This was me about 10 years ago:
Hi, I’m Colleen. I’m an entrepreneurship professor. I listen to ideas all day long and I can’t get enough of them. I dream about my students ideas and wake up with new ideas to tell them. I obsess about it. I sometimes forget to eat when I’m working with student entrepreneurs. I love ideas. I live for ideas.
Now, today, in the face of my addiction, about three times a day on average, I hear a business idea from a student, a colleague, or a friend. They share their idea with such passion and fervor. They can’t wait for me to jump up and yell, THAT’S IT! That’s the new Uber!
Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. I’m a recovering ideaholic. After 15 years working with entrepreneurs, I can honestly say I’m sober.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love an idea, but I’ve learned that moderation and temperance take precedent over an addiction to an idea.
In my world, I usually have about 5-10 individuals A WEEK ask me this question: “Is this a good idea?”
Oh, and you bet my inner joy and addiction wants to come out! However, after years of experience, I’ve learned the following response: “I don’t know the answer to that, but I know how you can find out” is the most responsible response I can give.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned on my journey is: How to tell an idea is any good? The answer is TRACTION.
My first question is always: How many strangers have you talked to about this idea that didn’t know it was your idea?
99% of the time, the answer is none.
Most people don’t like this response.
Remember though, most people won’t like this response because they are addicted to their idea. They create this world in their mind where everything works and people love their offering. They’ve talked to their friends and family and all of them say GO FOR IT! Go make your dream happen!
And… everything works perfectly in their world. Until they meet the real world.
If you have never sold anything before, getting that first sale is harder than anything you can imagine. Getting 1,000 sales is proportionally harder.
The hard truth is, many entrepreneurs invest money in that “perfect product” or “ideal user interface” without truly understanding what problem they are solving for their potential customers.
As technology has progressed, I’ve become a big fan of landing pages (not affiliated, but a good starting point). Landing pages are essentially minimally viable products (MVPs) that you can test your market with.
Admittedly, this strategy of landing pages is a bit outside the scope of this post – although the importance of them should not be overlooked.
Landing pages work because they:
- Are not expensive to launch or promote
- Allow you to test different audiences
- Allow you to test difference messages or offerings
- Allow you to assess what the market will respond to
Here are some questions to ask your team:
Why would we spend hours of energy and resources on building something your customer doesn’t need?
How could you spend your hours of energy on resources on what your potential or current clients want?
How could we find out what problems we have solved for prior customers?
How could we find out what potential customers’ problems are?
The idea is to test an offering prior to investing in based on these findings. If you’d like some tips on this, please leave it in the comments. I’d be happy to expand on this and write a post on it.
Allow the market to lead your product/service development. Keep in mind that ideally, you want your market to be addicted to you. You don’t want to be addicted to your market.