The gist of developing new products that meet members’ needs


Products and services are the lifeblood of Saccos hence investing in them is crucial to business growth and profitability.

Saccos most often come up with new products due to changes in member preference, increasing competition, advances in technology or to capitalize on new opportunities.

Innovative cooperatives thrive by understanding their members’ wants, making smart product improvements and developing new products that meet and exceed their members’ expectations.

New products can be completely original products or modified and improved ones taken to the market for the first time. They can also be products a Sacco has never made or sold before but have been taken to the market by others.

Saccos don’t need to be inventors to master New Product Development (NPD) as they can simply consider purchasing new products through licensing or copyright acquisition.

With a well-considered NPD strategy, cooperatives can avoid wasting time, money and business resources.

NPD strategy helps one organize their product planning and research, capture members’ views and expectations and accurately plan and resource their NPD project.

Developing new products need considerable planning and organization as a lot is at stake. There are many tasks involved in developing a product that is appropriate for members. The nature of the business and the idea will determine how many of these steps you need to take.

To minimize risks and allocate investment and resources wisely, there are factors to be considered.

Successful new product development starts with identifying good product ideas and using reliable criteria to decide which ideas to pursue.

Consider the competition, your existing products, their shortcomings and the needs of the market. Draw on the member needs list you have developed and the areas for product improvement identified.

Saccos showcasing their products and services through brochures during the recent SME exhibition show in Embu. Photo Robert Nyagah

An accurate description of the product the institution is planning will help keep the project team focused and avoid NPD pitfalls such as developing too many products at once or running out of resources to develop the product.

It also requires thorough knowledge of your target market and its needs and wants. A targeted, strategic and purposeful approach to NPD will ensure the products fit the market.

Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of Saccos need to allow adequate time to develop and implement the new products. The objectives for developing new products will inform the time frames and the deadlines for implementation which should be thoughtful and realistic. Some objectives might overlap but others will be mutually exclusive.

Plan and book advertising spaces in print and online publications and consider product innovation publications ahead of time. Analyze where the target market get their product information.

Give distributors plenty of forward notice of your new product launch. Use your forecasts to calculate the product numbers you’ll need to meet your anticipated sales volume.

By David Kipkorir

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