Top 9 Research & Development Strategies For Startups & Small Businesses
It’s no secret that creating and maintaining a startup and small business is an extremely tough task. And even if you’re part of the rare few that are successful, you’ll always have other startups & emerging technologies trying to disrupt you. To stay ahead of the curve and survive in a competitive landscape, your business is going to
need to constantly innovate and adopt industry trends quickly. One of the best ways to do this is through strong research and development, something that can keep your products and services fresh and innovative. Although you may fear that your small business doesn’t have the budget to sustain a strong research and development program and cultivate innovation, there are strategies that you can still employ. So how can you implement effective research and development in your small business? Let’s take a look.
1. Define a Problem
The first step should be to define a problem or need in the marketplace that you’re aiming to target. There may be something in your industry that you feel can be capitalized on or something that already exists that you can improve upon. Before you even have an idea for a product or service to develop, you need to have a problem or need for your new development to solve. Many people attempt to start with their actual product idea, rather than with defining a problem. However, starting the process by defining a particular problem or need that you want to solve can ensure that the product you develop actually serves its purpose.
2. Conduct Market Research
Once you’ve identified the problem that you’d like your developed product to solve, it’s time to delve into some market research. Market intelligence and knowledge are extremely important, as you need to know what your consumer base is thinking. You may think that the problem or need that you identified in step one is an extremely important one, but market research might show that your industry doesn’t possess the same sentiments. Before you can get deep into the research and development process, you need to conduct market research on your target market and industry to gather as much information as possible.
You can use public market research tools to investigate companies & technologies in your innovation’s market. For example, Cypris helps innovators visualize their technologies market through unique market landscape reports.
3. Brainstorm Solutions
Once you’ve conducted the necessary amount of market research to determine that the problem you identified is a valid one, you should start brainstorming solutions. It is here where you begin the process of developing your product. Most people make the critical mistake of starting at this step, skipping all of the prior steps that lead to this one. Although it certainly is possible to develop a product without having a particular need or market in mind, it does make the process extremely difficult. Having a problem already identified makes the development process that much easier. For example, Uber was founded to reduce the cost of direct transportation and provide an alternative to expensive taxi rides. In this scenario, a need was identified and research was conducted, steps that made brainstorming the final solution a much easier process.
4. Check Patents
Although you may be sold on a particular product idea, before you begin development you need to conduct a patent search. Checking for other patents is a relatively simple process, but can save you some major headaches down the line. You don’t want to dedicate resources to developing a product only to find out that a similar product already exists. Intellectual property intelligence is extremely important to the research and development process, as it will help you confirm that your idea has never been done before. Besides, researching some other patents may provide you with ideas and inspiration on how to tackle the research and development of your own product, something that may be a huge help.
5. File for Patents
If you’re an inventor, then you’re already familiar with the importance of using a patent application to file for a patent. A patent is an exclusive right to make and sell a product, something that can be a huge advantage to your company. If you come up with an amazing product, you’re going to want to protect it with a patent. Without one, another company with more resources and capital may be able to come along and outproduce your new product. Protecting your product is extremely important as it allows you to reap the benefits of the exclusive rights to make the product.
To ensure that your patent is properly protected, you may want to hire a patent attorney. A patent attorney can help you write your patent application, ensuring that all of the necessary technical terms are covered. If you file for a patent without a patent attorney, then you run the risk of leaving something out and opening your product up to potential copying. Regardless of whether you choose to file solo or with an attorney, patents are critical in protecting your intellectual property. They can also open up new opportunities for you down the road. For example, you may be able to engage in patent licensing, the act of selling your patent to a third party. If your product becomes a big hit, patent licensing can be a way to earn the capital needed to get your business off the ground.
6. Consider Types of Patents
When filing for a patent, it might be a good idea to look into what type of patent is best for your new product. Traditionally, there are two different types; the design patent and the utility patent. A design patent is usually easier to obtain and filed to protect a product’s design. A design patent may cover things such as size, shape, or other physical features. If you’re developing a product that has the same uses as an already existing product, yet has a unique design that distinguishes it, then you can protect it with a design patent. Alternatively, utility patents ensure that a product’s functionality can’t be exactly copied. Filing for a utility patent is usually a much more in-depth and lengthy process, but it can be critical in ensuring that no competitors copy your new product. Utility patents are sometimes referred to as “invention patents”, so if you feel like you’ve researched and developed a new invention that no one has before, then you should cover it with a utility patent. Patents can be complicated and confusing, but you must do the necessary research and work needed to protect your new product.
7. Test Thoroughly
A critical part of the research and development process is thorough testing. You may have a great product that satisfies the intended need, but a product rarely works as intended immediately after development. Most products usually require several prototypes to be fully functional. Thorough testing can help you identify problems and issues that you might have never even foreseen arising, ones that can ruin the success of your product. Although testing may be costly, time-consuming, and delay the release of your product, it ensures that your product works as advertised. Releasing an untested or unproven product into the market is dangerous and could lead to your product flopping at launch.
8. Tie In Marketing
An often overlooked part of research and development is the marketing for the developed product. You could have a game-changing product that satisfies a critical need in your industry, but if you don’t market or advertise your product properly, no one will know that it exists. While researching and developing your product, you must plan a strategy for getting the word out. Who is your target audience? If consisting mainly of older people, you may be better off pursuing marketing efforts in traditional forms of media. However, if your product is looking to serve a younger audience, then you may want to utilize things like social media to boost your marketing campaigns. Research and development is a time consuming and expensive process, so you’ll want to tie in a marketing strategy to ensure that the entire process wasn’t a waste.
9. Conduct a Post-Analysis on Developed Product
Although your product is fully developed and on the market, your job in research and development still isn’t complete. Once your product hits the market, you need to conduct a post-analysis to identify what was either highly successful or needs some tweaking. If you find that your product was able to perfectly satisfy the need it was designed to, then you know the early brainstorming of your research and development process is strong. Alternatively, if your product launched with many faults or failed to generate leads, then you know that you need to alter some things in the testing and marketing portions of the research and development process. A post-analysis is a critical part of your research and development process, as it will help you identify what went right and wrong with your product, and help you in the development of future products. Having a strong research and development process is key in forming a sustainable competitive advantage, so you’ll want to fine-tune your process.