Small Business Brief


Your Guide To Creating Product Prototypes For Your Small Business

Are you ready to create your first product prototype? A prototype is the key to launching or expanding your business, so it’s important to manufacture it correctly. Here’s everything you need to know about creating product prototypes, from registering them to getting them manufactured.

Before you can get off the ground, most companies need some initial investment from venture capitalists. While they might grill you with questions, if you’re not prepared to answer everything about your prototypes, you probably skipped a few steps. Coming up with the perfect product prototypes takes time and will entail some failure but if it’s manufactured well, you should find investors easily.

Here are the 5 most important things to ask yourself when you’re product prototyping.

1. Research, Research, and More Research

Whether you’re launching a digital or a physical product, you’re going to need to do a lot of research before you begin. No matter how much you know about your industry, you can’t know everything your competitors have tried before they landed on their own products. Research can help you save time and money every step of the way.

Research at the beginning of your process will keep you from making a redundant product or one that the market has seen fail before. When you’re in the development process, you might have unreasonable expectations for what is possible. If you can eliminate some ideas at the beginning, you can focus on what will make your product succeed.

Research can also help you with the marketing process for products like yours. Even if your product seems unique, marketing for products very different from yours can offer you something interesting. While times may have changed since a product like yours hit the market in previous years, there will be something to learn from even a failed product.

While you’re doing research, also keep an eye on what’s happening in your industry. If someone is doing what you want to do better than you could do it, it’s better to know now before you invest too much in building your prototype.

2. Get Interns Whenever Possible

Interns can help to save you time and money. If you’ve already established a strong brand or business model, bringing on people who are in the process of learning can bring new perspectives. You can also save money on staffing for your initial research period.

Offering an internship can give young professionals much-needed experience in your industry. If they’ve got talent but no portfolio to show potential employers, working with you can help build the foundation for their career. They have lots of ideas and energy that can help buoy you through the difficult periods of product development.

When you’re working on product prototypes, you might need something whipped up to see if it’ll even be able to get off the ground. While you’re busy searching for funding, staff, or hunting down some research, they can take care of simple or repetitive tasks. No business can survive on the back of one person alone, so having even a few hours of help a week can take some important tasks off your plate.

3. Pay Professionals to Work Out The Kinks

After you’ve done your most important research and while your interns are still toiling away, get some professionals on your team. While you may not be able to add them on your staff full time, many professionals are willing to do short-term consulting gigs

Once your interns have put together a reasonable prototype or the beginnings of one, professionals can look for flaws and give you good advice. If you’re working on a highly technical problem and only building digital prototypes for a physical product, professionals can help you get to the next step.

Once you have a digital prototype, you’ll probably have to build something physical, if that’s your end goal. Your physical prototype will have to be manufactured by a company that knows the needs of your industry.

If you cut corners on the prototyping process, you do your product an injustice. First, you’ll be unable to accurately estimate the production costs, which are important to any potential investor.

Second, you’ll be offering a subpar version of your great idea, leaving buyers guessing what your product could be if it were made at a higher cost.

Click this link to learn more about building physical prototypes.

4. Leave Room For Adequate Testing

Testing is the most important part of your prototyping process. While you ultimately need product users to give you valuable feedback, you should do some work in advance to keep yourself from being blindsided. Giving your customers a product, even for free, that fails to perform basic functions is more damaging than releasing a copycat of an existing product.

Testing takes time. Sometimes it takes hours for a software product to begin to show major issues. Sometimes you need to leave a motorized prototype idling for a while to see what’s wrong with it.

You may never be able to predict everything that could go wrong with your product but giving your clients the best product you can be your goal.

5. Decide Your MVP

You might find that in order to start the testing process, you don’t have as much time for the initial prototyping. That’s when you start asking what your MVP is. Your minimum viable product is the version fo your product, with the lowest amount of feature, that’s still saleable.

If you’re building a prototype for a car, you need to it turn on, go, and stop. If you’re building a flashlight app, you need it to open, turn on the light, turn it off, and close. You probably have grandiose ideas for what your product= should do but your minimum viable product is what it needs to do to even be called a product.

Product Prototypes Should Be Ready For Market

Planning and manufacturing product prototypes that are ready for sale takes some trial and error, no matter how well you plan. Expect to hit some bumps and be thankful when you don’t. As long as you keep focused on your goals, you’ll be able to succeed in even the most competitive market.

If this product is the cornerstone of a new business, check out our guide to keep from making the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make.