My guest, Tracy Hazzard, is known as the “Product Whisperer.” She is CEO of industrial design firm Hazz Design and the co-designer of many consumer products you buy at retail stores every day. Tracy is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and for more than 20 years she has been creating for companies of all sizes, pushing them to rethink their product lines in order to increase revenue and customer satisfaction. She also co-hosts the WTFFF 3D Printing Podcast and is a regular contributor to Inc. Magazine.
Among the topics discussed is her 7P process to successfully designing and launching consumer products:
- Prove It – concept has a market
- Plan It – best plan for project
- Price It – competitive products and margins
- Prototype It – design and prototype
- Protect It – provisional IP protection
- Predict It – sales forecasting
- Produce It – make it real
Practices and Ideas for Product Managers and Innovators
Summary of questions discussed:
- As an innovator and designer who has contributed to 250+ consumer products, what is a product category you especially enjoyed working on and why? I’ve done a lot of office chairs and got my start working at Herman Miller on the original mesh structural chair that became synonymous with the tech boom. I’ve also worked on a lot of products for kids as well as gaming accessories.
- What has your experience taught you about “right-fitting” a product or service? The concept of the MVP – minimal viable product – places too much emphasis on minimal. It’s the least you can do for someone and I want to provide the most value that someone cares about. So I call it maximum valuable product. I don’t want to embed it with tons of bloat and tons of features just to be feature-heavy, but I really want to have it have the maximum impact value, the maximum design impact that my target consumer wants. That is what it means to “right-fit” a product.
- Where do we get started – what are the steps to product right-fitting? There are 7 Ps to right-fitting. The first is Prove It. We’re proving that the concept has a market — that the right product and the right market have a match together. We start with a hypothesis with what we believe might be the key feature, or one or two of them, and we test each and see how they work and how they resonate. Prove It is market research, competitive research and social research.
- Tell us about the next step – Plan It. That’s where we really lay out the best plan for the process. We plan out on paper all of the launch process for that product. We spend a lot of time on this step making sure it’s dialed in and right.
- Third is Price It. We haven’t made anything yet and we’re already figuring out the price, but that’s because if you can’t get the right price, then it’s not a right fit. Price makes choices for us in materials, it determines the key design criteria and key product criteria that we’re going to go forward with. It also influences what we keep and what we don’t in the other features.
- Next is Prototype It. We try to work in almost any material that is necessary for the product. So if it’s got fabric on it, it’s got to be upholstered and we use an upholstery shop. We have built our own sort of resource team there, where we can have pretty much anything. So we can have glass made, we can have plastics made, we can see inside something, we can laser-cut something, we can bend metal. We can do whatever we need there, including paint it so it looks right.
- Then comes Protect It. We don’t go for patenting unless we absolutely have to. We’ll file a provisional at this stage. With the retail cycles in product categories, you want to wait as long as possible before you start revealing details.
- The sixth step is to Predict It. One part of this is forecasting demand for the product but also considering how long is the product going to last in the market, what is the market thinking, what are other competitive products doing or planning, etc.
- Finally, it is time to Produce It. For retail consumer products, the important aspect is to babysit your producer. Many products are produced in Asia and you need to be there, in their facility, and make sure the product is produced as you expect. You can’t do this by web conference. I can’t tell you how many times it would have been disastrous if we hadn’t been on top of it, including products coming to the US completely unusable.
“Hope is not a plan.” – heard on Shark Tank
Listen Now to the Interview
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.