If you build it they will come

Actually the famous quote from the movie Field of Dreams (1989) is, “If you build it, he will come.”

Pfft, details. Totally overrated.
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Product design and building a winning product.
Let’s face it. There’s a lot of junk out there. Jank designs that nobody wants. And worse still, jank designs that people go nuts over. Not gonna lie, there are tons of bad product designs/concepts that sell. There’s a market for everything.
Best example of crap that sells: the pet rock. Enough said.
But this post isn’t about making crap and selling it. It’s about making quality products that add value to consumers’ lives. Products so amazing, they’d flock to buy it.
No, not the iPad.
First key is seeing what’s out there.
This sorta links back to the prototyping article I wrote (you can read that here, go on. I’ll wait here)
Okay, so you read that article. (You better have, I spent a lot of time writing it!)
Prototyping the market leader is a good place to start. Especially if your company’s a no-name or you lack the innovations.
Now that you have a base to work with, it’s important to find your differentiating selling point.
Actually the Zune was pretty good. With the wireless sharing feature, I was surprised it didn’t do so well.
Oh right, it’s Microsoft branded. D’oh. (Side note: Microsoft, if you want to release “cool” products, it’s best to remove the association with Microsoft until you’ve repair and rebuilt the brand image amongst consumers.)
Remember that saying? It does one thing and it does it really well.
Apply that to the differentiating factor. You now have a surprising contender in the market.
Another method of starting off is listening.
Yes, if you listen, consumers actually have opinions!
Seriously, there will always be gripes about the market leader’s product.
Take those rants and dissatisfaction and meet those needs!
If you do, people will notice. People will start jumping boats and lap up your products at an insane rate.
Then lastly, it’s the “iWay”.
Dubbed the “iWay” as a homage to the big A’s (Apple not ass) preferred product design.
Again, I’d like to firstly clarify that I used to be a huge Apple fan boy. Bought the first gen iPod’s with a month’s savings and bought the second gen iPod touches once it came out. I also loved their marketing in the early stages of their iPod business. But now, not so much.
Back on topic.
This is to leverage the brand’s popularity and come up with designs that are “uniquely innovative”.
That is code for “not the best technology available, but we’ll make it pretty, hype it up and you’ll buy it”.
Frankly I don’t think Apple does much listening to the consumers at large. No SD card slots, no removable batteries, no flash, etc.
The benefit of this, however, is that you make whatever you want. Leverage economies of scale, cut down costs, and thus increase margins.
But if you miss the mark with your “uniquely innovative” design, it’ll just become a product you want to build instead of a product consumers want to buy.
Notice the difference?
Another key to building a winning product and subsequent product lines not only do you have to look what’s around today, you have to peer into that marketing crystal ball of yours to predict the future of the industry.
Why invest in building a product when it will be replaced later down the road and become obsolete.
(ahem Cisco Flip cams)
Okay so let’s pretend you made a bad decision and soon realized your product can be replaced easily in the future. You better pick up your idling R&D asses and start to innovate.

“If you’re stagnant, you’re already dead.” – John Welch

For example, the flip department of Cisco Systems can innovate by adding new features to the flip cams.
Or licensing the flip USB technology to other camera manufacturers. Or make their own digital cameras, not just camcorders.
I’d love to have a digital camera where I don’t need to fumble around to find its usb cable.
My friend’s tank, amazing huh?

But instead, they treated it like my pet goldfish when I was 7. I ignored it and left it to die. Eventually just flushing it down the toilet.

I was sad.
I was sad too when I heard flip was going to be killed by Cisco.
It had so much potential (the camera, not my fish).
All in all, there are several keys to make a winning product:
1. Prototype and add a nice unique feature to it. Then do that one feature really,really well.
2. Listen to what the consumers want and address the missed need in the market.
3. iWay
4. Identify trends and ride the wave. Or innovate.
There’s probably more. I’ll revisit this topic later if I feel inclined to write more about it.
Stay busy friends (and haters).

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