Best Practices in Product Development

With 25+ years of experience, having invented numerous products and attained hundreds of patents and trademarks, Arman Rousta of Blueliner highlights some of the best practices in product development and management that his companies have put into practice. Some of the topics covered include how to manage your Intellectual Property (IP), working with industrial engineers, product marketing, various stages of product management, point of sale merchandising, dealing with customer feedback and evaluating competition. A special focus is given to tech-centric products, including apps and ‘hard tech’ or smart products.

The video can be viewed in its entirety below, or accessed through the following, unabridged transcript.

[Note: the transcript was automatically generated through AI. We apologize for any errors or distortions.]

All right, welcome, welcome, everybody. Want to clock sharp. Thursday, September 21st, 2023. This is Arman Rousta from Blueliner. All juiced up for this topic today. Best practices and product development, product marketing, product management. Coming to you live from multiple platforms for the first time. We hope it works well. Whether you’re joining us from Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, or straight up from Zoom or catching this later on recording, we’ll have that available as well. So I’ll give everyone a minute or two to get your sandwich, get your lunch, grab a drink, grab a tea, coffee, and join me for an interesting exploration into a bit of my history–Blueliner’s history–what we’ve done, what I’ve done over these 27 plus years. Man, I can’t believe it’s been that long in this space of basically inventing, creating, conceiving, bringing to market various products.

So I’m gonna jump around quite a bit. Those of you that know me know that’s my style. A couple of different presentations, a couple of shots just kind of talking to you like this. And then walking around our lab, it’s like a museum here of different products that we’ve invented and helped bring to market over time. And just thinking out loud and letting you into my brain as far as what I think about and look for when evaluating new products, new opportunities, and thinking about the challenges and what it’s gonna take and what it’s gonna cost to make it happen, to bring ideas to market and have success. So with that said, let me get back to a presentation here. Again, I’ll jump around a bit.

First, let me talk a little bit about my background, if you wouldn’t mind indulging me for a second here. Let’s share a screen all. So that’s me back in the day, playing soccer and bringing that passion for teamwork, for collaboration. A team is a product, right? When we think about products, let’s go beyond, you know, a product you can hold in your hand. Obviously we’re in an app tech-centric world now. So apps are products, physical products, your service, if you’re a service provider, is a product. You are a product. I am a product. How we present ourselves, our body, how it functions is a product as well. So let’s think about it that way. And you know, I always prescribe, and we’ve written a book about this. We have these the seven pillars and the sports edition and these principles that I’ll bring forward because those principles apply to best practices in marketing, best practices, really in life, and particularly in this case and for today in product development.

So I’ve spent 27 years, my whole career in this space, developing products, bringing them to market. Not to go through the whole history, but we started with an amazing smart car tech product called Park Zone. We kind of invented it by accident because we were working on a bigger product called No Zone, a blind Spot detector. And then we just happened across more of a gadget item, which I’m actually gonna demo. I have one in the office here. And brings back great memories. See, you know, one of my best friends, Charles Almo and I working on this over, over our initial time out of college and brought it to market, sold it to a public company, won a number of awards, and we were definitely way ahead of our time before the term Smart car was even invented.

We were calling it like collision avoidance sensors and automotive electronics. Great space to be in and kind of like cut our teeth as young entrepreneurs, young product developers. And then moving forward years in the agency business, working with other products from pet products to again, actual services to launching hospitals and medical practices and other alternative wellness product lines that’s either sold in stores or had their own shops. What kind of signage, what kind of marketing, what kind of promotions and pricing. You, it’s basically a holistic process, product management, right? You have to think about every aspect and every touch point with your community, with your location, with your potential customer base. All that culminated into, you know, myself and Blueliner being invited to join and be a founding member in in a JustCo, which launched the successful product Adjust Lock, which we’ll get into, which is won many awards and has global distribution, and a, a, a very IP centric strategy, IP standing for intellectual property.

Which, you know, when you have intellectual property, it’s a great competitive advantage to be able to price your product a little bit higher or boast unique features that others can’t necessarily copy directly, but not every product, you know, has that luxury or benefit. And it’s also an expensive strategy to pursue, to protect your ip. And then fast forwarding to 2016, when we really took our agency experience and all of our technology engineering experience, from web development, from like more traditional software development into the app space with a whole line of apps under the B Labs umbrella. And and again, now managing, and I spend half of my day in product meetings, in fact this morning, two hours with the basement sports team, and just going through new features, improving old features, every time you add something new, now it’s a whole new stream to manage.

So this is a bit of a synopsis of, of 27 years. And I, I wanna say, I think this discussion here today and this focus on product marketing, product management, product development, is something we’re gonna keep as a recurring theme. I think one hour here today is not, certainly not gonna be enough time to cover all the topics. So there’s gonna be, again, a lot of jumping around and a lot of like, dipping our toe in different aspects of, of product management. You have my commitment that if not once a month, at least once a quarter, I’ll do a new update and installment particularly on, on this topic. And I want to hear from you all. So if you’re on Facebook and LinkedIn now, or hearing it live or coming in later, please comment, add questions, add topics you’d like to see covered, and I’ll evaluate those.

And or if you have a product and you want to do an audit or an evaluation, maybe I’ll bring some of you all on and we’ll, we’ll look at it live and, and give you kind of a live we’ll have a live interaction. So this is gonna be a a series A collection in terms of this kind of workshop, let’s call it which is what it is. So going forward a little bit, again, a bit about Blueliner, and if you want to actually inquire about services, and I’ll talk about this at the end as well. You could see some of our specialties in terms of prototype development, go to market launch plans, integrations between app and web, which is becoming a big trend. And we’ll talk about other trends as well. Hacks actual hard tech products. Another huge trend.

Some of you were on my talk last week with Shaha salami of, of Sporting Goods, formerly with Nike. He talked a lot about, you know, digital transformation and the fact that every company needs to be thinking about their, their technological and digital transformation and, and realizing that it’s just, it’s a new reality. And that we have to think about the digital and technology touchpoints for any product or service that we have. And that’s something we help our clients with the IP strategy we spoke about. So there’s some contact information at the bottom. You could reach out on our website or through the, the info line [email protected], and we’d love to talk to you if you have an idea that you wanna explore now about some of the things we’ve worked on. Again, award-winning with all of the products, pretty much we’ve had our hands on, have won different kinds of awards and gotten accolades including the adjust lock.

Peter Drucker, one of the modern fathers of, of marketing and management probably in every M B A syllabus talks about how innovation or really product development is really a cornerstone of every business that and marketing, right? So put those things together, and that’s that’s basically the way to win. You know, you have to win and be ahead of the curve in terms of what features and, and value added benefits your product has over others that may be in the market. So we’re gonna sprinkle in some of our principles as we talk through this, as well as case studies like this. I mean, Canon launch this dual fish eye lens product a couple years back, a little less than a couple years for the holiday season. And we were actually on board as a product marketing partner ran a, a very successful campaign.

So this is obviously a whole bunch of product development and product research and knowledge from, you know, Canon’s r and d team. We were no part of that, but to their credit, understanding that VR and ar and these trends for how do you bring media into the new the new era here. And they, they really hit the mark. And of course, there’s competitors in this realm as well, but when you have a brand name like Canon, and you mix that with some cutting edge technology, which people would expect from a brand like Canon, and then you market it well, in terms of the visuals, in terms of how this campaign are, urge you to look this product up and see the visuals, the videos, because it’s a new technology and it’s a lens that goes on top of a certain type of camera line that they have.

So there’s, there’s a bit of learning that comes with anything that’s on the cutting edge of innovation. And that’s one of the, you know, important rules of product marketing and management. There’s that education component to make sure your early adopters are well versed and aren’t frustrated with how to, how to use your new product or technology so they could become your brand advocates. And then the rest of the group that’s been waiting to see what the early adopters say will come on board and follow on, be like the fast followers. So this was a nice case study. We had, you know, health City as well, again, a hospital, a whole product as a whole service practice with 150 doctors. Dr. Shetty, if you’ve heard me speak about him before, his vision for, and the interview with Shamari Scott, who’s chief Business Officer at Health City in the Cayman Islands.

So to take a whole medical concept and say, we need to be closer to the US to provide service, but we can’t be in the us. So when you talk about what, what your market demographic is, but how to access that market with a product, I mean, do, do we really need another hospital? There’s so many already, but the vision for Health City was medical tourism. So it’s a different spin on services that are being performed in the market of the us but it needed to be outside of the US for various legal reasons and pricing. And it’s really a pricing strategy and a quality of service strategy and a bit of a different model. So required many, many years of education in the market, but it needed the right leadership, the right messaging and a really holistic strategy, which is one of the main principles here. You need a kind of a holistic view on your product strategy.

And just some other examples. I won’t, you know, hone in too much on this ’cause I wanna move back to the other presentation. But this is more on the technical side of some of the other products that we’ve worked on and are working on at Blueliner and B Labs. On the more tech side, obviously you have to show your features, right? You know, features is what helps you win. So in this case, it’s basement sports and it’s the streaming, the ability to stream, not just have quick games and quick informal sporting games and contests set up at home in the backyard at a birthday party fun for the whole family, fun for the whole team, group of friends. But the ability to then stream that and cast it to a TV or a screen in the space so kids could see themselves on screen and they get excited.

And then to share that casting in more of a live stream like we’re doing in this video to other friends, other family members on social media, privately in WhatsApp groups, right? So, you know, using common icons, like you see people understand a streaming icon in general and then making sure that the user experience of the application is able to actually make it easy to find those new features. And then to showcase it through a lot of, again, customer education, marketing videos, social media posts, et cetera. And again, a team, a team is a product. Always love to highlight the greats like Jordan, but in this case, right? A quote from, from a great saying that you know, one’s own individual greatness isn’t enough. He could be a key component and feature of the Chicago Bulls, but it’s the teamwork and it’s the way the features work together.

They’re not just, imagine having five great players on a team or on a court, but they’re all individuals. They’re not thinking like a team that’s like having five great features in your product, but they’re disjointed. It’s like, why are these features even together? Should each one be its own app, own product, or do they really flow and complement each other and support each other? So think about it in the analogy that way that teamwork is really like the features and the whole flow of your product line, right? Or your product variations. Maybe it’s different colors or different sizes that need to really flow together and compliment each other well. And yes, an actual sports team beyond the analogy is a product and a coach and a GM has to put a product on the court so that customers will pay either, you know, by their television subscription or go actually go to the arena or stadium and spend their hard-earned money to, to watch that product, right?

To, to consume that product. So, absolutely, you know, every team, every form of entertainment is its own product. And all the details need to be thought out for that product to come together effectively. Another one of our products, which I’ll demo here you know, do we need another food product? And why? You have to answer that question, why is it ’cause that neighborhood needs it? Is it because it’s better ingredients or some new, new food technology or type of concoction, you know, special formula, special recipe. And one has to answer those questions in order to you know, make a case and have a real value proposition for that market. So lemme take a quick breather and break here. Also, welcome anyone who’s joined in late or midstream. We started about 15 minutes ago. We’ll go till the end of the hour.

Again, this will be the first in an ongoing collection and series of talks on product management, product marketing, product development, really innovation and inventions. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole career. Wanna welcome everyone from Facebook, LinkedIn, live, YouTube. Please share it out with others you think may be interested, which would be anyone who’s in the marketing or development or conception of, of products and services. I’m gonna shift over to another presentation here. Stop this, share and share a new screen. So gimme one moment for that all. So let’s, again, best practices. You know, it’s a big, it’s a big word, you know, commonly used term. This is just what I’ve learned and seen, you know, through 27 years of doing this myself for clients with our own products. Tons and tons of mistakes, some pretty good success stories along the way.

And want leave you with some really important takeaways and trends that I see opportunities that are there regardless of whether you’re thinking about everyone has ideas, right? And I talk to people every time you go to a trade show, an event with a booth, with a product, people come up and they’re like, well, I had a similar idea. I had this idea. And it’s, it’s amazing. And I always encourage that. And so hopefully part of the takeaway is what you can do with your idea and just even evaluating whether it’s worth pursuing, which is part of the r and d and the research phase. So before getting into it, just kind of take a moment, you know, maybe get a notepad out and remember, everything’s a product and everyone’s a product manager in some form or another. A farmer, you know, is a product manager managing their crops, managing the food that they produce, that’s their product.

Each of us is managing, again, our own body, our own lives. That’s a product. But think about make a list of 10 products that you interact with most on a day-to-day basis. Obviously, you know, our phones, our mobile devices, your iPhone or your Android phone would be high on the list. So there’ll be some tech products, you know, whether you drink milk every day or have coffee, whether you’re making it or buying it at a local store, those are products. So just make a little list, jot down, you know, 10 or more, you know, products that you interact with often every day, every week, your car, right? The public train system, transit, again, food that you buy what you watch on tv, your, your Disney Plus subscription, right? Your keyboard, your mouse.

And just realize, you know, how many different types of products are in your life. Now, as you start conceiving that and writing your list, whether you can do either on the spot here during the session or afterwards. Then maybe highlight three that are like, very frustrating. What are the three most frustrating products you have in your life? You know, people don’t like, sometimes they’re cable provider or they’re some subscription they have where you can’t get in touch with customer service. Maybe it’s the school, you know, that your kids go to and you’re, you’re, you don’t, you’re not so happy with the product. Maybe you like the school, but you don’t like the teacher they have in a certain class, right? Or it’s, or it’s the coach or from their team, right? All of those are products. So maybe highlight two or three products in your life that you use that you’re not happy with. And and why it’s a good exercise. And this is usually how new products are, are born when people see gaps in markets or problems. And then they say, you know what? I’m frustrated. I can’t get a good sandwich into my neighborhood, so let’s open a sandwich shop, right? For an example.

So yeah, that’s just a bit of a personal and also in your professional life, of course, different products, different softwares using MailChimp for email, whatever it may be. Let all that be part of your list and then circle a few you’re really happy with, a few that you’re not so happy with and why. And that’s really part of this process. And if you’re part of a product team already with whatever your own products or company services are, think about making that list of what are the products that your company offers? And try to give an objective evaluation, right? ’cause That’s what I would do if you came to me and said, we need to improve, or why aren’t we getting the customers we want? The first thing we do is an audit, right? And we wanna see how effective our current products are, and then how can we make them better?

So with that said before getting into some of the other, ’cause a lot of the rest of the presentation is just kind of the steps and stages of, of product marketing, product management, really more the management side. We don’t go too deep into the marketing, but here’s some trends and opportunities that I see right now. You know, not just sustainability, but I just kind of made up this term today, to be honest, mutual sustainability. And what I mean by that, and I listed GrubHub and Amazon as two examples. And this isn’t to be negative ’cause these are services that all of us use. I, I use every day. I just, instead of going across the street to grab the coffee, I ordered it own GrubHub because it would help it be ready for pickup and save me a few minutes.

So that’s why I like using GrubHub or Seamless or whatever you use for, for your food ordering, especially in a walkable city like this, like Jersey City. Here’s the problem though, right? And what I mean about mutual sustainability for the customer, for me, it’s great because they’ve got my credit card and payment and I can order from Hidden Grounds Coffee, which is my favorite spot or any other it’s got all my information saved, it even knows my best orders. So it’s really helping load my cart for a quick reorder. The coffee shop doesn’t love it though, right? Because they’ve gotta pay 30% to GrubHub. So they’re always trying to promote their, hey, download our app, right? But do you really want 60 apps on your phone, one for each different restaurant? I mean, it becomes cumbersome, right? So it’s different products like my cell phone, which doesn’t have enough space, right?

To store 60 new apps. So I like the one as a customer, I like the one, but I have to realize and respect that. And this is what I mean about mutual sustainability. How do we find a win-win solution? How do I make sure that coffee shop doesn’t go out of business? Because they’ve gotta pay all their margin margin to a big tech company, GrubHub, which I, I enjoy. So a lot of times, I, I find, and this is a big trend and something to think about as a consumer, a lot of things we enjoy, like, like Amazon Prime is another example. We all love prime. None of us love like to pay for shipping. So we take advantage of Prime, right? We pay Amazon extra money for a Prime membership so we can get, quote unquote free shipping as a customer. How did the business owners that have to manufacture those products feel about it?

I can tell you because we’re one as basement sports, and it was a terrible experience having to deliver product to customers all around the country for free and not get paid for it. ’cause Guess who pays for it? You have to pay for it. So we were selling a $50 product in a starter kit, and it was a big box, and it cost us a minimum of $15 to ship it, which means we’re making 35, and then all the other cuts that Amazon takes. So it’s kind of Amazon’s way of, you know, trying to offer a great service to the customer, but it’s at the expense of the small businesses and the smaller business owners. So there’s a, it’s a challenging trend, right? It’s like big companies that have pockets and pockets of cash can do these things and free shipping and, and kind of make all these bold offers.

And at the end of the day, the company’s paying for it. So the solution’s not really ready made, but I think it, it, it’s an opportunity, it’s an opportunity for new providers to come up that maybe take less of a cut. I mean, there’s, there’s some margins and pricing analysis there, but how do we support local businesses and make sure we understand you know what, maybe I should walk across the street and just buy it on site, keeps more money in their pocket, and maybe it’s a little less convenient for me. So it’s a bit of a balancing act between what’s convenient for, for the end user what’s sustainable for the small businesses and the businesses that you’re buying from, and then these intermediaries, let’s call them like GrubHub, Amazon, et cetera. So this is a big trend and opportunity for whoever can solve those pain points and make sure it’s kind of win-win.

Everyone can make money. And also as we know the price of everything’s going up with inflation, how do we manage that? That’s, that’s a really collective, mutual problem to solve. Not just something that one co group’s gonna solve, right? So being a good, again, team player with your whole environment, your whole community, I, I see that as a huge trend opportunity, ecosystem development and transparency. So everyone knows the margins and can kind of share equally, it’s a deeper topic for another time. But going forward, obviously AI lowering the cost and speed of product development cycles it, it doesn’t matter what kind of product you’re working on, but if it’s a physical and a visual product, it’s unbelievable what you can do nowadays. And I’m gonna give a quick demo here in a second. Using some AI tools to help come up with concepts, designs, design ideas, whether it’s fashion or furniture or whatever it may be, some tech product whether it’s an onscreen product or an app these AI tools are becoming more and more savvy at being able to just, it’s just like part of the brainstorming team.

And you know what, with that said, let me actually just show you, actually, let me go through this list and I wanna come back to this and actually demo something there, right here on this point, right? So now again, developing an M V P and iterating obviously that’s just a good best practice. You know, you save money by doing a minimum viable product and then get feedback and then iterate from there. That’s just not even just a trend, that’s just an ongoing recommendation and best practice. I want to illustrate another client we’ve worked closely with and talk about elite customer service. Because again, sometimes it’s a good product, but you can’t get someone on the phone, you don’t get a response to customer service. It’s so basic. But it’s hard because you have to be profitable as well and make sure that there’s good customer knowledge, good knowledge, product knowledge for the people providing customer service, right?

And then this part, values-based marketing and partnerships. This gets more into the marketing side, but it’s a huge trend, right? Look, look at what, again, messy is doing, and of course that’s messy, but we can talk about different influencers and different people not just in athletics, but in all walks of, of life that are part of the product, the players, but, but who able to take a percentage of ownership and really align their interests and values with again, the television rights, the different contracts. They have a percentage of ownership in the team so that they can fully represent that organization. In Messi’s case, it’s, it’s inter Miami, as well as all of the M l Ss. And basically raise the bar in the valuation of that whole industry soccer in the whole country here in the us as a result of the way that product, if the product is soccer, and then the product is the m l s league and the product is inter Miami, right?

And then the product at a micro level is messy, the player and creating alignment and synergies across that whole spectrum for us soccer, it’s like the perfect alignment and win-win, again, similar to the mutual sustainability. So yes, you know, values-based marketing, not just someone doing a quick endorsement for a few bucks, right? And, and customers could really tell when there’s a deep alignment, someone that really believes in that product and can represent it very well. There’s no better marketing than that. So with this kind of trend analysis, and there’s just basic, we can go over there, probably 10 more trends we can talk about. But again, for the interest of time let’s, I want to dive in deeper into this customer service and this ai. Let me go ahead with a new share here into a screen, okay? One moment.

Okay, so here we go. Pretty cool. AI tool called Dream Studio. And what it does is based on your prompt again, you’re a product developer, someone’s coming to you with an idea or you’re, you, you have an idea in your mind. In this case, I just put in here, you know, modern furniture, metallic, iconic, just I’m not a furniture designer, but okay. And I got four images, right? And then you can click into each and then refine it and look at other, develop other iterations. Let’s go ahead and click here and see what came up.

Okay? If I want, I can go into this tool and set this now as the main image. ’cause This is the color I like. And then create other branches and other variations, right? And again, based on this prompt, these four keywords, probably someone who’s in furniture design would be able to come up with some better terms here. So let’s try something else just to show you a live demo. If anyone wants to prompt anything, you know, please, please do put it in one of the chats. And whether you’re on Facebook or YouTube, LinkedIn or, or Zoom directly. But let me, I’m just kind of thinking on the fly here.

All right, let’s see. Let’s try by the way, I’m gonna focus on physical, you know, hard products here, but the same types of tools can help even design screens for an app or an online, you know, kind of software screen oriented product. Let’s let’s be creative here. Let’s imagine we were in like aeronautics or something. Let’s, let’s design something like, let’s have an airplane. I always like terms like modern, modern lighting. Well, lemme see, tech airplane. What else? What else? We could use colors, we could use other descriptors. Hmm, descriptors. It’s a little vague. One other descriptor. Let’s just go with that for now. A modern tech, super speed, multilevel, that might not be a good word. Let’s just do this airplane. I just did this one earlier and got the got the modern furniture, so we’ll, we’ll leave it there.

You know, for that example, let me shift over to the second demo I wanted to give on, on Jack George’s an elite customer service. And at Jack George’s, which is, you know, a 30 year plus old wonderful, wonderful product developer, handmade Italian leather bags, both for men and women they have an amazing policy of a lifetime guarantee and warranty on your item. Very rare, very rare offering. A lot of their competitors don’t do that. And they even give you instructions how to pack your bag and send it back. And if you check their reviews across the board on various websites on their, not just their own, even on Reddit, you’ll see people talking about how amazing and high quality the bags are, right? So they don’t get damaged or, or harmed, you know, too easily. But if they, if they are, you know, in wear and tear over time, these bags last a long time.

You send it back and they will without charge repair it for you, which again, is just a high level of customer service. And then they showcase it on their website. So it’s not like a difficult thing to get to if, if you need that attention. And to me, that’s, that’s, we don’t see a lot of that nowadays. We don’t see a lot of that. I think it’s a great opportunity. It obviously comes at a cost company has to evaluate if they’re willing to invest that cost, but that’s the way you keep loyal customers for a long time and get the kind of brand supporters and brand advocates that that every brand is searching for. And every product should be looking to you know, get those testimonials. We live in such a reputation management era, and people want all that feedback, but you have to take the good with the bad.

And if the feedback isn’t good and your product is getting too easily damaged, or it’s hard to get repaired, you’re gonna get some negative feedback. So it was a great, great work by Jack George’s to keep that up. And certainly not an easy level of customer care, customer service to to sustain. So let me go back to the core presentation here, and then I’d like to save some time the last five, 10 minutes for some questions and also a live walkthrough. Our lab here to showcase some of the items that we have in, in the actual lab. So we went over trends, again, key steps. If you’re starting out with a new product or just kind of considering, and you’ve already identified that there’s a need, you’re solving a pain point obviously you have to conduct some market research. Try to understand what’s the size and opportunity in your market, get some feedback from users, either of existing competitive products or of the types of user base that your product would speak to.
And then as we talked about earlier, developing a prototype and testing through your M V P. Similar for, for tech products and apps, it’s really a similar concept of, of market research. Sometimes it’s hard with, with cutting edge technology and cutting edge products because there’s not really existing solutions, so people don’t know they need it until it’s there, right? Much like many inventions we can talk about. Over the years none of us knew we needed a smartphone before we, it came into our hands and we realized, wow, this could really change my life. And so you’re not always gonna get through the market research, the understanding from people about like why they might need something. If your product is on that spectrum of really being like a new solution or not even a solution, a new innovation that speaks to people and, and changes their life in a way that they didn’t know they, they needed it to be solved or changed as we talked about, you know, market research, different ways to do that through focus groups, through surveys and just general analysis of the market.

Prototyping and testing. I’ll talk about this briefly with some personal examples. With our blind spot detector, noone, it was such a an amazing product. It actually never made it to market. We made it to market with Park zone Noone. We didn’t because there was extensive potential for liability. If that blind spot detector doesn’t work just once in a hundred times and someone gets into a bad accident, you’re on the hook, right? It’s like, what, what’s self-driving cars are going through now? Like, great, this works well, but what happens when it doesn’t work? Who’s on the hook? Is that company, Tesla, whoever it’s gonna be, Uber gonna go outta business because of liability, right? How do you mix smart cars with human driving cars and what’s, what’s gonna be the transition period there, right? So similarly, we had a blind spot detector and I, two of my best friends, Chad and, and Geo it was right outta college were, they were going to Florida and we, we paid them to put the blind spot detector in the car and literally sit there, one driving the other one taking notes for every time a car passed them, did the sensor pick it up, did it pick it up or did it miss it?

And literally for 15, 20 hours of driving back and forth, they they tested that product. And and yeah, that, that’s what’s, that’s what’s required with a just lock. Also, we had a great lock, but would it withstand a kick on the door? When would that lock break? So we had to do the, the old strength test, send it to labs that would hit a door that had the adjust lock at different levels of pressure and see when it broke. And then you had to show those results to Home Depot and the big buyers to say, Hey, our product’s not just a cool innovation, but it’s also strong, and it actually wasn’t strong enough at first, and we had to make the metal thicker in the catch part of the lock in order for it to hold the types of screws that you use.

What’s gonna happen in the cold weather when someone puts it on an outdoor gate. So we have to do a weather test in both heat, but especially cold to see when it would rust, and if that cold would allow the product to be more vulnerable. Basement sports is another example in terms of what kind of items you’re putting in a product that’s for kids. And as that plastic, are those items small enough to be a choking hazard, right? For, for younger children. And we actually failed a couple of those tests and had to continue to iterate failed by the standards of Amazon. And then that’s why I have some bones to pick with Amazon, but I get it. They’re trying to protect customers. And then you have California, which is its own beast in terms of the requirements it has for the kind of materials that they would accept, or the disclaimers you have to put on your packaging if you’re selling into certain areas factory audits.

And then, or is another whole area of of stress for smaller and newer product developers. You might make a great product, but if your factory’s not on the list or hasn’t been pre-approved, that big box retailer might not take you in. So that’s helping those smaller factories get up to speed and make sure they abide by certain standards, both ethical and otherwise so that everyone could be comfortable bringing your product to the shelf. So these are some of the things that happen in the early stages of prototyping and testing, testing, testing, user design, testing and feedback once your early product is there. And then just again, agile development, continuous, I’ll come back to this slide, but the agile process for software development and continuous integration, that’s what we do, you know, with kid coin, with time bot with basement sports, any good product you see out there in the market that you’re using on your phone regularly is going through this type of agile development process.

Constantly iterating. And this is part of product management. It’s like you’re managing an existing version, and in the meantime there’s a whole nother test server that’s testing different features, and then the concept of AB testing. We have a new feature, we think it’s good, we’re not gonna do a full rollout. Let’s do a rollout with a test market with some different, you know, user groups. And then that gets back to this slide of having different personas, different target user types, and, and really just building out these use cases. U usually using a flow chart, a simple tool like, like Figma or even just a chalkboard or a whiteboard, any whiteboarding tool. Zoom now has good whiteboarding tools. There’s many, many tools that offer whiteboarding and it’s, it’s literally just a flow chart. For example with a lot of our products, they’re for parents and kids and coaches, right?

So the use cases, or the user story is a parent moves to a new neighborhood with their two kids or family, and they don’t know what activities are available. So they find your, they go online and they do a search for sporting activities or fitness or recreation. They land on your site or your app or your website. Now they wanna understand what the options are how much it costs, who they can speak to, where there may be a free trial available. So that’s what I just described. There’s like a six, seven step really use case or you can write the user story and then look at your product and see if it offers a solution and an easy path for that user. Type that persona, which is the parent in this case to arrive at your offering, evaluate it, and hopefully keep moving down the funnel of actually signing up, or at least giving you their phone number or email.

Now they’re in your marketing groups marketing funnel for how you follow up and hopefully get them on board as a customer, or at least to the evaluation process, right? And that’s a different persona than than the teacher that’s looking for a solution for their classroom. Or the kid that you know, is 11 years old, maybe has their first phone and they’re looking for apps and games and things to do with their friends, right? So that’s a whole different use case. He’s already in at a birthday party or with a group of his friends and, oh, look at this app, cool. Something we can do together, right? That’s a very different user story, a very different use case. Maybe they need permission from their, for their parents or not. Usually for kids under 13, there’s some kind of permissioning that they may need. And every company you can see, you know, from Uber to gaming companies to Amazon are all going through that when they’re trying to appeal to kids. How do we make sure we have the approval, especially if they need to buy something and pay for it, right? So you need to build in all of these different use cases for approvals and integrating with other family members that are part of this, the buying journey, let’s say.

All right, just again, a summary of bringing, you know, new ideas and inventions to market. What problem are you solving for? First question, this is, if you’re coming to me with a new idea, I’m saying, okay, well what, what, what are you solving here, right? Can, can this be a profitable? Is that other people, competitors trying to do it? Is there any intellectual property or IP available here? Maybe we should follow provisional patent. And then how quickly can we get a prototype or a beta that we can test and do some surveys? We did it for a just lock before we even formed, you know, a, a full operating agreement in a company. It was the inventor, you know, and myself, you know, two co-founders getting in front of Grove Street over here in Jersey City with a little table, some free waters and just, Hey, get a free water if you give us five minutes and kind of take a look at our product so we can do a survey.

And we surveyed hundreds of people, got great feedback, we’re able to use that with, you know, to help convince investors to invest in the company because 87% of people said that they would prefer our product to the traditional lock. So that’s an early example of using your, your prototype beta to get feedback that could then help you get the capital needed and move forward with your product. And then continuing to iterate it by making the product stronger and strength testing and all those, all those other components there to hone in on your true product market fit. And again, maybe in a future iteration of this collection of, you know, product marketing, product management workshops will get into the product market, fit, the marketing and all of that, we couldn’t really cover all that today. Before you leave in the next 10 minutes, I’m gonna switch over to my phone and just give you a couple of other product thoughts with products we have in the lab here.

But definitely reach out to us at Blueliner. You see three different ways to do so here. Reach out to me directly or you know, Steve Powell, our, our VP of sales on LinkedIn, on Facebook, any which way through the website. We’d love to brainstorm with you. We’d love to have a meeting like this, or we can, you could present your product to us and we can give you feedback, audit, assess it, brainstorm with you on it. I am going to now switch over to another device. Please do submit questions at this point, if you have any. Here we are in the lab. I was talking about Exeter and Park Zone and I just actually installed this. So what this device does is imagine you’re pulling in to the back wall of your garage. You can see this little traffic light.

I’m actually gonna reset it here, see this button. This could be a battery issue. Let’s see, this little gadget called park zone was my first invention, co invention using a little Polaroid sensor down here. Hope there’s not a battery issue. That blinking red light usually means that. So you would mount this on the back wall of your garage and then hit this little button and it will blink. And then when the light goes off, that means you’re set. So see I’m using this little pad, imagine that’s the bumper of the car. And now here we are, we’re out of the garage, we’re coming home. You see that green light, you’re driving your car, you’re getting closer to the back wall, the light turns yellow. And as we said in our slogan, when the light turns red, you’re in the park zone. Cool little tool, I’m gonna leave it up in the office.

And by the way, when we did our marketing strategy at trade shows, we did just that. We put the park zones all over the booth and from there people would just walk up closer and back all day. And we got buyers from Brookstone, from Sharper Image, eventually into Sears and Kmart, all with this little gadgety item, which sold over $10 million in sales over the first couple years. Just coming over, and I’m gonna answer some questions in a minute. Just the kind of things we consider right in our product development for basement sports, we have a bat, right? We’ve got a blue bat. Here was another bat from another company, which you may have heard of called Nerf, a great brand a lot of us grew up playing with. And one of the early issues we had with our bat, with our bat was it would break a lot quicker.

So it was a product quality issue, right? So there’s always pricing versus quality and weighing how many things are you putting into your starter kit? Our baseball starter kits right over here. Again, that big box that I told you costs $15 to ship. So another early mistake on our part was having a package that was too big for the price point, right? So we’re working on, we worked on for the next product, making it a smaller package, one third the size, right? And much cheaper to ship. And that’s actually two sports in one. So double the efficiency, one third the size for the same price. So our next version of our baseball kit, we’re probably retiring this and we’re gonna combine baseball and basketball, but that’s another issue. Making sure, you know, the products can be efficiently packaged, but with this particular issue, the product quality, and I found out because my son and I would do little lightsaber battles and the orange bat always lasted longer than the blue one.

And this bat we’ve had for like three, four years. So kudos to Nerf for its product quality and for teaching us that we needed the similar type of P V C plastic to be made at a higher level of thickness. So that’s the kind of feedback and detail and attention to detail you send to your manufacturers, to your partners, right? Same thing with balls. Something as simple as this little foam ball, which is used for, for our Nerf basketball and baseball. And how much do you squeeze it before it loses its shape? And its roundness, right? So it’s like the thickness level. How heavy is it? If you make the ball too heavy, it could break windows. So as an example, this other ball we used for soccer, which I’ve had again for four years, we’ve kicked it around. Kids have done all kinds of things to this ball, but it’s somehow maintained its shape and it’s maintained, its its usability versus one of the early balls we had in the soccer kit.

Our soccer kit did not have the right level of, of thickness to maintain its shape and be actually functional in this kind of indoor environment, which is where we play basement sports. Same thing with the sticks, right? What levels of sticks do you need to have for an eight year old child? A 10 year old child, a 12 year old? What if mom and dad wants to play an adult that’s, you know, five, five to five seven can’t use a stick that’s this short, even a stick that’s this short. So it’s about testing it with a different age kids in your market and finding a solution to be able to extend, which is what we’re working on now, an extendable pipe that can go on so that you can easily create a stick with a longer length that can be more adaptable for different age kids.

And I can go on and on. You know, we decided to add this bag that’s actually very nice that can actually hold product once you take it out of the box. Now you get this nice bag, you want to take, pack the items and take it to a friend’s house, you get that bag. That was a very last minute addition to our product set and something that people appreciated having access to this basement sports bag, right? And it fits the sticks and the bats and a lot of things in it. And again, I can go on and on with our different products, but I’d like to take a couple questions before we reach the top of the hour. The last quick thing is this tape. A kind of tape that we use a lot to go on floors, you know, to mark lines and, and boundaries. And this tape, this actually wasn’t our tape, this was a tape from Adidas and amazing job. This tape has lasted, it’s coming off a little bit now, but it’s lasted a long time. So, you know, testing those kind of things, it’s like an, an obsession and incessant amount of testing to make sure you’re getting the quality you need at the price point you need. So with that said, I’m gonna take a couple of questions. We might have time for one here.

Okay, question, at what point can a startup start spending on marketing sales? What percentage of overall costs should be dedicated to those in the product rollout phase? Where’s the best bang for the buck? I think it’s a great question. Lemme switch the the camera around here and answer it. It might be the only one we have time for. So it’s a great question obviously that as we said earlier, when you have those initial prototypes, before you do a full market rollout, doing some either social media marketing or some really hyper-local marketing to be able to get an early audience to come in and truly consume your product, whether they’re paying for it or they’re getting it as part of some kind of focus group and really getting that honest feedback. Assuming you’ve passed that stage and you’ve now created your first batch of product, or if it’s a app release, now you’re ready to go to the formal market.

The app stores themselves, you know, in iOS and Android and the social networks like Instagram or great places, let’s say whether it’s it’s an app or a new product tech product, just doing a little Instagram ad, 1530 seconds, something simple and then you just target it. And that’s something we help a number of our clients do. Just some target marketing 15, 32nd clip, it’s gonna come there. They’re gonna see it in Instagram if it’s interesting to them and it captivates them. If it’s good marketing and messaging, you’re gonna get clicks, you’re gonna get clicks, you’re gonna get installs. I spend some money on, on new fashion companies sometimes I’ve never heard of. And you can talk to men and women all over. I think women more so for the fashion side and they’ll be captivated by things. And as we know, the algorithms are always watching what they’re interested in and we can leverage that to target market those particular items to the right audience.

And it’s, you know, you’re paying per click, you’re paying per install anywhere between, you know, $2, a dollar per click to maybe up to even $50 at the beginning. To your question about percentage of spend, you’re always gonna spend more money to acquire customers at the beginning. If it’s a new product or a new service. I wouldn’t worry about that. Worry about getting those, that initial hundred, that initial thousand customers to actually take your product and become advocates for it. ’cause They’ll start spreading the word. And your marketing cost per acquisition will come down if you have a good product. And then ultimately your percentage for marketing as a percentage of your revenue should get to 25% or less. But at the beginning it might be 200%, it might be a hundred percent, which is why we need funding at the beginning of our product launch efforts. It’s a pleasure having you all. Again, I promise to do this more often. Thank you guys for joining Facebook, Instagram, YouTube I’m sorry, not Instagram LinkedIn. Next time we’ll try to find a connection with Twitter and Instagram and other platforms as well. Thanks for joining. Enjoy the rest of your day and we will see you soon.


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