GUEST BLOG: How to get your products to market - fast

There are a number of ways to get your products to market quickly - and easily. But before you read on, remember this piece of advice: don't beat yourself up too much. These things always seem to take longer than you'd like or expect.

Whilst you'll want to be nimbler than them, bigger consumer businesses have five-year timetables for new launches. And in most cases (unless it is Olympic merchandising) it's better to get it right than get it out quickly.

As you are all in different sectors, I'll try to cover as many bases I can.

1. Off the shelf. With added you.
In FMCG where design and manufacture of packaging is a potential delay, wherever you can, use standard packaging. You can still make it your own by adding your own "signature". Many new spirits brands that want to get to market quickly and cost effectively will use an industry-standard "tall round" 70cl bottle. And then add an interesting label. It's the same with wine of course. At Leon we sourced existing brown boxes and added the LEON stickers to give it our personality.

2. Think across categories
Using standard packaging will help but if you really want to be different within your category, consider using packaging that is standard in other categories but not in yours. For example I am in the middle of a (lengthy) process of launching a haircare range and I rather fancy bottling it in smoothie bottles.

3. Fast vans vs slowboats
The flipside of cost advantages of the Far East is slower launch times. Choosing to source at least initially in UK can avoid your dreams being lost on the slow boat from China.

4. Predict the biggies
Think about and act on the long-lead items early on.

With many products including packaged foods and beauty care you'll need to do microbe and stability testing to ensure your food will stay 'fresh' and your face cream not separate or decompose after a few months. With shampoos for example you'll need to have your packaging locked away for six months before you can be sure it doesn't degrade. The sooner you can do that the better. Or up front choose a product and packaging combination that has already been proven to be stable

5. Bypass the shops
Many big retailers will have long buying and launch cycles. "You've missed February so the next time you can launch is October" is a common message. Do whatever you can to not be reliant on them and to get out there ahead of time. Launch a simple ecommerce web site, meet the big landlords to get a pop up shop that isn't currently being used,  or get a market stall, do mail order, start direct selling a la Avon. Anything to not be dependent on that one buyer.

6. Start with Independents
If you still want to launch in shops, go independent. Smaller stores have shorter lead-times and are more flexible, mostly, in their ranging.

7. Less is more
Choose a category with low minumum order quantities, good working capital profile and minimum external fundraising requirement. The bigger the minimum order quantity, the more you will probably have to tie up cash, and the more effort and delay there will be in raising the capital externally.

8. Eat well
Then you'll live longer and it won't matter that it took a while to get launched. By the time you do launch your biological age may even have lowered.

I hope that we get some good input from other Smarta readers on this - but this is my ten cents.

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