How to explore potential market demand for your business idea

The Heights brims with entrepreneurial activity. Whether you’re a startup or established business with an idea for a new venture, most entrepreneurs will quickly face this question, “Who will buy my product?”

If you’re not already familiar with lean or agile development approaches, you can get the gist via some online reading. The basic idea is to quickly explore and develop market demand while refining your idea. Don’t reach deep into your pockets or fund a big, long-term development process at this point. Take fast, low-cost steps instead.

Agile development works for consumer and business audiences and all industries. It applies to healthcare, financial services, hospitality, industrial goods and consumer products. Here’s an agile way to get started with your idea:

First, write down the problem that your target audience has and how your idea will solve it. Your prospective buyer may be consciously aware of this problem, or unconsciously “putting up with it.” Be concise. Three to ten sentences should adequately summarize the problem and solution.

Second, don’t show your problem-solution summary to anyone yet. This is going to require some restraint. We all fondly recall bringing home school projects to the adoring approval of our parents. But, prospective buyers make real-world, self-interested buying decisions. Go on to the next step instead.

Summarize two to three alternative solutions that are already on the market today. Infuse each summary, including your business idea, with similar levels of enthusiasm and detail. Avoid hype. Hone in on specific benefits to buyers.

Now, reach out to members of your target audience with one simple request: Ask them to read these summaries and tell you which one they find most appealing. Avoid revealing that you have an idea in the game, if you can. Keep to the basics: “I need some feedback on four ideas. Will you help me? Which idea is most appealing to you?”

You will surface authentic insight about whether your idea is understandable, credible and superior. Don’t explain or defend anything. Your job is to listen to how people feel, and why. You’ll discover tweaks that could dramatically increase demand for your idea.

You’ll also get a sense of how many might buy your solution if it were available. You may be on the cusp of something great. Or, you may find that your idea is simply too risky to spend any more time or money developing. If that’s the case, move on to your next brilliant idea with your hard-earned cash still in your hands.

Jason Sherman

Jason Sherman is principal at Whyze Group, a research and innovation firm serving organizations throughout North America. He owns a home in Cleveland Heights.

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Volume 8, Issue 6, Posted 6:52 PM, 05.28.2015