Well, first of all, it is a good, no really great, idea to have a good idea! Sounds silly but many ideas are just that. I could have a really great idea about growing bananas underwater but something tells me that I would be wasting my time. When the go/no-go decision is a little less obvious we must be a little more logical about testing for a good idea.
Here are ten suggestions as to how to test your idea:
- What problem (or business pain) is your idea targeted at?
- Is your idea well formed or do you have more work to do?
- Do you understand why your idea will appeal to potential customers?
- When you tell people about your idea do they get it immediately?
- Do you have a prototype or have you conducted a trial? Have you received positive feedback?
- Have you costed your idea, what will you sell it for?
- How will you make your product or deliver your service?
- Do you have the necessary skills and resources or will you buy them (where from)?
- Have you checked that nobody has done this before?
- Do you wish to retain ownership of your idea?
You may well have further tests in an organisation specific context e.g. does this fit with strategy or existing products but these are a good starting point. It is always best to test your ideas to avoid wasting time in a commercial environment. If not you may simply be playing.
It might seem a silly question, but do your know who your competitors are? If you are in retail you might list some shops on your high street or name your local supermarket chain. These provide some competition in that they sell goods and services that compete with yours. The trouble is you may have more competition than you think.
What exactly are you competing for? If you are a shop then you are competing for the money (or credit card) in some one’s pocket. What else can they spend their finite resources on? If you are a pub then your customers could do any of the following:
- buy drink from the local supermarket
- go to the local bowling alley
- visit the local chip shop or pizza takeaway
- go to the gym
So the money can go to a number of places which may also be time or season dependent. The gym option may be number one just after Christmas or before the holiday season.
So you should think about:
- who else might be competing for the money in your customers pockets
- what factors might affect the spending patterns of customers
- what exactly are selling to your customers (and why)
- do you know everything about your customers
- can you sell anything different to your customers
This may lead you to other discussions regarding the direction of your business and where you intend it to be in the future (strategy in consultant speak). This may not have been on your ‘to do’ list for today but it just might help you ride out the recession.
Many people are stuck when it comes to thinking about ways to innovate. You do not have to limit yourself to Marketing or R&D, anyone can get involved. Here are some hints as to where you can get started.
- Take a look at your business model i.e. How do you go about making money? Dell attempted to turn the turn the personal computer production business model on its head by collecting money before the customer’s PC was assembled and shipped. This greatly improved the cashflow of the business by holding funds for around seven to eight days.
- Organise your business networks and alliances i.e. Do you join forces with other businesses for mutual benefit? Many supermarket chains have ceased to run their own logistics and concentrated on their core businesses of selling goods. Wal-Mart suppliers have also joined forces (normally competitors) to ensure that small ‘just in time’ deliveries are aggregated to become cost effective.
- Do your processes and procedures support your core processes? i.e. How do you support the company’s core processes and workers? Starbucks has delivered its profitable coffee experience to customers because it offered good wages and employment benefits to workers. These were often part time, well educated individuals or students who were motivated and proactive.
- Take a look at your core processes i.e. How do you create and add value to your offerings. Wal-Mart continues to grow profitably through real-time inventory management systems, aggressive contracts with merchandise suppliers, and feedback systems that give store managers the ability to identify changing buyer behaviours and respond rapidly.
- Product performance i.e. How do you design your core offerings The VW Beetle (in both its original and its newest form) took the market by storm, as did the Apple iPod and iPhone. These have performance designed in and can be spun out into multiple offerings.
- Product system i.e. How do you link and provide a platform for multiple products. Microsoft Office “bundles a variety of specific products (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) into a system designed to deliver productivity in the workplace whilst the iPhone now delivers pretty much the same on the move (plus a phone and entertainment). The system serves a number basic needs and solves consumer problems.
- Service i.e. How do you provide value to customers and consumers that goes beyond the norm? An international flight on a low cost airline will get you to your intended destination. A flight on say Emirates or Thai International will leave you wondering whether you have been flying at all. Do your customers want to just get there or get there refreshed and ready to clinch a big business deal?
- Channel i.e. How do you get your offerings to market? In the US Martha Stewart has developed a deep understanding of her customers so that she knows just which channels to use (stores, TV shows, magazines, online) to obtain huge sales volumes from a relatively small set of “home living” educational and product offerings. This is prety much the same technique as that used by shopping channels such as QVC.
- Brand i.e. How do you communicate your offerings. In the UK, the cute Meerkats employed by CompareTheMarket.com/CompareTheMeerkat.com told us exactly what the online insurance seller did and did not do. The spin off was of course the hugely successful viral marketing campaign that accompanied it.
- Customer experience i.e. How do your customers feel when they interact with your company and its offerings? Harley Davidson has created a worldwide community of millions of customers, many of whom would describe “being a Harley Davidson owner” as a part of their identity. This also extends to some quaint British sports cars such as Morgan for instance.
These are only suggestions, there are probably many more places that you can innnovate. Good luck!