By Robert Kosobucki
Good luck comes to those who prepare. Here are ten tips to consider before starting down the arduous path of commercializing an idea:
1. Is your idea a feature, product or business?
Identify your idea. Perhaps you can piggyback on your existing sales channels, customers and market applications. If not, analyze whether sales will be sufficient to cover the extensive expenses of breaking into an unfamiliar market. Consider partnering with an established business.
2. Fine-tune your idea.
Before you actually build your product or start thinking about the facility, equipment and organization necessary to produce it, talk to prospective customers. With just a concept description, you can assess their interest and use their feedback to refine your product’s features, pricing, sales proposition and sales channel. It may spark an even better idea or market application.
3. It’s about them, not you.
Prospective customers may not share your excitement for your product idea. Seek out their candid feedback, as it could prevent expensive market failure and provide valuable insights on how to succeed.
4. Robert’s 25% Rule.
The uncertainties that come with change can make a prospective customer uncomfortable. To make the leap to a new product, a sales prospect often needs to perceive, at minimum, a 25% improvement to some aspect of the product. While this improvement is not limited to price, it has to be something they care about. Your new cotton ball may absorb 25% more liquid, but because cotton balls do not constitute a great concern in their daily life, the cotton balls they already buy are good enough.
5. Leverage your partners’ experience.
You can’t do it alone. Your chance of success climbs dramatically if you solicit advice from knowledgeable external resources in technology, manufacturing, marketing, sales and promotion. Western New York is a great area to solicit help—people want to help others succeed.
6. Sell more!
Maximize all sales irons in the fire. The sales cycle is often longer than you think, and it’s easy to come up short. Potential sales will drop out for unanticipated reasons beyond your control.
7. Time is your biggest cost.
Product development, production setup, regulatory approvals and sales will take much longer than you think. Push to get things done sooner than later.
8. Identify and mitigate risks.
Technical, scheduling, financial, regulatory, marketing—surprises hurt. Identify and mitigate potential problems in all areas before they happen. Have a backup plan for when they do.
9. Don’t be afraid of success.
Many are concerned about managing overwhelming sales if a product takes off. But Silicon Valley startup culture is built around hoping for explosive sales growth and figuring out how to manage it. Fast sales growth is much less painful to manage than a sales growth that is too low. Don’t hold back on your efforts.
10. Don’t doubt yourself.
There will be many contrary opinions, ambiguities and unknowns. Solicit advice. Enlist the experience of others. But be prepared to move out of your comfort zone and make decisions based on your intuition.