Believing in the Idea Behind Your Business
One thing we entrepreneurs tend to share is a hardcore belief in ourselves and our ideas. But it is equally true that it is usually a good idea to get some objective feedback so that we don’t waste a lot of time or money on a hunch that may or may not be right.
Personally, I first turn to my wife. Plenty of times she will say, “Maybe we should pass on that one, Steve,” but sometimes she says, “That’s a great idea!” and that is when I know I may be on to a winner.
But for big ideas especially, business owners usually need more than the advice of friends and family, so when we do, what should we do? Of course, online research can help a lot, but that can also only take you so far.
Options for Your Business Ideas: Research and Feedback
1. Hire some experts: Find a good MBA program in your area and see whether it participates in the Small Business Institute program. This is a program run by MBA programs nationwide that assigns grad students to intern-type projects – like market research. For a nominal fee, or free, you may get a great team to do some quality research for you. For more information, contact the Small Business Institute.
2. Create an online focus group: How do Fortune 500 companies and presidential candidates know what commercials to use, products to pitch, or ideas to share? They use focus groups. A focus group is a group of people who are shown a product or given an idea and asked to comment upon it.
For big ideas, business owners need more than the advice of friends and family.
An easy way to get the same sort of feedback is to find an online discussion group or forum for your industry and ask your questions. Similarly, this would also be a good use of Twitter or LinkedIn – check in with people there and get their feedback.
3. Speak with potential customers: No, finding possible customers for your potential idea is not the easiest task in the world, buy yes, it can be done, and it should be done. Why? Just think about how valuable it would be to find and meet people who would be willing to pay for the service you want to provide. It takes a lot of the risk out, no?
One way to do this is to speak with customers of businesses that do similar work. Find out what these folks like and dislike about this business, why they frequent the place, what they think of the service and prices and so forth. Of course you can’t interfere with the business, but you can find out what they are doing right.
4. Check out the competition: No one knows your potential business better than people who are already running a similar business. Become their customer and shop at their store or use their service. Analyze their strengths, weaknesses, profit potential, etc.
5. Go to your local library. It is amazing how many of us forget, in this Internet age, about the incredible resource that is the librarian.
Of course librarians can show you where to find plenty of free information, that is a given. But here is something better, did you know that many libraries nationwide provide low-cost research services that you can tap into?
6. Telemarketing and phone research: Telephone research is a fairly inexpensive method, costing about one-third less than personal interviews. Here, you would hire a telemarketing firm to conduct a survey of a random sample of respondents.
Whatever method or methods you choose, the important thing is that you do in fact choose one. Especially in a challenging economy like this one, you need objective verification that your Big Idea is as big as you think it is.