When you commit your career to a field for as long as I have, you learn a few nitty-gritty tricks when it comes to getting off the ground without a money tree. I've been working for 25-years in product design and development and one very valuable tidbit I've learned is this: there are a lot of ways to get market proof and if you want to get serious, you have to have it.
First, Let's Talk About Amazon
The most significant route that we use with our clients is Amazon. There's nothing better than a quick hit on Amazon to know whether or not somebody wants to buy what you are selling. We do this in a really unusual way that I think a lot of people underestimate. Sometimes, you have something really innovative and inventive and you know it's going to fly off the online shelves. You may feel like you really want to just go for that, dive in head first, and see what happens. And maybe you do have the next best thing, but that doesn't mean there aren't little pieces of market proof along the way that you'll need. For example, knowing how easy (or incredibly difficult) it is to access the beauty accessory market or the sporting goods market. You can use Amazon to find an analogous product, a product that's similar to yours, that is already existing on the market and try private label selling it. You will immediately know how hard that access will be for you by this test. You will have a rare chance to see the traction and several other things as well. We do this with a lot of our clients, and we call it A/B testing, just like in marketing.
Next, Let's Talk About the Process
- Test the market. You need data. The A/B testing I mentioned above is one way you can get out there and have something to help predict the future without incurring the full expense of going out, creating your product (prototyping), and developing and promoting it.
- Connect with the market. Through your market testing, you will develop an understanding of who your target demographic really is, what their preferences are, their likes/dislikes, and so on. All of these pieces of information create what I like to call connection points. Each point being a possible way you can connect with that potential buyer. The more you know, the more connection points you create, the better your chances of a sell.
- Understand the market. With your testing, data, and understanding of the market you are attempting to enter, you should be able to see the important details of the market you need. For example, how large the market is, how easy or difficult it will be to enter and compete in that market, how leads can be obtained, etc.
You need information as you go forward because the most expensive thing shouldn't be the design, development, and tooling of your product. Even with all of the labor and time involved, that still shouldn't be the most expensive thing. The most expensive thing is accessing the market.
You Cannot Skip This. The Shortcuts Are Too Good To Be True.
Understanding how that is; how you're going to get sales, how you're going to get the leads, how you're going to create growth channels, is more important in the scope of things. I say that as a designer. The ultimate cost of funding today, and what we're tying back into, is that it's hard to get funding at the early stages if you don't have some proof that the "dogs will eat the dog food" or that sales will be there.
This really is the most critical factor and the thing that you should understand inside and out before you move on to funding, investments, prototyping, or development.