If nobody followed through with their ideas, everything around us would be completely different. Many of us take the role of innovation for granted in our lives. The products that we use on a daily basis–our smartphones, our household items, etc.–all stemmed from an idea.
Many people have ideas. If you have gotten this far without an idea, you might be looking at the wrong guide. The truth is you are likely full of ideas but may lack the resources or know-how to turn them into reality.
Starting is scary. That’s why many people who have ideas don’t have the courage to see their product realized. It takes effort and the risk of being criticized. Most people just don’t know where to begin.
When you are first gathering your idea, it can be difficult to organize everything into the steps of a project. If you are working with a team, it can be especially hard to get everyone in sync. Trello allows you to brainstorm and organize your ideas in real time with your team. Create a board and get everything out there. Use lists and cards to manage projects and set deadlines for yourself and your team. With Trello, you can easily move ideas from the initial brain dump to the final product backlog.
Have The Right Mindset
Don’t make the mistake of viewing your idea only as a product. Keep in mind that if you want to develop a successful product, you must also look at your idea as a business. Many entrepreneurs get excited about their idea and spend all of their resources developing their product’s features. Before you pour all of your money into the design of your product, you need to research your market.
Find Your Target Market
Start by locating your target market and creating customer profiles. Identify the people that are going to use your product and research their major pain points. Many people think that the broader the market they target, the more sales that they will have. This is not true. Your product’s marketing, packaging, imaging, etc. will appeal most to a specific group of people. With a narrow target audience, you can market your idea to the people who you know will use your product. Once you learn about your customer, it’s time to test out your idea.
Once you have developed detailed customer profiles, the next step is to create a prototype to fit the market. Your prototype will never be as polished as the final product. The goal of creating a prototype is to prove to yourself, your partners, and any investors that your idea works. Remember that it does not need to be made of the same materials nor be of the same scale as your final product. If you are unable to build a prototype on your own, seek the help of someone else. Developing a prototype saves time and effort down the road when you are weighing the importance of a patent.
To Patent Or Not To Patent
While patents are not necessary in order to introduce your product, they certainly do offer extra protection and defensibility. If you do decide to opt for a patent, you will need to begin by doing a preliminary patent search. You must also subsequently have a patent attorney or an agent do a patent search for you in order for you to apply.
Protection from patents does eliminate competition. Patents are useful, but ultimately they are just another potential tool for you to develop your idea. Don’t get too worried about the importance of a patent if you can’t get your hands on one.
After you have applied, you need to decide how you are going to organize your business. Most entrepreneurs choose to seek investment, license, or bootstrap their own company.
Seeking investment is a great way to bring your product to market without the risk of going bankrupt. If you have strong deal-making skills and lack the cash to get your idea rolling, getting outside capital may be the option for you. You will work on inventing and developing your idea, while investors will provide many of the resources needed to manufacture and market your product. This is one of the fastest ways to get your product to market and allows you to simultaneously develop ideas while your partners continue to manufacture and market your product.
Licensing is when you hand your new idea to a company in exchange for a royalty from its sales. You can license your idea to a marketer, a manufacturer, or a product development company. The upside to licensing your product is that licensees take on all the risk. Once, you license the idea, you will have no more financial responsibility to the project. With that being said, most companies will only license a product they know will be successful, so you must be able to sell your idea. The downside is that your potential to make money is lower than that of outsourcing and starting your own business.
Bootstrapping your own company offers the biggest potential to make a return on your idea, but also involves the highest risk. There is no shortcut to starting your own business. It will take a substantial investment of time and money, but unlike outsourcing or licensing, you will maintain complete control of your company. Before founding a startup, you must consider your strengths and how much time you are willing to spend on your business. You might decide to outsource the manufacturing and use a distribution channel. Maybe you will be able to manufacture and market the product yourself. These are all things you need to take into account when determining the direction you want to take your business.
Starting a business is an uphill journey, but taking the proper steps and surrounding yourself with the right team will make the hill much easier to climb. Embrace adversity and confront your failures to course-correct and iterate on your ideas for the future.