Product planning

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Product Planning is the ongoing process of identifying and articulating market requirements that define a product’s feature set. Product planning serves as the basis for decisions about price, distribution and promotion. Product planning is the process of creating a product idea and following through on it until the product is introduced to the market. Additionally, a small company must have an exit strategy for its product in case the product does not sell. Product planning entails managing the product throughout its life using various marketing strategies, including product extensions or improvements, increased distribution, price changes and promotions.

Phases of product planning[edit]

Developing the product concept[edit]

The first phase of product planning is developing the product concept. Marketing managers usually create ideas for new products by identifying certain problems that consumers faces or various customer needs. For example, if we take a small computer retailer may see the need to create a computer repair division for the products it sells. After the product idea is conceived, managers will start planning the dimensions and features of the product. Some small companies will even develop a product mock-up or model.

Studying the market[edit]

The next step in the product planning process is studying the competition. Most small companies will order secondary research information from vendors such as the NPD Group and Forrester Research. Secondary research usually provides details on key competitors and their market share, which is the percent of total sales that they hold in the marketplace. Some companies may also do a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), according to NetMBA.com, which will help them compare their strengths and weaknesses against those of key competitors. The business can then determine places in which it has an advantage over the competition to identify areas of opportunity. For example, a small company with a high-quality image may be able to find additional markets for its products.

Market research[edit]

A small company should consider doing both qualitative and quantitative marketing research for its new product. Focus groups are an example of qualitative information. Focus groups allow companies to ask their consumers about their likes and dislike of a product in small groups. A focus group allows the company to tweak the product concept before testing it through phone surveys—a more quantitative marketing research function. Phone surveys enables a company to test its product concept on a larger scale, the results of which are more predictable across the general population. Qualitative research is a method of inquiry employed in many different academic disciplines, traditionally in the social sciences, but also in market research and further contexts.[1] Qualitative researchers aim to gather an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern such behavior. The qualitative method investigates the why and how of decision making, not just what, where, when. Hence, smaller but focused samples are more often used than large samples. quantitative research refers to the systematic empirical investigation of social phenomena via statistical, mathematical or numerical data or computational techniques.[1] The objective of quantitative research is to develop and employ mathematical models, theories and/or hypotheses pertaining to phenomena.

Product introduction[edit]

If the survey results prove favorable, the company may decide to sell the new product on a small scale or regional basis. During this time, the company will distribute the products in one or more cities. The company will run advertisements and sales promotions for the product, tracking sales results to determine the products potential success. If sales figures are favorable, the company will then expand distribution even further. Eventually, the company may be able to sell the product on a national basis.

Product life cycle[edit]

Product planning must also include managing the product through various stages of its product life cycle. These stages include the introduction, growth, maturity and decline stages. Sales are usually strong during the growth phase, while competition is low. However, continued success of the product will pique the interest of competitors, which will develop products of their own. The introduction of these competitive products may force a small company to lower its price. This low pricing strategy may help prevent the small company from losing market share. The company may also decide to better differentiate its product to keep its prices steady. For example, a small cell phone company may develop new, useful features on its cell phones that competitors do not have.