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How to develop a new product around an unknown concept

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You can have the best product in the world but if your customers don't understand what it is or why they need it, you'll struggle to get off the ground. Developing a product around an unknown concept is a long-term process that needs to be approached in a very specific way.

Get it wrong, and you'll fall at the first hurdle. Get it right, and you'll have a truly innovative product that wows customers and provides an excellent return on investment. By focusing heavily on education before pushing for sales, you give your product the best chance of success.

Decide How to Define Your Product

When working with an unknown concept, you're faced with many options when it comes to defining your product. The terms you choose to describe what you've created will have a massive impact on the kind of customer you attract, so this is a crucial part of the process.

To avoid attracting customers who are stuck in their ways, steer away from defining your product using traditional terms. It's tempting to try and mold your product to fit into a pre-existing box, but this is a bad move. It risks diluting what makes your product unique and can confuse customers.

Focus Advertising on The Problem You're Solving

It's really hard to advertise a product that's based on a totally new concept -- so don't. Instead, focus your advertising on the problem that your product sets out to solve. This will be easily understood by potential customers and should pique their interest enough that they'll want to learn more. Don't try to force comparisons with other products if they don't make sense as this will only create false expectations.

At a basic level, people spend money to combat pain. Show that your product addresses a customer pain point and the fact that the concept is unfamiliar won't matter. Once you've got people interested, you can move onto the next stage: education.

Work on Education Before Sales

When your concept is still new, it makes sense to focus on educating customers before pushing them to buy. This could mean offering a free trial with full support, giving one-on-one demonstrations, creating explainer videos, or offering online resources. Customer education increases confidence in your product, which in turn boosts loyalty. While it might sound counter-intuitive, allocating more resources to education than sales will increase your profits in the long run.

Don't Convert Customers Too Quickly

Rushing to convert customers is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when your concept is still relatively unheard of. You'll need to focus on education for much longer than you would with a typical product, potentially having many interactions with customers before actually selling them anything.

Selling customers a product they don't know how to use will be more trouble than it's worth in the long run. Invest in education and relationship-building now and the profits will come later. It's better to offer a trial that becomes invaluable to customers than to push them into buying something they'll quickly give up on.

It's important to have confidence in your product at this stage. Remember that once customers understand what you're offering, they'll want it. By taking it slowly, you'll avoid most of the issues caused by lack of product knowledge.

Be Transparent as You Grow and Develop

Working around an unknown concept means that things can change dramatically during the development process. You might alter the direction of the product, add or remove major features, or change your target market.

This is okay, as long as you commit to being open and honest with customers throughout the process. The kind of people who are interested in your innovative product will probably be pretty open-minded, so changes shouldn't phase them -- as long as they aren't shrouded in secrecy. Research shows that 94% of consumers are more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers transparency, and 73% are willing to pay more for a fully-transparent product.

Stay True to Your Mission

No matter where you are in the development process, staying true to your mission is key. It's too easy to try and alter your product to fit into existing boxes and stifle true innovation.

Creating a product around an unknown concept isn't as fast or as straightforward as moving into an existing space. However, it can be much more rewarding long-term. Be clear on what you're aiming to do from the start and don't budge -- this will make it easier to tackle big decisions later on. It's okay for things to change, but don't allow your mission to be altered beyond recognition.

As well as appealing to customers, building a mission-driven brand makes employees more likely to stay loyal and perform well. Having highly-engaged employees is really valuable and sets you up for long-term success.

Developing a product around an unknown concept comes with many unique challenges. Focus on defining your product accurately, educating potential customers, and being fully transparent, and you're on the right track. If you stay to true to your mission and avoid the common pitfalls mentioned above, you'll have a high chance of succeeding.