Most inventions are brought about from someone noticing a problem they go through, or witnessing someone else go through in their lives and wondering how it can be fixed or improved. Ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere and anyone. You might come up with an idea in your basement or at the airport.
Here we’ll lay out some tips and steps to identify and evaluate whether a product opportunity is worth pursuing.
Find a Problem Worth Solving
You can make an invention to improve just about anything, but that doesn’t mean every problem is worth going to great lengths to solve or improve. An invention that automatically ties your shoes is not something people are going to want to buy. This is because such an invention would be expensive to design and produce, as it likely will be dealing with robotics, and the inconvenience of tying your shoes is not worth the cost of a product like that to the average consumer. The pain your problem solves has to outweigh the cost of purchasing and figuring out how to use your product.
Assess Your Product
Once you know what the product you are looking to launch is, you should evaluate both it and the market it will be launched in to both get a clear idea and vision for your product, as well as see if it stands a good chance of success. You can use the following questions to help guide you.
What Issue Does This Product Solve?
If you can’t clearly answer this question, you won’t be able to communicate it to your customers, which means they won’t know why it is needed in the first place. The answer to this question will help you clearly communicate value. It is good to have 3 value propositions that your solution offers.
A sharpener for an axe head could use the value propositions that it will save you time, money and energy.
- The sharpener will keep the axe head in top shape so you don’t have to replace it immediately when it wears out, which saves money.
- Time is saved by not having to run to the store to replace the axe head when it dulls, and is also saved through the increased efficiency of cutting down trees.
- It saves energy because cutting a tree down with a sharp axe head is much easier than with a dull axe head.
Who Does This Product Help?
This question will help you target and frame your marketing efforts.
Is your product gender specific? Age Specific? Specific to a culture? Religion?
The answer can be either hyper specific or extremely broad, and will shape the outreach of your marketing efforts. For example, if you came up with a new skateboard, your market is much likely to be younger, likes to spend time outdoors, and you can even go so far as to get a general idea of the attire they wear and even the type of music they like to listen to. This does not mean that every skateboarder is in their teens and 20’s, but most of them will be, so you want to tailor your marketing to that demographic.
If you were to come up with a commercial for that skateboard, you may showcase someone using it dressed in skateboarder clothing, with music playing that would probably be in the genre of punk rock. You aren’t trying to exclude anyone from using your product, but appeal to the majority of people that are likely to purchase your product.
If you had a product that has a much larger demographic, you might try to use marketing that would appeal to a broader audience. Coca Cola, whose target market is very nearly everyone, launched an extremely successful “Share a Coke” campaign, where they started putting names on coke bottles for people to buy and give to someone they cared about. They were able to appeal to a massive demographic and yet still offer both personalization and a reason and cause to buy their product that the majority of people could relate to.
Assess the Market
Here you want to find out whether the market you are looking to break into is oversaturated with similar products, or is large enough to be worth the risk of business.
You might think that having the largest demographic possible is key to success since there is the potential to have the largest amount of customers, but that is not always the case. Larger markets can be often filled with products similar to yours.
It would be very difficult to break into the pencil market. The reason for this is that pencils are very simple in nature, so it’s hard to make a pencil special or different enough that would be meaningfully different from other pencils. There is also the fact that the market is dominated by a few large corporations that are able to produce pencils in massive volumes which let them sell at low costs.
Most companies and startups that are breaking into a new market won’t have the budget to order volumes as much as the top companies, so the cost of their products will probably start higher than their competition. This means that your product or its marketing has to be better to the point that people are willing to pay the extra money for your product versus the competition.
You don’t always need the largest market to be successful. If you are the only company and option in a niche or smaller market, it will be much less costly to build a customer base than when competing with massive corporations that have spent years, sometimes decades even, cultivating their customers.
What Makes You Different?
This will be both a selling point and will also help you assess your product. You’ll have had to study the competition before you can answer this question. What makes you different could be anything from affordability to a feature of the product, to branding, to the vision of the company, to customer experience. These will be the edges you need to market to the public to show why they should buy your product. Perhaps one of the most bold and brilliant long term marketing campaigns showing the differences against a competitor was the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials that Apple ran for more than 14 years. These tongue-in-cheek commercials humorously and effectively show what Apple’s Mac has that puts them above the competition.
How Will We Market This Product?
It’s a good idea to get a marketing plan in place. Your target demographic is going to play a massive determining role in how you market your product. For instance, if you have a product you want to sell to a younger demographic, cable TV is not going to be the best way to get word out about your product, since most subscribers of cable TV are over 65 years old by a pretty large margin. You instead might advertise YouTube since it attracts a much larger younger crowd.
You’ll likely not have an unlimited budget, so be sure to try and make every penny of your advertising count. Some of the most common forms of modern marketing include google ads, YouTube ads, social media campaigns, TV and radio commercials, and podcasts.
How is Success Defined?
What is the goal of your product? Is it to sell it in major chains like Target, Walmart, etc.? Are you trying to launch an Amazon FBA business? Are you trying to get a capital venture company to help you?
It’s important to plan this out with clear milestones and goals. This will set a clear vision for everyone involved to help inspire them, as well as direct your efforts. Rather than stumble around, having a clear sense of purpose will allow you to ask for every marketing campaign or business opportunity, “Will this help me reach my goal?”, and filter out time wasters.