Is Your Idea a Hero or a Zero?
If you want to break into the market, you’ve got to be willing to mercilessly scrutinize your product and open yourself up to brutally honest, objective judgment. If you can do that—without fudging, and without offering justifications or excuses when your answers aren’t what you’d like them to be—you’ll be well armed to handle every subsequent step on the path to creating a bestselling consumer product.
Here are nine questions to see if you have a winning idea:
- What Is My Product?
If it takes you more than one or two sentences to describe your product or business, you probably don’t have a clear enough vision of how it’s going to work or whom it’s for. Whittling down your concept to its selling essentials will also help you as you find the perfect name for your product.
- Does It Solve a Problem?
Many of the greatest inventions were developed because an inventor found a problem so ridiculous, pervasive, or aggravating that he or she felt compelled to do something about it.
- Is It Unique?
When you invent something, you can do one of two things: create a whole new product for the market, or improve what’s already on the market.
If there’s one mistake I see entrepreneurs make over and over again, it’s to believe so strongly in their invention that they never bother to make sure it’s as unique as they think it is.
- Is It Something People Will Need or Want?
Most hugely successful inventions are functional and make obligatory tasks easier. Appliances like the clothes dryer and the dishwasher changed homemakers’ lives forever. Can you imagine life without zippers, shoelaces, or disposable razors?
- Is It Demonstrable?
Your customers will have to “get” your product as soon as they see it. Of course, you’ll provide investors with fabulous marketing materials, and your customers with excellent copy on the package, but it’s not the copy that’s going to clinch the sale of your product
- How Do I Make It?
You need to do some preliminary research at this stage in the invention process because the answers will immediately give you a ballpark figure of how much it will cost you to make your product, which will then tell you how much you can charge for it.
- Who Is Your Target Market?
Whenever possible, invent for the masses. There is a niche market for products, but it’s easier to design something that is useful, with broad appeal, at a price point that the majority of people can afford.
- Is It Safe?
It is not acceptable to leave it to the marketplace to decide whether a product poses a serious risk or not. If you suspect your product could be dangerous even when used by its intended audience for its intended purpose, it is imperative that you refrain from taking it to market until you have eliminated the risk.
- Is It a Consumable?
Consumable goods are fabulous products because they provide you with continual revenue; they must be replaced once they’re depleted. They can be the household items that appear frequently on your shopping list, like razors, dryer sheets, vitamins, and soap
Let’s say you’ve answered all nine hero-or-zero questions. What do your answers mean?
It depends. If you’ve decided that your idea isn’t as robust as you thought it was, that means a lot, because the earlier you determine that you’re running with the wrong idea, the sooner you can start thinking up the right one. But aside from that, even if you answered yes to all of the questions above, nothing will confirm without a doubt that your invention is a hero except putting it out on the market and watching people buy it. If no one does, you have your answer. Still, you can improve your chances of success by doing market research.
You’ve Got a Great Idea, Now What?
Any reputable prototype maker, manufacturer, or other company specializing in helping entrepreneurs and inventors bring new products to market should be willing to sign a nondisclosure agreement that forbids them to discuss, share, or otherwise use any part of your idea or design. If they refuse, walk away.
Get your ducks in a row as soon as possible, so that when your orders start to come in, you’re ready to go. There are many other things you can get started on while waiting for your prototype to be made: contact retailers, look for manufacturing options, investigate your funding options, set your price, file for your patent and trademark. With the exception of the final two, nothing on this list will cost you anything but time, so you risk nothing.
Ignorance is never a good excuse for stalling. You can get any information you need if you’re willing to do the research.
Research Your Market
When you’re doing your market research, keep this in mind: you’re not looking for positive feedback; you’re looking for accurate feedback. It will do you absolutely no good to get overwhelming positive response to your invention if you’ve asked the wrong people the wrong questions in the wrong way.
Let’s discuss the three keys to obtaining accurate feedback through market research.
Do not ask the opinion of people who love you, like you, or even know you, because they will either (a) refuse to hurt your feelings and tell you they like your idea, no matter what they really think; or (b) harbor jealous feelings and tell you they don’t like it, no matter what they really think. You never know. People are either for you or against you; they’re never neutral.
- The Right Questions
Leave no stone unturned. Create a written questionnaire that asks as many detailed questions as possible, but not so many it overwhelms your respondent.
- A Large Cross Section of People
You always want to seek out the opinions of your target audience, of course, but don’t put limits on yourself or your invention. You never know; you may think that your market is women between the ages of 30 and 50, and then discover that in fact it’s women between the ages of 20 and 30, as well as men.
Let’s look at some anatomies of the perfect pitch.
It’s Precise, Concise, and Enthusiastic
The first sentence out of your mouth should be as short as possible, yet also highlight your invention’s top three selling features
What does every woman need and wear? Makeup. This cosmetic organizer holds 100 pieces of makeup, all organized and in clear view, yet takes up only 9 × 6 inches of space on your counter. It swivels open so you can see all 100 pieces at a quick glance. Say goodbye to messy bins, clutter, and chaos in the morning.
Buyers are smart, savvy, and expert at summing up a product’s potential at a quick glance. They don’t need long-winded explanations (and if your product needs a long-winded explanation, you might rethink your product). Don’t ramble or go off on tangents; it’s boring and no buyer has time to listen. Be authoritative, clear, and excited!
It’s Exciting and Animated
make sure that when you pitch, you exude confidence, drive, and dedication—so much, in fact, that you could pull a buyer out of a post-lunch stupor faster than any Red Bull. Often, when buyers or investors decide to do business with you, they’re banking on you as much as they are banking on your product. So it’s equally important for them to feel confidant that you’re a good and reliable person to work with, and that you know what you are doing.
It Explains the Product’s Appeal and Why Consumers Can’t Live without It
Get your buyers as excited about your product as you are. Help them see the role it could play in their lives and that of others. Not everything will be right for the buyer personally, such as when you’re selling a female-oriented product to a male buyer, but buyers know their customers. They get and understand them, and know what will be appealing, so male buyers can understand what women want, and vice versa.
It Answers Any Questions About Any Aspect of the Business, No Matter How Minute
You cannot overprepare for a pitch. Once you’ve got a good answer for every question a buyer could possibly throw at you, try to come up with two more. You need to know your business inside and out, and be able to explain yourself with authority.
It’s Fact Based
don’t try to hype your product or idea, or try to convince your buyer that your product is something it is not.
It Makes You Seem as Appealing as the Product
As you pitch, you should exude the positive energy of someone who is eager to work as a partner and a problem solver, someone who is take-charge and can make things happen. A buyer or investor is not always just investing in the product, but also in the person.
Marketing That Really Works
The Internet is your friend. If you’re having trouble breaking down doors and getting into retail venues, concentrate on boosting your online networks and fans, so that buyers will take you seriously. Build a fantastic website. Create a Facebook page, and start posting lots of interesting, colorful updates. Tweet to build followers and create a community around your product or brand. Try initiating a Groupon offer, if appropriate. Sell on Etsy. Do whatever it takes to build traction and hype. Can you get your product into the right celebrity’s hands? Can you get a local television personality to interview you or feature your product on a show? Use all the resources and all the creativity you have to get your product in the public eye.
Get the word-of-mouth machine cranking, so that your product is talked about and seen as widely as possible. Create a perfect storm. Hit every marketing platform as hard and fast as possible.
Keep the Dream Going—Expand and Diversify
You did it. Your product is selling in stores and online. Your factory is going full speed ahead. Your marketing efforts are helping you reach more and more fans and customers every day. You have achieved the dream. You’re done!
Actually, if you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’re not done. This really is only just the beginning.
If you can create one amazing product and build a sustainable business with it, you have reason to be proud. Not many people get to see their invention make its way into the mass market and experience the elation of creating something that makes people’s lives just a little bit better, whether it’s by providing the solution to a problem, improving or enhancing their space with a new design, or even just giving them a reason to laugh.
For most inventors, however, the satisfying taste of success will only whet the appetite (as well as that of your buyers) for more. If you managed to bring a product to market successfully once, why couldn’t you do it again? You can, and it’ll be easier the second time. And the best thing about it is that you don’t even have to start from scratch.