Entrepreneurs are brimming over with new ideas. Some are novel, some are revolutionary and some well, let’s just say there’s a lot of room for improvement. Regardless, we often find ourselves enthralled and passionate about our ideas. It’s our nature to share these ideas with others to attain validation and receive encouragement. And because most people are nice, we seldom hear rejection – especially from friends and family. Further, we may interpret tepid enthusiasm as an endorsement and plunge ahead to develop our ideas in the absence of a solid reality check.
How do we find out if our ideas are worthy? We start by treating our ideas as if they are a product or service – and they very well may be. Does our idea solve a problem? In the world of venture capital that funds ideas, a different question is asked. Is the idea a “vitamin pill” or a “painkiller?” People take vitamins because they desire better health. They take painkillers because they hurt. Which has the higher probability of being purchased on a consistent and ongoing basis? You got it – the painkiller. Consumers can put off purchases that make their lives better, but they won’t do so when they hurt. So, is your idea a “painkiller” that solves a real problem? If so, you may have a winner. But just because your idea might be a “vitamin pill” doesn’t mean it won’t work. However your case for someone to “purchase” may need to be more compelling.
Next, who is going to use your idea? In other words, who is your customer? Remember that we’re looking at our ideas as though they are products or services. To successfully implement an idea we must understand who our customer is as well as their various characteristics, traits and tendencies. For example, let’s say that we have an idea to launch a new process within our company. Who are the members of our team that will be utilizing this process? Could there be a “generation gap” with the way we plan to deploy our process? If we’re Baby Boomers, and Millennials will be using the process, we need to make certain that Millennials can relate to it.
In keeping with our ideas-are-products-or-services theme, we need to test our idea with our potential customers. Bouncing an idea off a spouse or friend isn’t the same as having an in-depth discussion with those who are going to use our idea. Before we completely perfect an idea, it’s best to work with a small focus group of eventual customers. We lay out our thesis and describe the problem we are attempting to solve. We explain the “vitamin pill” or “painkiller” notion of our idea. Then we share our solution and solicit feedback – just like we would do if we truly were launch a product or service in the marketplace. The responses we receive will be invaluable in refining our idea to be that much more appealing and useful to our “customers.”
Once we’ve completed these three steps we can evaluate whether or not our ideas are worthy of pursuit. In some cases we’ll get a thumbs-up signal, and in others we’ll either need a complete idea overhaul or throw it on the scrap heap. While sometimes challenging, being completely objective is the byword.
Evaluating ideas as a product or service reduces the chance for us to emotionally chase a fantasy. It allows us to allocate our time and energy pursuing viable opportunities that we envision.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.