Here is how I use agile principles in consumer product development, marketing and sales:

  1. Conduct deep competitive analysis on what is already offered in the marketplace, including features, benefits, and outcomes. Find out which products are selling well through sites like – Digital World Market Intelligence Platform and through exiting online and offline distribution channels.
  2. Do secondary research to determine if there is a match between what consumers want and existing offerings. You can do this with keyword and search analysis for what consumers are typing in to find what they want, and through analysis of existing produce reviews on reputable review websites (Amazon is probably the best, but be careful here, as I see more and more reviews from people that have been given the product for free in exchange for a review).
  3. Conduct passive voice consumer research by visiting forums and discussion groups with people around your product or category of products to find out what they are truly saying and thinking. I prefer this kind of consumer research than direct surveys for a number of reasons listed here: Why you should ditch customer surveys and what to do instead to get product feedback

Based on this research, where are the holes that a new product could potentially fulfill?

Once this is determined, develop a product for test sales only through small production runs and generic packaging. Examples of packaging development on the cheap include using services like crowdSPRING

Then, adopt a test before invest philosophy by using direct marketing (also called direct response marketing) to test product sales. The key here is to test out the marketing copy so you know what causes a product to sell. Digital marketing is excellent for this through Social and PPC (keyword and tagline/headline testing), and building landing pages and sales funnels for testing copy (not just throwing up a website with an e-commerce cart).

For performance, I am looking to achieve ROAS of at least a 3 or more (breakeven is usually 2). The higher the ROAS, the more the product is indicative of being a blockbuster for me. But I start at very small marketing spends and as my ROAS climbs and I optimize my campaign at low spends, then I continue to increase my marketing spend as long as my ROAS is above my threshold.

At a certain point, I will want to optimize my backend (supply chain, logistics, production) and invest in larger product production runs with nicer packaging because I have the data to know that my product sells and the investment has strong probabilities of success.

The above process is a very test before invest driven methodology which has worked very well for me. Once my product is proven in sales, then I can expand not just digital marketing, but possibly into analog (TV, radio, print) marketing and then with proof of product sales, then I can go to retail.

The above process relies on direct marketing that when optimized, ends up being virtually free so that I can run a lot of it on a consistent basis. This is what drives sales, awareness, brand building and interest from retailers.

In terms of who is doing this? In my experience, most consumer product companies do not do this and lack the know how. They develop a product, then go straight to retail (if they can) and hope for the best. Consumer products is still a very traditional industry and products are brought to market the same way they have been for a long time. This is expensive, time-consuming and ultimately not successful for most consumer product startups I see. You will find “agile” being practiced more among pure internet marketers and some traditional direct response (infomercial) marketers.