Gaining Trend of Outsourced Product Development

The stiff business environment expects companies to expand their market share by offering new web products to the targeted market. In order to expand the market, the businesses are making the best use of advanced technology to develop web solutions that can engage maximum visitors towards their business.

Most of the businesses plan out similar strategies but unfortunately only few of them succeed in capturing a wider market. The reason may be shorter product lifecycles, better and advanced use of technology, the right skills to accomplish the work and necessary infrastructure to complete the solution.

While every company aims to enhance their potential without increasing their spending limit, the trend to outsource product development has become very popular. It not only helps in saving money but also helps to collaborate with global talent and advanced technologies. The faster means of communication is also successful in bridging the gap due to time difference between two countries. Such outsourced product development companies are aware of the importance of reducing time to market so that the product can be launched exactly the time when there is a huge demand for it and then capture a wider market so as to sustain the position in the industry.

When businesses outsource their development requirements, they get the following advantages without hiring additional man-power or setting up the department:

1. Makes the development process cost-efficient

2. Reduce level of risks after launching it in the market

3. Provides access to advanced technology

4. Highly skilled web developers

When such tedious development processes is taken care of by experts, the business owner can concentrate more on core business areas. Those businesses that have set-up the entire development department but still have failed to achieve the desired results can understand the importance of outsourcing better. However, if you are new in this field, it is not recommended to experience the same when you already have a better option in your hand.

Look for the outsourced development firm that has experience, capability and expertise to accomplish the tasks as per your expectations. Most of the companies will look like same but reviewing their previous work and direct interaction with developers will help you gain more clarity about the company you will be working with. So, don’t hesitate in short listing down the options and then talk one-by-one to compare the development firms and make the best deal for your business.

The Frugal Startup – How I Minimized My Company’s Site Launch Costs

My husband often chides me about my frugality, but I know deep down he is grateful that I am so darn cost conscious. Of course, when I was preparing to launch my new company, an ecommerce site selling contemporary furniture, I applied my usual laser-like cost cutting measures to every step. I’m passing these on in hopes that you’ll be able to utilize them to keep your start-up costs to a minimum. In addition to those I’m listing, I hope that you’ll share your tips and cost-saving techniques as well.

Getting Going

I started my online furniture company with a basic hosting package and a template. I took advantage of a special offered by my hosting company that waived both the set up fees and the first month’s fees for my e-commerce hosting package and my merchant services (to process credit card payments). I customized the template as much as possible given my non-tech background and created a logo using basic software I already had (Paint and Word).

After uploading and entering the detail for my various products, it was clear that the cookie cutter template did not reflect the level of design and quality of the furniture I was carrying. I simply couldn’t expect someone to visit my site and feel confident enough to invest in a piece of furniture or even trust me with their credit card information. Ultimately, I knew I wanted a site that reflected my style and that I was proud of. Using the following tools, I have been able to keep my costs low while taking my site to the next level.

Tools for Moving Forward

1. Craigslist.com. An unintimidating way to find local service providers of any kind. However, you can expect to get responses from across the board in terms of professional level and pricing which can be overwhelming. You can overcome this by asking plenty of questions. It also helps to have a very clear idea of what you want in mind and to know the basic technical jargon to communicate this. I recently found a very helpful Adobe Flash tutor by placing an ad on Craigslist.

2. Elance.com. Post your design or web development project on this site and you will receive proposals from interested and experienced professionals around the globe. You can view portfolios and read reviews to thoroughly compare vendors before moving forward. As added security for both parties, funds are held in escrow by Elance and released at the completion of each phase. The vendor I ultimately chose was willing to do a quick mock-up of my site prior to officially getting started. There are several other companies similar to Elance that you can look into as well, like odesk.com and guru.com. Note: my logo redesign was included in the scope of work by my Elance vendor. Since I could describe exactly what I wanted, I was able to avoid commissioning a graphic designer at that point.

3. Network and use social media. Friends and associates are a great source for recommendations. Also, utilize the power of social media, such as Twitter.com and LinkedIn.com, to get recommendations from a broad scope of knowledgeable folks.

4. Now that I’m considering revising my logo into its next iteration, I’m considering using sources that poll the creativity of a broad range of designers, such as 99designs.com. Similar to Elance.com, you simply register your design need on their site along with the amount you wish to pay, and interested designers submit options for you to choose from.

5. I keep my inventory level at an absolute minimum by taking advantage of manufacturers that are willing to ship directly (drop ship) to customers. I don’t personally work with them, but Doba is a source of products for drop shipping. For manufacturers that do not drop ship, I contract with a warehouse to receive and store these products and fulfill my orders. Because many of these warehouses are tailored to working with large retailers or those that are moving lots of smaller goods such as electronics and books, if you are starting out on a smaller scale it is a bit trickier to find a good partner. However, several that I found were happy to work with small firms such as myself. Be sure to ask for a full overview of their services and charges as they can vary significantly. Because of an imposed minimum quantity per SKU (the nature of my product requires that I am able to ship and store individual units), I switched from Shipwire.com to a company that is able to ship any product and quantity needed, WeFulfillIt.com. (I’ve got to say that WeFulfillIt.com is simply outstanding in terms of customer service as well.) Ideally, any company you choose will be able to guide you in how to ship your items in the most logical, cost efficient way and pass on their special shipping rates.

Of course, cost is only one of a variety of factors you will need to consider. The real focus should be on quality. Investing time into finding the right options for your company upfront will give you a solid foundation on which to build your business.

I’ll discuss some social media and marketing ideas in a follow-up article. Until then, do you have any cost-cutting suggestions or tools that you used for starting your business?

Product Marketing – Summarized Concepts Describing the Roles of the Product Marketer

Peter Drucker, author of Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, stated that “the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself”. IT marketing agencies, whether as a department within a larger company or a private company altogether, have a responsibility to promote products specifically related to the IT industry. It has been proven time and time again that market-driven technology companies are more profitable than those not driven by the market. In these types of organizations, marketing managers are the center pieces that connect the programming or development teams, advertising teams, and sales teams. Managers in IT marketing agencies accomplish this by identifying and quantifying market needs, and then they rely on the product development team to find a solution for that need. The advertising team communicates the newly discovered solution through promotion, and the sales representatives assist the customers through the purchasing process. The position of the marketing manager is critical in the product development or re-launch cycle and involves an intricate system of research, analysis, strategizing, planning, and execution.

The first step for the marketing manager in IT marketing agencies in the product development cycle is to perform an extensive market analysis, both in quantitative and qualitative formats. Research should focus on the competition, the market, the specific product, and the customers. The marketing manager must fully understand the competition and where each competitor is positioned in the market. With that information, he or she would need to ask whether or not the company can distinguish itself in the market and articulate that distinction clearly to customers. Marketing managers often use a tool called SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. This tool is helpful in determining the company’s and competitors strategic positions in the marketplace. Additionally, this tool will assist the marketing manager in identifying potential unmet needs or problems that customers currently face in the industry. In doing so, the marketing manager could potentially uncover additional products or services the company could offer to position themselves more strategically in the market.

Research conducted by IT marketing agencies should also focus on specifically what customers think about the company’s products. To find this information, companies can conduct qualitative and quantitative market research. Oftentimes, quantitative market research can be done through third party vendors who specialize in collecting and compiling data from the market about a company’s product. Often, quantitative research involves analyzing the performance of the product through predetermined ratios or data (profit, sales in comparison to competition, customer satisfaction surveys, determining percentage of market share, etc.). Qualitative research should be done in-house by IT marketing agencies or departments within a company and typically involves asking open-ended questions about the industry, product, company, and competitors to gather more information about the product line and its position. For example, the customer could be asked which company they look to in identifying market trends or why they chose to purchase a certain product.

Once the analysis of the product, market, competition, and company is complete, a strategy for the product should be formulated by the managers in IT marketing agencies using the data collected. The goal should be to find the type of solution that requires the least amount of investment in technology but has the greatest positive impact on fulfilling the customer’s needs. Whether a product is new or existing, certain decisions will have to be made in this step using the information compiled in the research phase. It is at this point that pricing decisions are typically made and managers determine what pricing would be effective based on the target market position and competitive analysis. The development, marketing, and sales teams must fully understand the price and how it was calculated. They must also understand the inherent value of the product and why customers should be willing to pay the decided-upon price. A report should be compiled by IT marketing agencies that articulates clearly the lessons learned from the data collected and the target goals for market position, revenue, and market share. The risk of the investment or product modifications should be clearly defined as well, with targets for potential gains and potential losses based on price point and sales forecasts. Additionally, the decisions made in the strategic write-up should include statements about how the company will produce the new or re-launched product and the benefits/drawbacks of those choices. Buying a simple technology versus partnering with an outside company to build the product, for example, will have large impacts on the future decisions of the company and its strategic position. In making these decisions, core competencies should be considered along with strategic position and cost of investment.

After the overarching strategy is defined clearly and understood by the entire product development team, a firm plan for execution should be developed. This plan should clearly describe what problems the product will solve, what the position of the product is in the market, what the value of the solution is, and what makes the product unique. Next, a sales process should be defined that will fit with the product type market position, and customer expectations. Marketing plans should be developed and should define how the company is going to reach potential customers. Existing customers, potential customers, and competitors’ customers should all be considered when creating a marketing plan. Marketing managers in IT marketing agencies should also consider the marketing mediums through which information will be passed and which will have the highest impact on sales. Additionally, marketing managers should include in this plan a process for customer retention and ensuring customer satisfaction. This is especially true if the product relies on recurring revenue or product upgrades/add-ons. A specific “launch” plan should be laid out that defines how the product will be revealed to the public and how the product will be launched within the organization. Included in the launch should be definitions of who the stages of customers will be. Who are the “early adopters” in the market, and how can we tell them about our product? How can we provide a platform for the early adopters to promote our product once they have used it? Finally, product marketing managers in IT marketing agencies should partner closely with technical managers to make sure that staff is well-versed in the market research. It is important that the technical sales force understand the technical background of the product and also the market data compiled. In being trained on this information, the technical staff will be better equipped to describe the product benefits as perceived by the market. Since the relationship between the product marketing manager and technical managers should be strong and effective, the marketing manager should have a clear technical background. He or she should be able to follow the technical manager when conversing about the details of the product development process and should be able to understand and describe technical concepts.

As described in the processes above, the position of the marketing managers in IT marketing agencies are extremely critical to the product launch and development phase, as well as to the maintenance of existing products. These concepts are critical to the success of any company’s product lines. It would be foolish to suggest a specific marketing strategy or claim a complete overhaul is necessary while ignoring all the research that has been completed up to this point. Rather, it would be wise to review this research extensively and speak to some of the current or previous customers to gain a better understanding of what needs to be accomplished or changed. It is not necessary to become an absolute technical expert on the product. Rely on the company’s technical experts for this information. However, in a position like this, the product marketing manager would be required to be a market expert. One could accomplish this by following the above outlined processes.