You might think that successful new product introduction (NPI) and product launches follow a formulaic approach. But in reality, a quick skim of examples and best practices reveals the process runs the gamut throughout creative initiatives to commercialization: product design for market needs, supplier onboarding, production ramps, and distribution channels enablement. This all notwithstanding new product development (NPD), which is its own critical part of the product lifecycle.
Product companies like yours are looking to deliver quality products with a faster and more cost effective approach, and it helps to know best practices from the outset. In this post, VP of Product Marketing Tom Shoemaker shares best practices, suggestions, and examples that might inspire your stakeholders and product management and design teams as you go.
Could you briefly describe your role at Propel?
I am responsible for product marketing, which is a role at the intersection of the product team and the sales team. So I need to have an understanding of the product, and on the market side, I need to understand how to take the story of what it is that we do [at Propel] and convey it to different audiences such as customers, prospects, analysts, or media.
As an overview, what’s involved in new product introduction (NPI) & new product development (NPD)?
These monster processes entail everything from understanding what the market needs, capturing the requirements, moving that into a concept stage, and figuring out how those requirements will manifest themselves into a product… and often, how they can conceive a platform of continued value delivery.
READ A FULL RUNDOWN OF NPI & NPD PROCESSES HERE
NPD starts with either digital or physical prototyping to see if it’ll work and to see what it will cost. Then, there’s finding suppliers, onboarding them, and starting to source components from them. On top of that, you need to get your shop floor ready to be able to efficiently produce the product.
NPI is a function of marketing, product managers, brand managers, and sales teams needing to commercialize the product and introduce it into the marketplace. It’s dependent upon a number of factors – how is the product sold, where does it get sold, and what sort of hoops will you need to jump through (like regulation and compliance)?
In your experience, what are some best practices you’ve observed when product companies have successfully launched a product to market?
I think the overriding best practice is to always have one hand know what the other hand is doing. One of the key ways to do this is to have everything done on the same platform. That way, you can share information about the product and how to market it well before it’s actually done.
Some companies may start doing pre-sales and even draw up contracts before it’s even built. When you’re able to do that, you’re able to reduce huge amounts of risk in your process by knowing that you have an audience and you have money coming in.
What are some common missteps product companies experience during new product introductions?
Recreating instead of reusing is a big misstep that happens a lot. An example that I use is if you’re doing a project around the house, you might know you have a cordless drill and that it’s somewhere in your basement but your basement is a mess. So, you could spend half your day looking for the drill, or you could just go to the store and buy a new one to get the job done faster.
Often, engineers and designers know they have designed components similar to what is needed for a new project, but they don’t have a good way of searching for it. So they end up creating an entirely new part, and there’s an effort to do that – which wastes time when getting to market.
What are key factors when achieving a faster time to market? Do you have a specific example of when this was done well?
If you are able to condense the promotion and commercialization of the product, and not have development be a serial process but a parallel process, that can save you time. Too often, on the commercialization side of things (new product introduction), these folks wait until [the development] work is done for some sort of handoff. Meanwhile there’s all this time wasted where if they had worked in parallel, they could’ve gone to market sooner.
Our customer Blentech (makers of industrial equipment for commercial producers of food, like Taco Bell or Campbell’s soup) reduced their time to market by 20-30% because they have a much smoother process where everything is all on platform and they have visibility across sales, marketing and engineering. Because they build based on customer needs, it’s not so much a faster time to market, it’s faster time to profit and time to revenue from a customer.
Do you have any other suggestions for businesses looking to optimize their new product introduction?
Historically, the world of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) has always over-promised what it could do. Generally, it was too hard to use, too expensive, too heavy, and really just built for the engineering function and that’s about it.
My advice is: it need not be that way anymore. What Propel is doing is markedly different. Because we have the ability to help commercialize the product and bridge the gap that other systems can’t, it’s a new day in the world of product development and new product introduction. Be aware that you don’t have to suffer through the pain that an old PLM would have you.
Who has done NPI or NPD well, and what made them successful?
Keirton is another customer of ours who makes industrial equipment for the cannabis industry positioned between the farm and the distributor/retailer. They will configure their machines depending on the footprint of the factory they’ll be living in – which is called configure-to-order. Using Propel, they were also able to reduce their time to market while realizing a sizable margin.
After adopting Propel, companies like Blentech and Kierton revolutionized their product development and commercialization processes by centralizing their systems onto one platform, helping them to quickly find historical data so they didn’t have to recreate the wheel with each new project. More significantly, their development and their introduction processes can now happen simultaneously–instead of one after the other–taking them to market (and to revenue) exponentially faster.