Monday, 19 February 2024 04:39

5 questions to help you identify marketable ideas

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Are you pushing a rock uphill? When you're working on bringing a product or service to market, sometimes it can feel very burdensome – like you're pushing a heavy load skyward. A lot of effort is required and you're becoming exhausted in the process.

But this is to be expected, right? You're always hearing that every new idea takes time, effort, patience, determination and plain hard work to become successful.

It's true that what we perceive as an overnight success is usually at least 10 years in the making. There's more to it than that, though. Some ideas really are just easier to launch.

These ideas are like rocks rolling down a hill. They gather momentum easily and require less effort. These are the ideas you need to be able to identify quickly and test.

Why? Because the challenges that every inventor must conquer to bring any new idea to life are numerous. The more you can do to limit these challenges, the greater your likelihood of success.

Below, I've listed five questions to help you identify ideas that are going to take off. (Hint: There are fewer barriers to overcome.)

1. Is it a simple solution to a widespread problem?

A problem many people experience for which there is no elegant solution – yet – is what I call a "sleeping dinosaur." We're all aware of the need for improvement.

2. Is it easily understood?

Instructions aren't needed, because the purpose of the item and how to use it are obvious. (Education is costly and uncertain, making it a big barrier to overcome.)

3. Is it easily demonstrated?

You don't need a prototype. A simple sketch, 3-D computer-generated visual, or even a drawing will do. Our vision helps us process new information quickly. Being able to visually convey the benefit of the idea is a powerful selling tool.

4. Is it easily manufactured?

There's no need for new machinery. Your idea is not reinventing the wheel. No research and development means very little capital expenditure. Ideas that don't require reconfiguring a supply chain are much easier to scale and ship.

5. Does it cost the same or less than competitors?

After you receive interest, one of the first questions you will hear is, "What does it cost?" Cost is a huge hurdle to overcome for product developers. Ideas that gather momentum easily are the same or cheaper than similar products.

What comes next? Putting the right team together, which begins to take away perceived risk. Then, when you start showing the idea, it moves forward. It rolls.

Now, your job is to guide it to market by filing the right intellectual propertypatents, finding the right commercialization partners and ensuring everyone involved profits along the way.

This isn't easy; it's practically an art form. If you are doing this for the first time, find a mentor. Specifically, someone who has repeatedly achieved what you are trying to do. Identifying ideas with the potential to roll is much easier in hindsight.

Learning the difference between ideas that require a heavy lift versus those that roll is a skill every entrepreneur needs to develop. I highly recommend focusing on simple ideas first, because there is a great deal of inertia to overcome when implementing anything new.

Later, after you've developed a better understanding of what's required to turn an idea into a product, you'll be able to spot obstacles and overcome them more easily.

Looking back, one of the most difficult ideas I commercialized was a rotating label. New machinery had to be built in every manufacturing facility, which wasn't scalable.

Consumers didn't know how to use the product instinctively, so we had to place a demo at every point of purchase in Walmart showing how it spun. (We even filmed a commercial with Alex Trebek, the late host of the game show Jeopardy, with the same goal in mind.)

And because the rotating label was actually two labels, it doubled costs. While it offered a clear benefit, the product ultimately failed for these reasons.

One of the easiest ideas I licensed was the Michael Jordan Wall-Ball to the toy company Ohio Art. They were already selling an indoor Nerf basketball hoop that featured a small image of the iconic basketball player.

Why not transform the entire backboard into the shape of Michael Jordan? Three days after I pitched this simple idea, I received a licensing agreement in the mail – and earned royalties for the next 10 years.

The idea made good business sense. Cost was reduced by going from plastic to paper. By changing the packaging from a box to a clamshell, the product stood out better. Enlarging the image of Michael Jordan made it more attractive to fans.



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