Topic of the Week Flash of Genius... Turning an Idea into a Business
Inventors short course:
• DON'T take customers for granted.
• DO ask if it's really better.
• DO explore how crowded.
• DO explore how big the market.
Your Rant: My job search is going nowhere, is it crazy to try to create my own business?
Many people, tired of getting doors slammed in their faces, are starting to explore creating their own product or service to sell. For all you wanna-be inventors, I’ve got some great advice, below. But whenever I think of inventions, I think of something M. Night Shyamalan said in the DVD for “Sixth Sense.” He said that every director has to cut one of his favorite scenes when making a movie.
Just as he had to cut a scene, you will have some difficult choices with your invention. This is not only normal, it is healthy, because it makes your product or service stronger. I’ve included three Do’s and one Don’t below to help you, and your idea, survive the precarious journey to market. For more, check out “The Inventor’s Bible” by Ronald Louis Docie (10 Speed, 2001).
DON’T take customers for granted. It’s easy to think that when you build a better mousetrap customers will just flock to you. The reality is that customers come from two places. Either you create one by taking someone who didn’t spend any money in this area and get them to start spending money for your product or service. Or you steal a customer from somewhere else. Both are more challenging to overcome than the build-it-and-they-will-come attitude of most entrepreneurs or inventors.
DO ask if it’s really better. To create or steal a customer you have to create something that’s more efficient, lasts longer, cheaper, is easier to use and/or cooler than what currently exists. Your opinion is important, that’s where everything has to start. But quickly you have to start mining opinions from potential customers, the ones who will really decide your fate.
DO explore how crowded. Do an extensive search for products similar to yours. Often this will depress you, it shouldn’t. A number of years ago I had an idea for a book. I did a bunch of research and found out that someone else had the same idea, and they were a year ahead of me. I saved myself a ton of wasted effort by discovering this early in the process. They call it “competitor analysis” in business school and it can refine your idea and save you a lot of time, effort and money.
DO explore how big the market. You’ve got your focus group of customers in place. But you have to explore how big the market really is. Go to your public library. Look at competitors. Do web searches. Talk to people in the industry. Read industry journals. Do a lot of digging and you’ll undoubtedly find markets and customers that you never even knew existed. How do I know this, because I’ve founded four corporations and learned it first-hand.
Use these tips and you won’t have to rely on a sixth sense, you’ll be confident that your product or service has what it takes to make you a successful businessperson.
About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. If you have a question for Bob, contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thought of the Week
"When one door closes another door opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully, upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us."
–Alexander Graham Bell
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