Business ideas inspire us to do something big. They allow us to push our limits and conspire sheer creativity. When crafting new business ideas, our adrenaline spikes and many of us feel an internal boom of energy!… We come up with a long list of ideas on how to get started — and we feel the need to do it right away!
The idea for your dream business may come as a sudden spark of inspiration or something you’ve been dreaming about, forever. It might happen when you’re in a coffee shop while sipping your favorite cafe latté. Or, perhaps, while you’re getting your hair done at a salon, or as you are driving down the road: my point is that a business idea can hit you at any time with a sudden urge that itches you to work on it, immediately!
While you might feel the urge to set aside your current endeavors to jumpstart the new business idea, you should always take a small step back to really appreciate your bigger picture and what it will be comprised of. Ask yourself how can you validate its efficacy before getting it off the ground? How can you beta test if it has potential or whether it’s worth pursuing?
For many of us, once we have a promising idea we instantly start envisioning ourselves in the end product … owning it. So, what’s next?
Hire a digital marketing team? Draft a brand slogan? Plan logistics? Hold up! That’s not exactly how you develop the business idea. At the beginning, it’s a series of brainstorming and mapping sessions.
In this article, I present a number of strategic suggestions to refine and validate your business idea, before plunging into the tangible phases.
1. Get Clear on WHY you Want to Launch the Idea — Starting a business is usually on the bucket list of most entrepreneurs or dreamers, like me. It’s usually a deep seeded goal — to build an empire where you can truly pride yourself on it. My advice though is, before you do anything that involves capital (money), get crystal clear about your vision, reasons, and motivations behind starting a company. This doesn’t have to take long but it should definitely be during some ME time! Getting this clarity is important for you but it’s also what investors or those who you may ask to help you fund the idea, may ask of you!
Why do you really want to start that business? What if you’re just fascinated by the idea, but lack the passion to execute during the grind? Are your reasons strong enough to go through hardships and potential sacrifices? Let’s be real, starting a business is not an easy-peasy decision. It requires strong maturity, some financial stability, and lots of commitment. It will also change your life; for the better — if you do it for the right reasons — or for the worse, if you skip the integral decision-making processes along the way. Remember, you can’t build a castle, overnight!
2. Talk it Out with Trusted Companions — I know this sounds counter-intuitive, as some people can rain on your parade; but getting feedback from trusted people will help you decide how to develop your business idea. Presenting your vision to your allies, so that they can contribute to refining the rough edges is super empowering. Make sure to ask questions: How can I flesh it out? How can I market this service or product, and what/how is the price?
Of course, you can’t always expect sugary commentary from everyone, but the way I see it, you can always leverage criticisms. Getting honest feedback, even the most brutal ones, is essential to identifying the possible loopholes and pitfalls of your business idea. Use the feedback to think through all possible challenges and most importantly, create a plan to address them.
3. Define Your Target Market — Let’s face it, there isn’t a product or service in the market that hasn’t already gone mainstream, unless you’re planning to advance an invention. Of course, competition is commonplace in every business — and it can be cutthroat, at some points. If you worry about the hundreds or thousands of businesses competing in the same niche as you, make it a priority to study your market and establish the brand that is uniquely you!
However, before you stress about the branding aspect, you have to know if there is a demand for the service that you plan to offer. In the research process, be sure to understand the type of industry your business will be — the insides and outs. To dig deeper into your target market, scope out your competition and be sure to actively list the top three elements that make them successful. This point is crucially important! Do not just look at what the potential or likely competitors are doing bad; if you only do that, you may miss the bar for your success, entirely!
Of course, your business idea must solve the problem of your target audience. With this, start jotting down questions to identify the demographic:
- Where does my ideal customer live?
- What is the gender/s of my ideal customer?
- How old are they?
- What is their job?
- What are their problems and frustrations?
- How much is my ideal customer earning, annually?
- How can my product or service alleviate the problem of my customer?
After you identify and answer these questions for your niche market, you can start developing your competitive advantage on how to make your business stand out. Also, once you distinguish your ideal customer, you can determine the size of your market and reshape your idea, if necessary.
4. Draft Your Business Plan — One of the initial ways to make your idea a reality is to draft it down into a business plan. A business plan will help you crystallize the core components of your business — including the break down of your future workloads and goals.
Don’t stress too much about the format, your business plan can be formal or informal. Just make sure to frame out your business projections, financial startup funds, operational and marketing goals, as well as the project timeline. (Learn more about Business Plan and other business tips by visiting my previous article, here.)
5. Produce a Prototype or Beta Product — Prototyping is an essential early step of business planning before the actual inception. Whether you’re selling tangible products or offering services, you should give your business a test run. How about you let some friends taste your sumptuous food menu? If you offer a service, consider joining in on startup festivals or partner with local charities to give your business a test drive.
Of course, if the actual output is not available yet, you can prototype your business through a simple digital representation of your business. With this, you can visualize the partial output of your service and present to your allies. Thereafter, you can gather the feedback and tweak the product/service, if needed. The goal of prototyping and beta testing is to validate your business to see if it is feasible and marketable for some people.
6. Prepare Yourself, Physically & Mentally — The hustle has just begun! The excitement of the ideation stage often leads you to put in some long hours drafting your ideas, creating pitches and the like. Remember that the going often gets tough and things you could never anticipate, can become challenging. You’ll have days full of paperwork and unplanned errands, to complete. You’ll even have moments racked with anxieties that make you wonder if your persistence will ever pay off. In other words, I’m saying to prepare yourself, always!
Every entrepreneur faces setbacks — even during the infant stages of the business — that can compromise your vision. The unforeseen dilemmas are inevitable and they can cause crises for your plan but the way that you can overcome is to make sure to do your homework and be open with the idea of steering the ship in a different direction when the course gets faulty (plan B).
Once you’ve outlined and accomplished the above-mentioned suggestions, evaluate your findings and decide if you’re fully ready to turn your business idea into a reality.