By Adam Petrilli •
So, you have a great idea? Not so fast. Just because you have a brainstorm and are feeling ready to take on the world doesn’t mean your idea is poised to be the next Fortune 500 company. Unfortunately, a good vision usually isn’t enough to translate into commercial success, at least on its own.
Luckily, following a few best practices can help you determine which one of those groundbreaking concepts is worth pursuing (and which ones need to go back to the drawing board). As a marketing expert and business leader, I know what it takes to turn a high-level idea into a business reality. Read on for five tips on testing your idea’s innovative and commercial potential so you’re fully informed before launching a business.
Check your idea’s feasibility
When you’re excited about a potential new business opportunity, the first thing to do is to run a feasibility check. This project management term describes the practical likelihood of your idea working. Essentially, you’ll want to write down as many questions as possible on what it would take to make your vision work.
Running a feasibility check, while hypothetical, should help identify any major roadblocks that could cost you significant money and time down the road. You’ll want to be honest regarding your idea’s legal, operational, technical and timeline aspects.
Additionally, consider the current economic market and how your business idea would solve a problem. No “great” business idea will succeed unless you start out knowing who your target market is and what your niche can be.
Don’t be shy — start chatting about your idea
Sometimes, it can feel tempting to keep a great idea to yourself. But in actuality, you’ll want to share it with the people you trust because they’ll be the first place where you can gut-check whether the idea has any legs.
Before you spend money on running demos or giveaways, see how the people in your life react when you tell them about your prospective business venture. Are they curious? Excited? Or do they simply change the subject? If your idea is meeting a gap in the market, it should spark interest and prompt follow-up questions. Ideally, your close network will also be honest and direct with you on any concerns they might have.
Bring your idea online
A zero- or low-cost way to test your idea is by bringing it online. Creating a website or a social media page for your concept not only allows the broader public to discover it organically but also gives you a chance to work out the nuances of your business further and distill your brand.
As soon as you have an online presence, you can see the origins of any traffic. You can then begin running small paid tests to see what’s needed to build an audience. If your idea generates enthusiasm, you’ll be able to understand your demographic better and see if people are willing to become paying customers once your product exists.
It’s much easier to A/B test online, and you can play around with your website design and product offerings alongside Google search campaigns. Early experimentation with your UX and UI can drastically impact your overall performance, and it’s best to start small early on to gain these learnings.
Build prototypes — and try them out
Once you’re sure there is significant interest swirling around your concept, investing in prototypes (or a test service) of your product is worthwhile. This has the potential to become a tremendous learning experience, as you’ll be able to see what it takes to build your product from start to finish — and there will, no doubt, be bumps along the way.
While it will be exciting to execute your idea in reality for the first time, analyze every step of the process and keep note of areas of improvement. You may not even want to create a complete prototype (or run a full service), instead choosing to keep these early trials limited for easier data collection. Limiting your range of options will make it easier to see where your customers gravitate and help you decide on the next steps.
Seed your product to your target demo
Finally, once you have an online presence and have working prototypes (or test services up and running), you can begin to share your product with your target demo. Free giveaways to your ideal customer base will accomplish two things: You’ll get the best feedback for your concept and start getting word-of-mouth notoriety.
Running giveaways, especially in a focus group setting, will allow you to receive formalized feedback that you can implement into your business as it launches. If you aren’t opting for focus groups, ensure that your giveaways are tied to feedback forms or surveys so that you’re still receiving value from offering free products.
Another value, however, is that working closely with your customer base will help market your business. If you feel your product or service is ready, you can begin to work with social media influencers who have a broader level of marketing power. Early interest in your product from these online audiences will help develop brand loyalty and make customers feel as though they’re at the forefront of something new and exciting. A business only launches once, so capitalize on the experience while you can!