How do you find the next great product?

All products have a natural life cycle. Some productsare essential and will last a long time in some form, while others will fall by the wayside. If your product is great, the marketplace will pay attention, so you need to pay attention too. You have to constantly nurture a product if you want it to last.

Great new products come from a variety of sources. The most obvious is figuring out what a large group of people need that they don’t already have. Some new products are developed as a solution to a problem. But in my experience, most new products are found around the ‘edges’ where you least expect to find them.

One of the case studies I analyzed at Harvard was the Saturday Evening Post. In the 1920s, their parent company could have bought what became a major television network for a very small sum. But they couldn’t see the value. Thirty years later television networks were huge, and the Saturday Evening Post was going out of business. Even though magazines as a product group were still thriving, the brands that dealt with general life all but disappeared.

Most business don’t think much about how long their products are going to last. But if you are diligent about examining both your product and its environment, you should be able to judge its life cycle. But before you go out and look for an entirely new product, always explore the opportunities to take an existing product and turn it into something new.

–Barney Cohen

President, Business 360 Northwest

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