How We Determine Which Products to Produce

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As a physical product manager, I’m continually flooded with product suggestions—both from internal team members and outside fans of our organization. Many times, the suggestions are followed with, “Why aren’t we making this? It makes perfect sense.”

While the ideas are always welcomed, we have a very rigorous process that helps us choose what makes the cut. Many times, the ideas are awesome, and with unlimited time and resources, we would absolutely pursue and prioritize most of them. Unfortunately, our physical product team is extremely small, and we are limited in what we can do. In many ways, we operate much like a small start-up company. We use the revenue made by current projects to help fund our future projects.

So how do we decide on a product? There are several steps we run through to make sure we are working on the best idea for the business. Our first objective in creating product is life-change. Will using and interacting with this product cause life-change for our customer? How will their life be better if they use this product? Does it bring value to their life? If it will, we move on to the next stage.

Next, we determine how this product will fit in the mix with our other products. This includes items currently in the market and those in the process of being produced. What other products will be delayed, paused, or not started because of the work we’ll do on the proposed product? What is the next progression of what we’re creating? Is there a way to make it into an entire product line, or is it just a one-off idea? Before we even start, we must determine a long-term plan.

Testing follows this process. The complexity of the tests is directly proportional to the lift caused by making the product. Our main goal is to hear from both our current customers (the Ramsey tribe) as well as folks who aren’t as familiar to us (white and gray space). Testing helps us determine not only if customers are interested in purchasing, but it also informs how the product is made. Many times, we learn through testing how we should change the product to make it more marketplace-friendly. Testing has kept our team from creating products that would have failed miserably.

From there, our team determines which suppliers would be the right fit to manufacture the product. Even though the idea isn’t fully fleshed out at this point, we set a baseline of high-level details so that we can have multiple companies bid on the same job. We’re not only looking for a competitive production cost, but we’re also looking for folks who are experts in manufacturing that type of product. They must understand our level of excellence and recognize we never settle for substandard work.

There are times when several different suppliers meet our criteria, and we must make the difficult choice of picking one. Other times, the right partner immediately rises to the top. Either way, we try to set up the contract in such a way that the relationship can be long-term and beneficial to both companies. Our goal is longevity. It’s much easier to repeat business with current suppliers than it is to continually change vendors every time we reorder.

After picking a vendor, we then present the project to the Business to Consumer Board. We discuss the details of the idea and answer all the board’s questions and objections. If approved, the project moves forward. If not, we still save all our work. We view every no from the board as a “not now.” There is a shelf life for every no, and there is always a potential that we could go back to an old idea.

If the idea is approved, we then move to full creation and production. The desired delivery date drives the entire process. We typically expect our products to deliver to our fulfillment center 30 days before the product is live on our website. For that to happen, we must back out transportation time (domestic or overseas), production time (for the vendor to make the product), sample time (to make sure we approve colors, materials and design), and then design time (our design team). That gives us milestone dates to steer the team in the right direction. Hitting each key date allows us to stay on schedule and deliver HOPE to our customers.

Building products for Ramsey has been the highlight of my career. It’s challenged and stretched me, and caused me to always ask the question, “How can we make this better?” Our customer-first approach is evident in each step of our planning and implementation process, and it will continue to drive product moving forward.