Let’s take a moment to think about how a great idea comes to life.
Something you might have heard, seen or been told pairs up with a previous thought, experience or problem and then DING! On turns the lightbulb and away you go with a great new idea.
Your first step is to write this down, draw it out or even start building a prototype. Of course, this is the best thing ever, and you want to keep it close to your chest: after all, it’s your idea, your stroke of genius, your intellectual property! You should be the one that benefits the most from it, right?
This is what everyone is wired to go through – when something is ours we cherish it and become even paranoid to make sure it doesn’t get stolen.
This then begs the question…from who do you get feedback from when you have a great idea?
Let’s analyse each option:
Family members are the obvious first choice due to trust. Their advice can come from places of wisdom and integrity, but can also come from a place of jealousy, fear and cynicism. They can represent your first customer, but some may also expect to get in for free. The real questions you need to be asking are the following:
- how unbiased is the advice?
- what factors are influencing their advice and opinions?
- is the feedback subjective or objective?
- do they represent my target market?
It will usually be difficult to meet more than one of these criteria.
2. Situational Friends
I define Situational Friends as those you went to school or university with, those that may live in your neighbourhood or those people you know via social groups. Basically, anyone that do have the same or similar purpose or goals in life as you (this usually represents most of your non-intimate friends).
These friends fall into the same category as family when it comes to trust, and usually care about your wellbeing, the latest relationship news or socialising together. For these friends, the bias meter usually swings to one of two extremes: they either fully support and back the idea using general phrases like “That’s a great idea”, or they will shoot it down completely or provide a careless response.
In both cases, it is most likely that they did not listen to the idea properly and do not fully understand it, and they most definitely won’t be the first customer: these friends love to get free stuff by virtue of being a friend.
3. Aligned Friends
I define Aligned Friends as those who are on the same page as you – they may be fellow entrepreneurs or business owners, a mentor, coach or teacher, someone you met at a networking event, or someone you would consider starting a business with. These friends care less about you as a person and more about reaching a shared interest or common goal together. With Aligned friends, there is usually one or two topics you discuss with them all of the time, and they are in the loop with what you do and what you’re trying to achieve.
These friends are usually a great option to receive feedback from: their advice will objective and genuine, but also insightful.
The limitation is whether or not they are representative of a target customer, and whether they’d be willing to put their money where their mouth is: would they buy from you?
4. Professional Advice
When one thinks of professional advice, they think of paying a consultant or hiring an expert to provide advice. This can be costly but worthwhile depending on the advice required, but when it comes to a new idea, it is usually unreasonable to justify this expense. However, there is a way through which professional advice can be gathered much cheaper whilst also providing an opportunity for that advice to convert into a large business opportunity. This is through licensee prospecting.
By prospecting to potential licensees you can get market leading advice and insight, while opening up an opportunity for the prospect to open new doors for you, and license the idea, invention or design.
While this option also can bring to the surface rejection, it is arguably the quickest way to get real validation for your new idea.
5. Target Market
One of the best places to get feedback is from the target market directly. Even better, early-adopters or superusers within the target market can make or break your idea or invention – they will hate it or love it, judging it based on its merits. Better yet, they will throw money at you if they really connect with the concept.
The issue is usually finding the target market: some simply create an online survey and hope that the right respondents will fill it out. The brave hustlers will hit the streets and ask those that pass by directly. However, chances are that 80% of the respondents do not fit your target market.
Finding the people that fit your criteria can be difficult, but there are more and more tools emerging that are making this easier. Innovateur has one such tool where we can handpick from a pool of thousands of individuals that meet your target market criteria. We can then assist you to answer questions on the idea or product, and provide useful feedback.
So what’s the verdict?
When it comes to family and situational friends, take their advice with a grain of salt. Use your judgement to decide if there is any bias in their response or factors that skew their input.
Use aligned friends as a sounding board to develop the idea or kill it in its entirety – their support should be well considered.
Definitely seek professional advice, especially through licensee prospecting. Take this opportunity to consider licensing as a distribution strategy, if not previously considered.
Rely on the target market to get valuable feedback on benefits and features, but also on your ability to effectively communicate the idea, invention or solution. If you are ignoring your target market, you might as well call your activities a hobby.