- Recommended Books




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