In my book The Big Idea, I write about people who had the courage and stamina to make their dreams come true. One of the most commonly asked questions budding entrepreneurs have is, “I have an idea… now what?” Here are some steps to help put you on your way to turning your big idea into reality. Let’s get started!
The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. That’s the best wisdom when it comes to developing a new product. Everyone has problems, so find yours and turn it into gold. You think you have a big idea? Throw yourself into learning! Use the Internet to conduct market research on your idea or product. Search local stores and malls, talk to salespeople, customer service reps, etc. Read everything you can get your hands on about starting a business and selling a product, and research your idea. Does your product or service currently exist? Research the price, packaging and selling methods of similar products. What’s the market for your product or service? Who are your potential customers—how old are they, where do they live, what other kinds of products do they purchase? You can never be too knowledgeable, so start doing your homework!
After you have conducted your research, you might realize you have a truly original idea, and you will want to protect your idea with a patent. A patent is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This process is complicated and, once again, will require a great deal of research. It might even be wise to seek the services of a patent attorney. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has an excellent Web site (www.uspto.gov) detailing everything you need to know to get started.
If you have a big idea for a new product or service, you have to figure out how to take that concept out of your head and into your hands. If your idea is simple, you can sit down and create a prototype. I have had many guests on my show who have made prototypes out of cardboard, glue, drinking straws, pieces of plastic, hairpins—you name it! The important thing is that you have to bring your product to life and prove that it works!
Your best test market is your own backyard. Your friends and family are your best advertising and marketing tools, so test your product or service on them. Hold focus groups with them. Order a pizza, invite your friends over and ask them for feedback about the product. Ask your local retailers for their opinions about your product or service. Give it away for nothing in exchange for feedback. Nothing beats a visual demonstration when it comes to launching a new product.
Before the world can beat a path to your door, you have to let it know you are there. Many people are very fearful of the moment when they fi nally have to sell their product or service. You don’t have to be the most charismatic or outgoing person to make the sale. You just have to believe in your product, and be passionate and knowledgeable about what you are trying to sell.
It also never hurts to get a little creative. Do it differently and try to think outside the box. One of the first pitches I worked on was for an automobile dealership. At the time, we had no car experience and no TV experience, which is exactly what the client was looking for. My colleagues and I were trying to create something out of the box to get us noticed. And then it came to us—used car parts! Over the course of a 12-hour day, we delivered a different car part to the client every half-hour. A headlight with a tag that read, “We’ll give you bright ideas,” a fender that read, “We’ll protect your rear end.” Our idea could have backfired and upset the client, but the client thought it was clever. Don’t be afraid to do things differently.
Donny Deutsch is an ad mogul, branding expert, TV personality and author. His latest book is The Big Idea: How to Make Your Entrepreneurial Dreams Come True From the Aha Moment to Your First Million.