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Ideally, marketing your hardware product should come before your product launch. You want to find and connect with your target market as early as possible. “Early” often means before your product design is even finalized. Building this relationship early-on is beneficial for both your product design and product launch.
Below are three reasons why you should be thinking about marketing throughout the early stages of product development.
Feedback is critical during product development. You aren’t going to know if you are on the right track without feedback from your target market; thus, you are going to want people in your target market to test your product (not just family and friends). It is helpful to get feedback that is both honest and actionable.
By creating an inexpensive prototype and gathering feedback from it, you will be in a much better position as you build your product. This feedback loop is important until the final design is ready.
Around every successful product is a community rallying around it. In today’s global competitive marketplace, having a strong network and community interested in your product cannot be overlooked or overstated. A community will share your product launch information, help you create a buzz and end up being your first customers.
Crowdfunding has grown to be extremely popular because of the sense of community it gives hardware startup founders. Using a crowdfunding campaign for your startup lets you build this community before you even have a product ready to be shipped. While crowdfunding does have its drawbacks, its ability to build a community and rally support is a primary benefit for your hardware product.
Have you ever found yourself on a website that said something along the lines of, “Launching soon! Join our mailing list to be the first to know about our launch”? We all have the desire to be the “first to know” and inevitably add our email to the mailing list. This is an example of a startup building their community and creating a buzz. Creating a buzz gives customers a sneak peek about what’s to come and builds that sense of anticipation.
When you use customer feedback early-on, you start to create a buzz with your product testers. From there you want to build on this interest and loyalty. Social media is a great way to start creating a buzz for your product.
Thinking about your marketing strategy early-on, and developing a marketing plan, will help ensure that you have a supportive community by the time you launch your product.
Have additional questions about product development or marketing? We are happy to help. Please send an email to email@example.com
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
Coming up with a product idea is exciting, but making the decision to pursue and develop it, is truly exhilarating. Many first-time entrepreneurs want to jump right in and get to work building their product, only to realize that they may not have the exact skillset necessary to develop the product all the way. This is where a product development firm is brought in to aid in the process. It can be nerve-wracking sharing your idea with someone else, and we all like to have a general idea of what we can expect in initial meetings.
While each product development firm has their own template for initial meetings. You can expect a variance on the below.
Just as you are eager to get to know the product designer, they are eager to know more about you. This goes beyond your product—they want to know the backstory of how your product idea came-to-be. They want to know what you are passionate about. They want to know your skillset, where do you excel (sales, marketing, accounting)? This information will allow them to get a better idea on where their services will be utilized the most efficiently.
In your first meeting you are going to want to get as detailed as possible when discussing your product idea. You may think that the littlest details may not make a difference as you start developing an idea, however, every detail matters. Provide as much detail about your product requirements as possible. A good development company will be able to ask you the right questions throughout the development process to help you narrow down the requirements and focus on the functionality. You don’t need to know all of the technical details about the product, just how it needs to function.
While TV and the internet can make you believe that products are designed, manufactured and launched overnight, this isn’t how it works. Developing a product takes time. While the exact amount of time to develop your product depends on the idea and the intricacies of it—in general expect to be spending weeks to months on product development.
Just like you, product development firms want to make sure your product is protected from copycats, so they will want to discuss IP and what your initial feelings on it are.
Most hardware startups find themselves thinking about intellectual property early-on and wondering if it is truly necessary for their invention. If you are planning to manufacture your product abroad, considering a crowdfunding campaign, wanting to speak with potential investors or find yourself constantly worrying about someone copying your invention, then meeting with a patent attorney is a great idea. In many cases, having a design or utility patent will be beneficial for your startup in the long-run.
Have questions about developing a product idea? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional Information about Product Development
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
The 5th annual Honolulu Mini Maker Faire is this Saturday, June 23rd from 12pm to 5pm at ‘Iolani School. Our President, Collin Kobayashi, will be at our 3D Innovations booth answering your 3D printing, prototyping and product commercialization questions. This is a great chance to talk with Collin about the product development process and learn more about what it takes to bring a product to life.
The Honolulu Maker Faire is open to all ages and encompasses a wide range of interests and technologies. This is a family-friendly event where people can share their interests and knowledge and spark the Maker spirit in others. Tickets to the event are free, however we do suggest that you register for a ticket ahead of time to speed up the entry process.
WHAT I DO: I help companies in all industries bring new products to market, reduce prototyping costs, ensure requirements and quality are achieved, and develop manufacturing and go-to-market strategies.
WHY IT WORKS: I’ve spent almost 20 years in Design/Manufacturing sectors and understand the challenges and needs of companies doing R&D. Using our expertise in prototyping and manufacturing along with industry standard software and equipment, we will accelerate your development process and bring products to market faster.
HOW IT WORKS: The first step in the process is to schedule a consultation to discuss your project goals, objectives and challenges. Through this initial session, we will be able to outline a high level strategy and plan for bringing your product to market. I’ll also make a professional recommendation for the next steps that should be taken to ensure you can take your product to market!
Maker Faire is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue for these “makers” to show hobbies, experiments, projects.
We call it the Greatest Show (& Tell) on Earth – a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness. Glimpse the future and get inspired!
To learn more about the Honolulu Mini Maker Faire, head on over to the official website.
See you there!
3D Innovations is a Product Development Company – from the 3D Design to a fully functional 3D Prototype & Product.
It is a common misconception that building a hardware startup is a straightforward and linear process: Find a Problem—Design a Solution—Sell the Product—Make Money. In theory this is how it should work, but in actuality, this process is more of a maze with twists and turns on your way to success. What you don’t see in this high level linear description are the many challenges and pitfalls you and your startup must navigate before you “Make Money“.
Below are three challenges that first-time hardware entrepreneurs don’t always foresee.
Feedback is critical during product development. You aren’t going to know if you are on the right track without feedback from your target market. You are going to want people in your target market to test your product (not just family and friends). It is helpful to get feedback that is both honest and actionable.
By creating an inexpensive prototype, and gathering feedback from it, you will be in a much better position as you build your product. This feedback loop is important until the final design is ready.
Developing a hardware product takes time. Product development doesn’t happen overnight, especially if you are gathering customer feedback along the way and making the necessary adjustments. Depending on your product, product development could take months or even years before you are confident that it is ready to head into manufacturing.
Manufacturing is another area that has a long lead time. Whether you decide to manufacture locally or internationally, you are going to be playing the waiting game. The thing with long lead times is that if you know they are coming, expect them, and plan accordingly, they are less likely to derail your journey to success.
To understand your market, you need to research it. What products succeed in this space? Is there a similar product to yours that has found success in this product space? What did their journey look like? Has a similar product failed? What information can you glean from other startups’ success and failure in this space?
If possible, get out and talk to people already in this product space to see what they say about it. By understanding the market, you will get a better understanding of where your product will fit into it.
Each product and each startup will face their own challenges on the way to market; by preparing yourself for these twists and turns along the way, you will be in a much better position to successfully navigate them.
Have additional questions about bringing a product to market? Send us an email at email@example.com
Navigating the world of intellectual property is challenging for seasoned entrepreneurs, and even more stressful when you are working on designing and launching your very first product. Intellectual property (IP) is often moved to the bottom of the priority list because it is full of unknowns. When is the right time to file? Do I need a design patent? Is a trademark necessary?
With the spread of technology and globalization, a solid intellectual property strategy has never been more critical. Copycat products are popping up at an alarming rate—which is bad for business and dangerous for consumers. Having a strong intellectual property strategy early-on or having the patent process started, is a great way to protect your invention, attract or solidify partnerships and secure funding.
Below are links to help you get familiar with intellectual property terminology, resources, and strategies.
Intellectual property (IP) protection is an important consideration for any startup, and possibly even more so for hardware startups. Patents are a way to not only protect an idea, but to also minimize competition and act as a defense mechanism against infringement claims from others. Here are four considerations for your startup’s intellectual property strategy.
No two products are alike; therefore, a custom-tailored strategy is necessary when it comes to navigating these two areas of product development.
On the IP side, a decision must be made about what type of patent (design patent or utility patent) makes sense for the invention and budget. On the manufacturing side, everything about the design, even the smallest details, must be accounted for when selecting materials and where to manufacture the product. Having insight and answers early-on in the startup journey helps entrepreneurs understand the full spectrum of what it takes to bring a product to market.
A provisional patent application early-on can be very beneficial for a hardware startup if your business goal is to either license your invention or proceed with a patent filing.
If you are planning to manufacture your product abroad, considering a crowdfunding campaign, wanting to speak with potential investors or find yourself constantly worrying about someone copying your invention, then meeting with a patent attorney is a great idea.
Whether you are at the helm of a startup that plans on crowdfunding a product or a SME working on a new and innovative technology, securing and protecting your intellectual property (IP) rights to that invention is key to successful commercialization.
Some people confuse patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Although there may be some similarities among these kinds of intellectual property protection, they are different and serve different purposes.
Have additional questions regarding an intellectual property strategy for your startup? We are happy to help. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Product design is a delicate balance between what the entrepreneur wants the product to be and what the end-user actually needs. Need v. Want comes up in our everyday life, and it is no different when you are designing a product for consumers. Often, the entrepreneur will think that they know what the customer needs, but without actively asking potential customers they could be missing the mark.
Recently we came across the Design Hierarchy of Needs, from Stephen Bradley, (writing for Smashing Magazine) which is based on the same concept as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. “Abraham Maslow’s, the American psychologist, is most famous research examined human motivation. In 1943 he published his paper; A Theory of Human Motivation. In this paper he revealed his understanding of human needs and proposed that they formed a hierarchy from the most basic to the most complex. He suggested that in order for a human being to be satisfied they must meet of all their needs. However, the most basic needs must be fulfilled before higher level needs can be met satisfactorily.” (Interaction Design Foundation)
Stephen Bradley took Maslow’s concept and amended it to provide a useful guide for developing products which deliver high-levels of value to the customer.
Functionality. Before anything else, a product must be functional. It must meet the most basic needs of the customer. “Designs that meet only basic functionality needs are considered to be of little to no value. A design is expected to meet basic functionality needs; doing so isn’t considered anything special.” (Smashing Magazine)
Reliability. Once your product design has fulfilled the basic functionality requirement, it can now move up to reliability. At this level your product is expected to successfully preform a function, over and over again without failing. Your product should exhibit stable and constant performance. If you have a product that works 90% of the time but fails the other 10%, it is not meeting the customers reliability needs.
Usability. Now that your design is reliable, it is time to examine its usability. Can a customer pick up your product and easily figure out how to use it? For example, are the buttons easy to navigate, is it easy to understand, is the product design forgiving if an incorrect button is pushed? “Usable designs are perceived to be of moderate value. We do have some basic expectations of usability, but we recognize that many things don’t quite work as we expect or would like.” (Smashing Magazine)
Proficiency. “Designs regarded as proficient are perceived to function at a high level. A design that allows people to do things not previously possible and to expand on basic functionality is considered to be great.” (Smashing Magazine) Is your product allowing your customer to do things that they once were unable to? If your product is adding value to their everyday life and making things easier, you are on the right track.
Creativity. Once the lower-level needs have been met, your product design can focus on creativity. An iconic corporate example of success at this level is Apple. Their products meet all of the basic needs and then excel when it comes to innovation and creativity. Designs that meet creative needs are perceived to be of the highest level.
Just like in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the Design Hierarchy of Needs can be looked at with a critical eye. Will consumers buy a product that useable but not necessarily reliable all the time? Or a product that is highly creative but not exactly proficient?
The Design Hierarchy of Needs is a good starting point during the product development process. As an entrepreneur, you can look at your product, or product idea, through this lens and determine where your product excels, and which areas need a little more help before your product design is finalized.
We don’t often like to disappoint our hardware startup friends, in fact our entire business is built around making our clients happy by exceeding expectations. When it comes to the secret of hardware startup success, however, we don’t have some profound hidden away piece knowledge to impart upon you, in fact, we bet this secret is something that you have heard at least a hundred times. Maybe you jotted down a quick reference note for it or maybe it went in one ear and out the other. This secret gets thrown around in conversations and presentations, but it is not always given the respect it deserves or the attention it needs. The secret we are referring to is “find a solution to a common problem experienced by many”.
We bet you just read that sentence and thought to yourself, “Yes, I have definitely heard that before”. The thing about the secret to startup success, is that it is not a secret at all. We work with countless hardware entrepreneurs that have an abundance of product ideas, and often one of our first pieces of advice comes in the form of two questions, “What problem are you solving?” and “What segment of the population faces this problem regularly?” The answers to these questions can help determine if your product idea is poised for success.
If you are currently mulling a product idea around in your head and deciding if it is worthy to pursue, ask yourself the following three questions.
If you are personally experiencing this issue, there is a good chance that others are as well. Casually ask friends and family if they notice this problem and if they have ever thought of a solution to it. You might be surprised at how many people experience this issue, but have probably just decided that “this is the way it is” and haven’t given any real thought to a solution.
The thing with startups, is that they can, on average, act quickly and pivot just as fast. Large corporations undoubtedly have the funds, but moving fast is not something they can do. So are you in a position in which you can quickly and efficiently design a solution and launch it into the marketplace? Moving fast gives you a head start, and often, it is before the big industry players even notice the problem.
Do you have the skillset necessary to act quickly? Think about your network, do you know others that can help or offer advice as you get going? Keep in mind that no one has all the skills necessary to succeed. This is what teams and product development partnerships are for. Understanding your skills and limitations will help you know where you need assistance and where you can take on a majority of the responsibilities.
Have additional questions about developing and launching a product into the marketplace? We are happy to help! Send us an email at email@example.com
We are proud sponsors once again of the Hawaii STEM Conference taking place April 10-11th. This is an event that showcases the many talents of our students here in Hawaii, while giving them an opportunity to delve deeper into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects with hands-on learning and activities.
Our main area of participation this year will be hosting an onsite ‘Product Design & Pitch’ competition where students will be given a challenge on the first day and will have 24 hours to complete the project.
The project will involve taking the design challenge and coming up with a detailed design and business plan. Students will focus on developing a design, product prototype, business/marketing plan, financials, manufacturing plan and then present their research to a panel of judges.
The presentation will be held in a ‘Shark Tank’ style and the students will present the design and business information they have researched and developed to the judges.
We are always amazed at the ingenuity and creativity displayed by students during these entrepreneurial competitions.
See you there!
3D printing, also commonly referred to as additive manufacturing, is a technology that has grown exponentially over the last five to ten years. It has been a favorite tool of makers and product design professionals alike. 3D printing technology allows designers to quickly, easily and efficiently design and produce a product prototype for review. While prototyping is where 3D printing is most popular and widely used, the technology is beginning to mature and find it’s way into manufacturing for end-use parts as well.
“When it was invented, 3D printing was referred to as rapid prototyping, a method for automating and reducing the labor required to create a prototype model for design validation. Since then, it has found use in a number of other applications, but the technology is still widely implemented to create visual models and functional prototypes.”
A visual model of your product lets you get a better idea of how the product will look and feel. With the rapid expansion of 3D printing materials and colors available, you have more options than ever when it comes to product design materials. Most hardware entrepreneurs start with a visual model and then move forward with a functional prototype for design validation and testing.
A functional prototype allows you to test the form, fit and functionality of your product. Testing and validating your product design with a functional prototype is highly recommended so that any potential errors can be fixed before heading into manufacturing.
The benefits of a functional prototype extend beyond your design. With a functional prototype you can also gather critical market feedback, rally financial support from venture capitalists and your community as well as file for a patent.
A major misstep that can derail your hardware startup is to skip the development of a functional prototype.
As a design moves from the concept phase to the production phase, a manufacturer might implement 3D printing for the fabrication of custom tools that aid in the production process. “This can include anything from guides for precise drilling, dies for forming or cutting raw material into a specific shape and measurement tools, like gauges, to jigs and fixtures that hold a part in place while other operations are performed.”
3D printing is a flexible tool that can be used either directly or indirectly in the creation of tooling for manufacturing. In the case of indirectly, a tool may be made by coating a 3D-printed component in rubber, which is then used to cast the tool itself.
Currently, due to the speed, quality and cost of 3D printing, “the technology is best suited for the production of specialty parts in smaller batches, rather than mass-manufactured goods. However, there is an industry shift towards expanding 3D printing technology to take a more prominent role in mass manufacturing”.
“3D printing brings some important qualities to the world of manufacturing that make it ideal for certain jobs. For instance, parts can have complex geometries impossible with traditional manufacturing processes. It is also possible to 3D print goods on demand, allowing for easy creation of custom parts.”
Because of these intrinsic benefits, businesses that need to create specialty or custom parts in shorter runs will often turn to 3D printing to manufacture their products. The benefit is that they don’t have to invest in costly tooling to mass produce goods that will only see a limited release.
Have additional questions about 3D printing or how the technology can benefit your business? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Taking the leap into entrepreneurship is a major change and a bold move—you are now focused on building a hardware startup around your product idea, which is both intimidating and exhilarating. In the very early stages of product development your motivation is through the roof because you are seeing a product that was once only clear in your mind become reality. However, as you progress through product development, and beyond, it’s normal for your motivation to fade at times because being an entrepreneur is also stressful.
When you feel your motivation start to slip, here are five ways to help reignite that fire within you to keep pushing forward.
What is your personal mission statement? Your hardware startup should have its own mission or vision statement to help identify goals—and so should you. Once you have a clear mission statement for yourself, write it down and post it somewhere visible as a daily reminder of the goal you have set for yourself.
Now take this mission statement and make a plan around it. How will you accomplish this? Write down your short and long-term goals. Keep in mind that your written plan is a living document and should change as you do and as your business matures.
It’s easy to get tunnel vision and focus solely on your product when you are in the trenches of product development. However, at times, it is necessary to step back and remind yourself why you are doing all of this. What problem is your product solving? How is it making life easier? Is it benefiting a greater good?
If you have a business partner, communicate these goals with them as well so that you are both on the same page about where you see this product and startup going.
Mentors are motivating. They are cheering for you from the sidelines and want to see you succeed. A nice chat with your mentor over a cup of warm coffee might be just what you need. Mentors often have more experience and different ways of viewing things, so getting some helpful advice or viewpoint could help you get over your temporary slump.
If you don’t have a mentor, or your mentor isn’t readily available, a TED Talk or an inspirational podcast are two other options.
“Choose happy”. Life can get hard and it can feel like the weight of the world is right on your shoulders, but with the right attitude and a smile, you will prevail. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to launching a hardware startup or becoming an entrepreneur. What works for you may not work for anyone else. So with opinions, ideas and theories coming at you from all angles, remember that ultimately you in one in control of your business and life.
Not everyone gets to do what they love for a career, but if you play your cards right, you have the chance to live the entrepreneurial dream. There will be days you want to quit and situations that seem impossible to navigate, but by remaining positive you will be able to channel your inner strength needed to reach the finish line.
Never underestimate the benefit of a good night sleep. Tasks and goals are easier to accomplish when you are well rested and ready to take on the day. Starting each day recharged and rested will ensure that you are able to reach peak productivity and make decisions with a clear mind.
Ready to develop your product idea? We are here to help! Send us an email at email@example.com