I’ve been involved directly with the development of products for nearly my entire career. I always knew that this is what I’ve wanted to do. It takes a team, a lot of patience and understanding to build great products. It never gets easy no matter what you build, and how simple or complex it could be. Even the simplest products are very challenging to build. But what really makes products so hard to build? Everything.
Let’s simplify the understanding of what questions need to be answered before, during and after your product’s life cycle. We’ll start with a simple product that everyone has probably used and consumed in their life time. The bottled water. Disclaimer: I have never sold nor produced bottle water before. But here are the things I would think about if I did.
What goes into a bottled water anyways? It’s just a plastic bottle, with a clear fluid inside and label, right? Yup, that’s basically it. But there’s a lot that goes into it. First of all, you’re going to need to determine who’s going to be your target market, and why? Why would they buy your brand over other brands? Once you figure that you, figure out where this target market is located. Will you go domestic? International? Let’s try domestically. How much will you sell it for? Ok, let’s settle on $1.00 MSRP. Sounds reasonable, and probably priced higher that some lower tier brands vs the upper tier brands.
Great, now you’ve got a sense of where, and who you want to sell to. Let’s look for the water. Are you going to the faucet and turning on the tap, then running it through your Brita? That could work, but you’re going to need to do that on a larger scale. But what’s setting you apart? Taste? Maybe you need to get your water directly from the source? Well, I think water should taste great, and probably come from the source. I’ll be on the hunt for that 3rd party supplier of fresh water from snow run offs or something.
Price, target, and supplier found. So, just bottle it up and sell it door to door? No, you forgot the bottle. What kind of bottle do you want? Clear? Blue? Green? Purple? What color is the twist top? Or should it even be a twist top? I think the sports flip top in a 2 mil blue bottle will work? Whao, $0.10 a bottle? That’s eating into my margins. I want this water to be focused on taste, so we’ll use a cheaper 1 mil thick clear bottle with a 3/4 turn twist top. The marketing team will have a simple sticker that goes on the bottle with our logo on it. What about this sticker though? What’s the catch? Well, I expect my water to sit in tubs of ice at parties, so it will need to stay on the bottle even when it’s soaked. I want people to know what they are drinking.
Ok, it’s time to press start on the manufacturing. Who’s going to do it? I don’t think I have the budget to build a brand new plant, so I’ll use a bottling company to do this. One would think your ‘operations’ guy will take care of this, but ultimately, it’s still your product, and this also cuts into the margins. In fact, depending on who’s bottling, it can affect everything mentioned above from where the bottles come from and how far the water needs to travel to the plant.
Time to distribute. I think I’ll go to a 3rd party distributor to sell my water. But it’s not easy to get in the door. Why do they want yours to sell to the retailers? What’s the point of having yet another brand water on their customer’s shelves? What happens when no one buys your brand? Is there a stock rotation clause in the contract? How much does it cost to ship your bottle? We picked a flimsy bottle, so we needed thicker cartons for shipping, does it weight too much and/or take up too much room?
You see, something simple might not really be simple to build. It takes time and lots of patience to get it right, and when you think you have it right, you’re going to be proven wrong. But what you learn from it, you’ll ultimately use to your advantage to get ahead of the rest. Or would you?