Congratulations! You’re the parent of a beautiful bouncing idea and you can't wait to share it with the world. You're filled with excitement at it's potential. It could become a cutting edge product or product improvement.
Maybe it will be a revolutionary service offering. Or, perhaps you've got an ingenious process improvement on your hands that's loaded with cost-cutting potential.
At this moment it's pure; a blank slate. How you treat your idea over the next few days, months or years (depending on your time line) makes all the difference in how it will turn out.
Raising a good idea is no easy feat. In fact, you can draw some pretty interesting parallels between developing an idea into a fully-functioning concept and raising a child to be a capable and productive adult.
Related Article: Sound Stupid? Dumb Business Ideas That Turned Out to be Pretty Smart
Each Stage of an Idea's Life Cycle Requires Something Different
This is when you nurture and feed your idea with insights and data. At this crucial stage your idea needs an influx of information to achieve healthy growth and development. Your most useful tool at this point is research. Taking your time at the start of your venture will save you money and hassle further down the line, so it is important not to skip the this step.
All the data you gather will also be crucial for any investment pitches you have to make; preparation will increase the likelihood that investors will consider you as a sensible bet. There are many different ways you can conduct market research, from hitting your local high street and interviewing potential customers to analyzing trends in larger market data.
If your business is on the smaller end of the scale, you will be able to collect most, if not all, of the necessary market data yourself. If not, you might need some outside help.
To get you started, there is a lot of free market data and research out there. Check out these two:
- BizStats.com offers free business statistics and financial data for various industries.The various filters help you find financial information about other companies in your field that are of similar size. The site also provides calculators and others tools to help you understand profit-risk ratios, cost of goods sold and valuation factors for your business.
- FreeLunch.com covers everything from consumer and labor markets to gross domestic product and inventory ratios and will give you insight into economic and population trends.
Remember: if you do have a direct competitor you might be able to find out a lot from their sales data, or just looking at what they are doing.
Your idea is starting to talk and walk now. At this stage you need to let go a little and entrust your idea to others so it can benefit from different opinions and perspectives. Just make sure to give these "idea sitters" the data and insights that helped nourish your idea. And, try not to hover. If your idea stumbles a few times, your instinct may be to swoop in and protect it behind closed doors.
However, keep in mind your idea needs a few skinned knees and bumps to make sure its tough enough to go the distance. Your purpose at this stage is to be there to help your idea avoid any huge catastrophes, expose it to new perspectives and identify any potential challenges so you can do what's best for your idea's continued growth. This is where focus groups come in handy.
Consider taking advantage of online services that can help you run a custom-tailored focus group. Some are even free.
- FocusGroupIt enables you to use focus groups and surveys together to help you garner the insights you need to make the best decisions on next steps for your idea.
- iTracksChat lets you conduct chat-based focus groups with polling and rich media capabilities.
Related Article: Don't Guess What's Best: Why You Should Be A/B Testing
This stage is without a doubt, the final and longest lasting of all in the lifecycle of ideas. You may be lucky, your idea may sail through this typically awkward phase with little need for adjustment. Or, it may not. This could be where your idea challenges you. You may find yourself questioning if it was something you did or didn't do. Perhaps you're just too close to your idea to see potential roadblocks. It may be time to call in the experts.
Start by taking inventory and assessing where you are at with your idea.
Ask yourself the following questions?
- Do you have a compelling message and clearly defined value proposition?
- Do you know who your target market it?
- What is the lifetime value of your customer? What is an acceptable cost of acquisition?
- Are you ready to advertise, or do you first need to refine your marketing message?
If you have clear answers to the above questions, then you need a firm who can translate your marketing message into profitable campaigns that will yield leads and sales. But, if you don't have a strong value proposition, you may need to first invest in some internal marketing workshops or seek a marketing firm who specializes in helping companies craft strategic positioning.
Once you know where you are in the process, you will need to identify how to reach your target market. Some firms specialize internet marketing, while others have deep experience in TV, local markets or direct mail. Just like you'd help your child choose the right college for them, make sure you select a marketing firm that you believe can reach your target market.
Grown Up: Launch
If you made it this far with your idea then you've watched it grow into a fully functioning concept. You successfully researched, tested, developed and launched your idea. All it really needs from you at this point is an occasional check in to see if it's adapting to any changes in the marketplace or needs a little nip and tuck to keep it performing at its best. After all, a parents job is never really done. But isn't it nice to see the amazing concept your idea has become.
Now, about those grandkids.