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An investment in research and development may help you to stay ahead of those competitors by finding out today what your customers will want tomorrow.

What is research and development?

Think of research and development (R&D) as a process involving these five steps:

  1. Learning what a desired market segment wants. This may involve a variety of research activities, including surveys, interviews, focus groups, and online research. If you have existing customers, talk to them directly about their wants and needs. Consider working with an outside firm to do your research so you don’t include any bias in the data collected.

  2. Designing a solution. Analyze the information collected in your research to look for a possible solution. Get other members of your team involved so they can provide different perspectives. You’re looking for that Aha! moment when you discover a better way to make a product or provide a service. Or you may think up a completely new offering.

  3. Developing a prototype or sample service, which is often called a pilot program. This step allows you to collect feedback on whatever it is you propose to do before you engage the expense of building it. Be sure to protect your ideas before sharing them with others. Consult with a qualified legal professional to explore your options.

  4. Testing the prototype. You may test your new offering in a number or ways. It may involve setting up a temporary storefront, launching a web page to collect feedback, or presenting your prototype to a group of test buyers in a closed environment.

  5. Developing the product. If testing meets your expectations, you may decide to fully develop the product or service. This step may require a detailed business plan and additional financing. Be sure to work with qualified advisors along the way.

Explore R&D assistance from government programs

Following the above steps can be expensive. Explore government resources that may help you:

R&D is about the future of your business

Innovate or die is a popular mantra for many business owners who embrace the idea of continuous improvement. By investing in research and development, your business could enjoy greater profits further down the road.