Have you ever had a killer idea for a product or service and then thought, “Now what?” Maybe you have a great business concept, but you don’t know where to start. Bringing an idea to life isn’t easy. It requires passion, patience, and, most importantly, the ability to execute. The key thing is to get started, so you can move from the idea stage to creating a profitable business. Here are some fundamental steps to help you transform that ingenious business idea into reality.
Solve a problem
One of the first questions to ask yourself is whether your business idea solves a problem (for you or someone else). Some of the most successful businesses originate this way. Take SPANX, for example. SPANX founder Sara Blakely was getting ready for a party when she realized she didn’t have the right undergarment to provide a smooth look under her white pants. She decided to take a pair of scissors and cut the feet off her control top pantyhose. Boom! Her business idea was born.
Another example is Lindsay Cook, founder, and CEO of FitOn, an app that is redefining digital fitness. While working as a busy vice president, she had an epiphany, “As a busy working mom, I realized that making it to my favorite studio classes had become seemingly impossible. When I searched online for more accessible and practical workouts, I was disappointed in the quality and lack of motivation that existed. Hence the inspiration behind FitOn.”
Research the market
Your product or service won’t get off the ground if there isn’t a viable market for it. Does your product cater to a broad enough audience? You will need enough of a customer base to make it worthwhile. Also, review the competition. How is your product different and better? How are they marketing themselves? What channels are they using to sell their products? These are all insights that can help you craft a more robust business plan as time goes on.
Define your target audience
To build a solid foundation for your business, you need to understand who your target audience is. The reason for this is fairly obvious. You can’t (and shouldn’t) try to sell your product or service to everyone under the sun. Different groups of people have different challenges and pain points. You’ll want to identify an audience that is the sweet spot for your product. When defining your ideal customer, consider things like demographics and psychographics. This approach allows you to focus your marketing spend on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you than others. Once you know who you are targeting, it will be much easier to determine which channels you should use to reach them and what marketing messages will resonate with them. The critical thing to keep in mind is that “everybody” is not a demographic. You can start broad but become increasingly granular as you progress.
Validate your idea
Avoid going from a brilliant business idea straight to a full-fledged product. By taking a few extra steps, you could potentially save yourself thousands of dollars (or much more) in the long run. Entrepreneurs—especially those seeking investors—can give themselves an edge by creating a product prototype. Whether you’re considering developing a skincare cream or baked goods, a prototype is a functional version of your product that you can present to potential customers. An excellent way to introduce a prototype to your target audience is by conducting focus groups. Focus groups allow you to validate your idea and receive input before going full steam. By asking the right questions, you’ll be able to use that valuable feedback to make adjustments and ultimately build a superior product. While perfection isn’t the goal, this process will get you closer to a product or service that can stand the test of time.
While many people have great business ideas, a small percentage of those actually follow through on them. Don’t let perfectionism or fear get in the way. By being methodical and taking small steps, you’ll be able to maintain momentum and set yourself up for success. Celebrate critical milestones along the way. Be flexible and nimble. Focus on continuously improving your product or service. And most importantly, believe in yourself. Robert Herjavec, star of the show Shark Tank, offers this advice: “You have to have a senseless belief in your idea and yourself—almost to the point of being delusional. Remember that everyone has advice, but no one knows what you have to go through to start, grow and scale a business until they live it. Talk is cheap, but action speaks volumes.”