Researching Product Prototyping Companies — And Finding the Right Fit

For many organizations, the decision to research product prototyping companies can feel like a leap forward in the production process. However, hiring such an external resource is often necessary — due to limited time, expertise, and potential budgetary constraints. Without these limitations, businesses typically see shorter time to market and tap into virtually unlimited professional resources.

The research process may seem time-consuming — but by investing time on the front end, you’ll be more successful in selecting a company that is the best fit to build your product prototype.

Clarify Your Needs

Before beginning your search, make sure you know exactly what it is that you’re looking for. It’s helpful to thoroughly understand your project, your deadlines, and your asks. Also, know that product prototyping companies may not be able to accommodate all of your needs. So, expect to be somewhat flexible, especially if this is your first time building a product prototype.

Enter your search with an idea of what you want and what you expect. Get as granular as you can, considering timeline and scale. Make a list of your must-haves and nice-to-haves and be prepared to negotiate.

Evaluate Technical Capabilities of Product Prototyping Companies

When you’re interviewing potential employees, you ask that they meet minimum requirements for a particular job. Can they operate a computer? Use essential tools within your organization? Communicate well? When hiring a company to build your product prototype, you’ll need to ask similar questions.

At the most basic level:

  • Are the product prototyping companies you’re considering capable of completing the project within your specifications?
  • Do they offer the range of services needed for your project?
  • Do they have the resources to dedicate to your project?

If you answered yes to these questions, move on to the next criteria.

Identify Interest and Communication Frequency/Style

If you’re ready for a product prototype, you’re likely dedicated to seeing your product come to life. Your passion has driven you this far, and you’re extra motivated to begin next steps — so the company you work with should be similarly enthusiastic. When determining a company’s interest, ask yourself:

  • Do the product prototyping companies you’re considering share your passion?
  • Are they excited about working on your project?
  • Can they propel your project to the next level?

When assessing a company’s communication frequency and style, it’s wise to look at your expectations. Specifically, will they communicate to your standards? Some product prototyping companies provide written updates once per week, others schedule calls every month, some do a combination of both. What are your preferences? Will your possible candidates work with these? Some may be formal while others more informal — what is best for you?

When you find a company that will work with you in a way that meets your needs, you can advance them to the next step in your search process. Of course, you may not find a company with a communication style that aligns perfectly with your own, but find a team that is willing to compromise, if necessary.

Ask the Right Questions

Once you’ve found a product prototyping company that is technically competent and communicates well, it’s time to begin the next step: evaluation. As with an individual employee, many can do a satisfactory job and communicate to your liking, but finding one that goes above and beyond requires further evaluation. Approach this step like you would when hiring a new employee; doing so will provide further information about a company’s technical expertise and communication style.

It may be helpful to ask questions that address past projects and company wins. If they are available, request specific case studies or customer success stories, as these will provide guidance as you make your decision.

You’ll also want to know what tools they’re using, how key team members collaborate, what sort of timeline they expect, what their QA process is like, who owns specific rights to things, how scalable projects are, and what limitations they may have as they see your project from development to market. Of course, there will be a number of product-specific questions on your list. too.

Do Your Research

Your next step will be to check references. Product prototyping companies want your business, so they’re going to put their best foot forward. Your job is to see through the veneer to determine what a company is actually like and if they’re capable of meeting your needs.

Look at testimonials on their website, but don’t be afraid to ask for references from a company you’re considering. When you speak with a reference, ask what the product development experience was like, how the team dealt with conflicts, or anything else that may be pertinent to your project. Look at the company’s past work, outcomes, successes, and failures.

Finding the Right Fit

By spending time evaluating product prototyping companies, you’ll get an idea of how they operate. You’ll also familiarize yourself with their values, priorities, etc., which should help you determine whether or not each specific company is a good fit. If a place checks all the boxes but gives you pause (even if you can’t identify the reason), make an effort to articulate your concerns to the product prototyping company, and see if they are able to address them. This is the last step in what can feel like a lengthy process.

Although the research and assessment process may seem tedious, the steps above are crucial to helping you finding the right company for your project. By aligning with a company that meets your criteria, this will ensure you are successful in developing your product prototypes.