How to Develop Global Products

Global product development is similar to domestic product development. It starts with ideas. While in the past these ideas might have come strictly from people in the home market, global product thinking draws on input from intermediaries, franchisees, and overseas competitors. Examine competitive concepts from abroad with an eye toward modifying and improving them to meet the needs of another market – even the domestic market.

For a number of companies, especially those that manufacture industrial goods, customers are their best idea sources. Chat rooms and comments on social networking sites have become increasingly interesting sources of fresh thinking, as customers talk to each other about how they use products or about features they would like to see added. Government procurement requests can trigger ideas for product modifications that will make it possible to apply for a contract.

With a list of products in mind, screen them on market, technical, and financial criteria just as the company would domestically. Is the market large enough? Can it be penetrated? Can the product be mass produced? Can the company produce and market it profitably? Sometimes, a company can achieve the same goals by adjusting its view of the existing product line. For example, cereal manufacturers still sell their products in countries where people do not eat breakfast simply by repositioning their products as snack foods. Do not toss ideas that are not feasible at the moment – keep them in a searchable idea database because they might be marketable later.

All development phases – idea generation, screening, product and process development, scale-up, and commercialization – should be global in nature with input from all affected markets. Original product designs can be adapted for individual markets easily and inexpensively later on if necessary. Computer–aided design facilitates this by making it possible for companies to design products so that they meet most standards and requirements around the world, with only minor modifications on a country-by-country basis. Consider assigning product development to the part of the organization that has special market and technical knowledge. When a major U.S. copier company was losing ground in Europe because of competition from Japanese products, its market-savvy Japanese subsidiary assumed responsibility for developing an addition to the company’s product line.

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