Coming up with great ideas is easy. It’s putting those ideas into action that’s difficult. In order to turn your dreams about the next best service or product into a tangible, valuable reality, you need to take the right first steps.
That’s why I asked ten successful entrepreneurs how they got the ball rolling in the initial stages of a certain business idea. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Assess Impact
We encourage everyone on the team to come up with ideas that get discussed in our weekly meeting. When deciding whether or not to move forward, we look at the potential impact of the idea. Does it help achieve the company goal, and if so, by how much? This approach leaves a lot of ideas on the cutting room floor, but it ensures the that the ones with the biggest impact don’t get passed over.
- Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh Test Prep
2. Invest $200
Set aside no more than $200 to test the basic idea. Get a domain and set up a landing page (easier than you think…), then simplify and test your idea with Google Adwords, Bing or Yahoo advertising. The goal is to see how many people you can get to click your link and at what rate they’re clicking. You can easily and inexpensively determine if there is even a base level need for your new idea.
- Adam Callinan, BottleCamo
3. Map out Each Stage
We are constantly tossing around new ideas, so to determine what we want to test versus what may not be feasible, we first map out each stage of the process and what is really going to be required from each department: IT, customer service, warehousing, purchasing (getting a true cost to implement it). If it is a new product, we use social media to see if there is any interest.
- Gary Nealon, The Rox Group
4. Fire Bullets
We use the Jim Collins approach of firing bullets before cannon balls. Invest in small tests of the idea that will help calibrate the direction and profitability/value. Once we’ve narrowed in on the target and determined enough value is on the horizon, we make bigger investments in that direction.
- Corey Blake, Round Table Companies
5. Make a Little Bet
The author Peter Sims talks about a concept called “little bets.” I take some sort of small action toward an idea to test its viability. But the key is that the action won’t take too much time, too much money or too much effort. The only goal is to get a bit of feedback for the next iteration.
- Srinivas Rao, BlogcastFM
6. Call 10 Customers
We frequently consider introducing new products, website changes and other ideas. The first thing we do is vet the idea with at least 10 customers. We want to know what our core fans think about changes, especially those that might disrupt their expectations.
- Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches
7. Critique It
Too often, when we have a good idea, we look for people to validate it. “Yeah, you’re spot on!” is the exact opposite of what we need to hear. We need people to tell us we are wrong and give us detailed feedback. If it is a bad idea, it will likely surface. If you can get through a gauntlet and still believe, then it is something to pursue.
- John Jackovin, Bawte
8. Do Market Research
Do market research to see if it actually is a “new” idea or if someone else out there is already doing it. If that’s the case, tweak it to make it entirely unique.
- Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
9. Gather Data
Before I start asking customers and even before I bounce the idea off my team, I first gather some basic data to vet the idea internally with myself. This is can be as simple as few Google searches: market sizing, checking out competitors, etc. But without gathering some basic data, it can be too easy to get excited and become emotionally invested in an idea that has no real place in the market.
- Matt Ehrlichman, Porch
10. Find Customers
Search for customer validation. Before building a product or even writing a single line of code, I always try to find someone besides myself who will find value in what I’m building and promise to use it when it’s done.
- Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics
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