Sit on your own and think, or get out there?

If you have a great idea for a product or service, for a new or existing business, should you sit and develop your idea in isolation or get out there and see what’s going on around you and talk to as many people as you can?

I know the product development process can be intoxicating, but be wary of making assumptions about what other people really need? I mean, how good are other people at judging what’s best for you?

We love our own ideas and the more we think about an opportunity, the fortunes we are going to make, the more emotionally wrapped up in it we become; or should I say trapped. Trapped because, people fear rejection. They will often prefer to invest more and more time and money in an idea, rather than ask others for their opinion for fear of being told “it’s rubbish”.

Friends and family will be very supportive. The more enthusiastic you are about an idea, the more likely they will believe you ‘must be right’; they will encourage you. They will avoid being negative towards you, they don’t want to be the damp squib, that pours water on your idea. Unwittingly they may be reinforcing your desire to go down the wrong track.

You are probably clear about the benefits of your idea, you can picture how and why people will buy it. But will they? Are there other factors and options open to them?  What is likely to encourage them to part with their money? What will they value most? A competitor may be more established, have greater insight, a proven track record, and a product that already works.

Recently a software App was being developed to help sole traders produce estimates and invoices quickly and easily, while out on-site. The idea was shared with a few people initially who thought sole-traders would love it; “it makes perfect sense”. But when it was shown to potential customers, they nearly all said “great idea but my other-half does all the admin”. Many of them didn’t like using computers and typing up estimates. Luckily, only an early prototype had been developed, but the idea which seemed very logical, was flawed. This ‘experiment’ was a great learning process, before too much was invested. It was canned.

I use the word ‘experiment’ because that is exactly what it is. A new product idea is an experiment. Why? Because you don’t know if it is going to be valued until it is tested.

What is initially developed shouldn’t be considered the final product. Show various prototypes to potential customers, see how they respond; expect to develop many versions. Consider what resources are needed to invest in the prototype development and the ongoing business development; remember the product won’t sell itself.

Initially develop the most basic product or service you can. Keep it simple. Don’t add extra features, which is always tempting, until the basic product is right, and it creates value. Try and sell the basic product, what some call a minimum viable product, to see if people will actually part with their hard-earned cash.

The type of customer who buys may not be the customer you thought would buy. They may buy for completely different reasons from those you expected. They may respond differently to different pricing models and price levels. They may buy from different places. All valuable lessons.

Over committing emotionally to a specific idea is hazardous. Raising high expectations of friends and family is an unnecessary step; to start treat it as a new business experiment.

Be prepared to ditch the idea, fail quickly, if it doesn’t prove worthwhile.

Keep an open mind; it’s all about learning, learning, learning; before you can start ‘earning’.

And don’t sit on your own and think, get out there and talk to people.

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