Parts of this blog post are excerpted from our e-book “How to Design with the Consumer in Mind.”

If your product hits the market and there’s no one to buy it, does it make an impact?

The answer – just like the one to that age-old question about the proverbial tree in the proverbial forest – is, of course, no. So why do so many product developers and inventors design their products without putting the consumer front and center?

One very common reason for this is simple overconfidence. Most of us developing products think those products are great ideas that people will definitely want, if not need. If we didn’t think so, we wouldn’t be spending our time developing them.

However, that’s a risky, and potentially costly approach to take. When you get your product in front of actual consumers, they might not think it’s nearly as great as you do. And that will mean that you just wasted a whole lot of time and money.

This is why it’s so important to design your product while keeping the consumer in mind. These guidelines will help you do just that.

Define your target consumer(s).

When you’re creating your product, chances are you have a specific set or sets of consumers in mind. If you’re developing a kitchen gadget, your target consumers might include people who like to cook at home, parents who cook for their children, and kitchen gourmets.

You need to get more specific, however, if you’re going to figure out who you really want to target. This requires research, not just guesswork. Here are some of the considerations you’ll need to take into account when researching your target consumers.

  1. Know your product. Does your product meet a basic need? Is it a luxury good? Understand what your product does, and who would find it most appealing.
  1. Consider the geographic reach of your product. Are you a local company with local distribution? Will you be selling your product nationally? Internationally? When defining your target, it is critical to consider the geographic reach of your product.
  1. Use demographics. Segment the market by demographics such as age, household income, gender, and location to see who your product is most likely to resonate with.
  1. Use psychographics. Once you have a clear understanding of the demographics of your target consumer, you will also want to break down market segments by psychographics — values, interests, and lifestyle.

Once you’ve got this information, it can be helpful to create a profile of your target customer. List this target customer’s age, gender, occupation, income range, likes and dislikes, location, and anything else you can think of to help you define the customer you’re designing for.

Identify your target consumer’s wants and needs.

Once you’ve figured out who your target consumer is, you need to start defining their wants and needs.

Here, again, you need more than just guesswork. You need research. Here are a few ways to start.

  1. Keyword Research. Do keywords research to figure out what people are searching for in relation to your brand or niche industry/market. Long-tail keyword analysis can be a great way to uncover unfulfilled needs and wants.
  1. Competitors Forums. Stalking your competitors website might seem a bit unusual, but is an excellent way to gain insight into what they are doing (and more importantly, what they are not doing). With a bit of research, you can tap into competitor’s deficiencies in order to fulfill unmet needs.
  1. Product Forums. If your niche market already has products, be sure to check out product forums. This can help to provide insight into what needs and wants aren’t being met — something that you can leverage to your advantage during the design and the development process.
  1. Surveys and Interviews. Last but not least, it is always a wise idea to interact directly with consumers to figure out what they are thinking. Establish focus groups and either interview or survey participants. This is an excellent way to gain insight into your target market.

Armed with this information, you can move on to the next step, which is understanding industry standards and ensuring that you design your product with those in mind.

For a more in-depth look at how to design your product for the consumer, read our e-book “How to Design with the Consumer in Mind.”