It’s easy to get excited when you have that “Eureka!” moment. And then get even more excited when, after some Googling, the indications are that it hasn’t been done before - and you have seen a gap in the market.
But sometimes there’s a gap in the market for a reason. The poet Robert Frost may have taken “the road less travelled by, and that has made all the difference” but always remember Jerry Seinfeld’s rebuttal that “sometimes the road less travelled by, is less travelled by for a reason.”
Here’s three questions you should ask before investing time, money and effort into an idea that might be a dud.
Do customers actually want it?
Some wonderful technologies have failed as products because people simply didn’t buy them. 3D televisions failed to capture the public’s imagination, and Google Glass has yet to prove a visionary product. The only way to truly find out if there’s a desire for a product is to ask potential customers – and not just friends and family but real people that are already using similar products. Identify a sample, and then ask open-ended questions – don’t assume you know what they want. And then take the feedback seriously.
Has it been done before (and failed)?
Dig deeper and try and find out if a similar product to yours has been launched previously. This can be harder to discover, but seeking advice from peers or sector specialists can sometimes reveal fundamental previous incarnations of your grand idea, and its fundamental flaws.
Does it actually make business sense?
Regular viewers of Dragons Den may remember the entrepreneur who had invented an insert for a toothpaste tube that enabled users to squeeze every last drop from the container. He was dismissed immediately - because it made no sense to change a product so that customers would buy it less often. It pays to put yourself into an investor’s position and ask some hard questions.
But don’t be discouraged. Your idea could be a simple pivot away from being something which everybody wants. Thinking outside the box is great but asking, researching and learning outside the box are just as important.