How Big Is Your Really Big Idea, Really?

Tim Knox Small Business AdviceOne of my coaching clients stopped by the other day to tell me that they had a great idea for what she called “an amazing new product”.

She went on to say, “There is nothing like it on the market and no competition that I can find. It’s a can’t miss, slam dunk, absolutely no doubt about it winner!”

I did what I always do in this situation.  I gave her my slow bobble head nod and asked her to tell me more, bracing myself for a wave of unbridled enthusiasm for another as-yet-to-be proven idea.

“I think it will be a huge success and so do all of my girlfriends!” she gushed.  “I’m willing to bet the farm on this one, Tim. It’s going to be UH-MAY-ZING!!”

She said “AMAZING!” like Oprah says… well… most things.

The bubble-burster in me was already shooting sharp needles in her direction, but I played it cool.

After two decades of hearing about “big ideas” and “can’t miss products” I’ve learned that rarely is anyone as excited as the person who has the big idea, and most entrepreneurs have a few dozen big ideas on a daily basis.

The truth of the matter is, more often than not, the only thing that’s really amazing about the big idea is the way that it’s totally ignored by the buying public.

In my software business there have been times when we came up with what we thought was an amazing idea for an amazing piece of software – a piece of software so amazing, in fact, that we knew that all mankind would sit up and take notice, then line up to write us checks.

After hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars spent developing the product we were amazed to find that the only people who thought the software was truly amazing was us.

We made mankind yawn.

Quite an amazing accomplishment, if I do say so myself.

So here’s basically what I told my coaching client.

It worries me when someone says there is nothing like their big idea on the market.

While you may think that it’s a good thing that there’s no product like it on the market, it might actually mean that there is no market for such a product.

The same holds true for a lack of competition.

A total lack of competition might mean that there is no demand for such a product.

Rarely does a product come along that revolutionizes an industry.

Rarer still does a product create a new industry on its own.

So, how can you tell if your amazing new product really is worth gambling on?

The truth is, you can never be 100% certain that your idea will sell.

No matter how enamored you are of it or how much your friends rave about it, the success of a new idea depends on a number of factors, many of which are beyond your control. Just a few of those factors are listed below.

The viability of the idea:

  • How viable is the idea, i.e. what are its real chances for success?
  • How can you be sure people will pay you for the product?
  • Is this really a product that you could build a company around or is it more of a one shot item?
  • Does the idea have the potential to generate immediate and long-term revenue?
  • Will this product build customer loyalty?
  • Is the product one that will offer good margins and profit potential?
  • Have you researched and tested the viability? Or did you just ask your friends what they think?

The people implementing the idea:

  • The right team can make even a mediocre product a huge success (ever heard of Windows).
  • Inversely, a bad team couldn’t sell ice water in Hades.
  • Pick your team carefully. The right people really do make all the difference.

The demand for such a product in the marketplace:

  • Is there really a need for a product such as the one you propose?
  • Is there a line of people demanding such a product?
  • Will this product fill a need or satisfy an itch?
  • Products are sold on he basis of want, need, and desire.  If your product doesn’t serve one of those emotions, there is no market for it.

The competition: is the market already crowded with competitors?

  • If so, what will it take to move your product ahead of the pack?
  • Remember, the company that markets the best always wins the majority of customers.
  • You might have a superior product, but if there is an 800 pound gorilla sitting on 95% of the market share and a bunch of “little guys” already fighting over the leftover 5%, there will be very little room for you.

The depth of your pockets:

  • Even an amazing product requires a ton of cash to go from drawing board to store shelf.
  • How will you finance things like market research, patents, engineering, design, product development, staffing, inventory, distribution?

The availability of other resources required to take the product from the drawing board to the consumer:

  • Do you have the time, the drive, the perseverance, the knowledge, the contacts, the support, and a hundred other things required to bring your amazing idea to fruition?
  • Have you even looked at what it will take to get your product to market? If not, do so before you invest a dime in anything.

Above all, research, research, research… It’s the best way to determine just how amazing your big idea really is:

  • Research the market for similar products. Again, if there are no similar products on the market that might mean there is no market for that product.
  • If there truly is nothing exactly like your product, research similar products that fill a similar void in the consumer’s life.
  • Learn all you can about such products: pricing, market share, track record, etc.
  • Research the competition. As mentioned earlier, if there is no competition there may not be a market for a product like yours.
  • If there is competition, research the competition fully (little guys and big guys) to help determine if you can realistically compete for market share.
  • Identify your target customer and ask them for an honest evaluation of the idea and its marketability.
  • Avoid friends and family as they usually just tell you what you want to hear.
  • If your target customer is a 35 year old female, pitch your idea to every 35 year old female you meet and gauge their response.

The best advice I can give you when it comes to amazing new product ideas it’s best to follow your head and not your heart.

It’s a lesson that took me years to learn.

Hopefully my client will learn it faster than I did, but I kind of doubt it.

Here’s to your success!

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