I get plenty of questions about how to take an idea from first concept to market release. Many of these questions are from would-be entrepreneurs who might not know how to get started, while others come from people who are farther along in the process but looking for encouragement to get them through the home stretch. Wherever you find yourself in the process — I’ve been there. So let me take a bit of time to outline my general thoughts on going from an initial idea to a full-fledged product ready for the global marketplace.
Frankly, ideas are a dime a dozen. Actually, that might be overvaluing them. Everyone has an idea for the next big business or product. While that’s all well and good, an idea really means nothing until you’ve put in some due diligence to test its resilience. This means putting your ideas through a stress test.
The first component of such a test is to truly examine what problem a potential product solves. Your product might be cool. Your product might be interesting. But if your product doesn’t solve a problem for someone, chances are, you’re not going to sell very many. That, at its core, is the central proposition of business as a whole. The entire enterprise is predicated on solving problems through the market. So take a long, hard look at your idea, and see how it would make life better for people. If you can’t answer that, it fails the test.
Another aspect of the stress test is to examine how unique your idea truly is. Does some version of it already exist in the marketplace? Is your idea just a small change from an existing idea without much value added? Did a similar product already exist and then get discontinued because it wasn’t profitable? These are the tough questions that can help you determine how unique your product is. If it’s not unique, then it is unlikely to succeed where others have failed. Alternatively, if other versions exist and are successful, why does the world need another version created by you?
Protect Your Idea
Let’s assume that your product concept has passed the stress test with flying colors. A key next step is protecting your intellectual property. I’ve written before about my appreciation of the modern intellectual property protection process. It’s one of the ways that innovators can be assured that their hard work will actually reap benefits if it’s well deserved. Without such protections, product concepts would be vulnerable to intellectual theft and other forms of fraud that would make it exceedingly difficult for newcomers to bring novel ideas to market.
The most relevant form of intellectual protection for inventors is the patent. You can think of a patent as a copyright for inventions. These inventions might be physical innovations, processes, new systems, or any number of other things. The important thing is that it be an original concept and that you can demonstrate how it would exist beyond the purview of a mere idea. It is always a good idea, if the market potential is big enough for your idea, and you have assessed all aspects of that potential through a market feasibility study, to file for a patent or other relevant form of intellectual property protection when creating a new concept so that you can confidently proceed to next steps.
Prototype and Planning
With your concept stress tested and a patent pending, you’re ready to start prototyping. A prototype is an early working version of your product that can help prove your concept. Prototyping was an integral part of my early work with LifeWave, as the process allows you to tweak your design and improve upon it in a number of ways. The prototyping process may expose flaws in your concept or opportunities to reimagine the whole idea. This is the time to fix those issues before you go into mass production.
Once you have a viable prototype, you can use it to pitch your idea to investors and others who can help bring your concept to market, if that is something that you need. Where before, your idea only existed in your head or on paper, those with the potential to give it traction can now tangibly interact with it. This is key and can be an important part of helping you receive the investment capital you need to roll out your product launch.
Along with your prototype, you’ll also need to develop your business plan. A great product is important, of course, but without a plan for how to support and sell it, it may not be worth all that much. This is a time to focus on your potential market, production process, sales, and any other factors that can contribute to the success of your undertaking.
In summary, stress test your idea, protect it, prototype it, and create your business plan. Using these guidelines, you should have a head start on getting to market in the most direct manner possible.