The magic idea! The perfect mousetrap! The killer app! The frog to prince fairy dust! How many entrepreneurs and businesses spend millions just to get a hold of an idea for a service or product that will earn them millions if not gazillions of dollars? Where is the Aladdin's lamp with the three-wish genie just waiting for us! Don't hold your breath. Some get lucky, but for most, a lot of hard work and digging is required.
There are two ways of going at this. The mad scientist, beloved of cartoons, dithers and twitters about in the garage until the lightening bolt strikes. The other is the digger who finds a need and works backwards to build a solution. OK...where to start?
Have a plan. You need to be VERY specific about the need for your service or product and define that need precisely. What is the gap you are filling? How big is it? Who will benefit and by how much with the solution you are crafting? Your work will be easier if you have a road map. If you don't, you may get somewhere, but probably not where you wanted to go! Or you may get nowhere at all.
Look at what you know. Office systems, hardware processes you see every day, services you would like but can't find, multi-step activities that can be simplified, work environment changes that make folks more productive, ugly objects that can be attractive, or complex equipment that can be doofus-proofed. Keep digging until you find the golden egg. It will happen. Remember the variable time windshield wiper control in the movies?
When destiny finally smiles... OK, a small grin will do. Start on the following:
- Unique attributes and competitive advantages. Is there any competition? What are the unique attributes and competitive advantages of your product or service? Why would anyone buy from you rather than the competition? Quality, time of offering, convenient location, staff reputation...all can be factors.
- Price. How much must you charge to achieve an excess of revenue over expense? How much time, money and energy can someone save using your idea? How much fun can they have or how can their life be improved or their self-image enhanced? What is a possible scale of prices that make sense based on the answers to thee questions.
- Promotional activities. How will you make the market aware of your product or service and of its value and characteristics? If you are not a biggy...a P and G or Toyota or Gap, what are your options? Do you advertise in a newspaper? Can you use a web site? Telemarket? Can you get attention in E-Bay or Kijiji...or one of the B to B sites? Will employees hand out brochures or, at least, take them home? Can you speak to the local service club such as Rotary? Is there a local TV show for new ideas or a magazine that targets your potential buyers?
- Distribution. How will you deliver the product or service? Will you use direct sales, sub-contracts, wholesalers, distributors, Internet and delivery services? How do you make this as simple as possible so you can concentrate on your core business or service?
- Service. How will you make sure your customer is happy with all aspects of your product or service? Who will meet the new customers? Who will be on hand, in the showroom or web site or telephone link, greeting the first paying customers and each one after that? Who will design the questionnaire asking them how they liked the product or service and what they would like to buy next or how can you improve your website?
- People. How happy and committed are your employees? Will they help you market the service among their acquaintances? How about past employees? Will these people be partners with you? Would they be competing with you?
- Cash flow management. How will you manage money? Can you take plastic? How do you get into Pay-Pal? What is a secure system for receiving cash? How will you collect your bills? Can you always be paid in advance?
- Market trends and variations. Are you sure that you are not introducing the right product at the wrong time? Is the market growing? How do you know this?
Too many questions to deal with? Let someone else do it. Contract the whole shooteroo to someone else who is good at product introduction and go back to digging for another new product or service. We are not all Bill Gates...both developing and managing with equal brilliance!
Never give up though. The fun of searching and digging will keep you young, keep your mind active and help you link ideas laterally.