First, You Dream

Take Control

Ready to take control? Great. Now you need to take the next step by getting real--real honest, that is. If your idea is going to make money, it had better be more than a good idea. In today's marketplace, clever or cute isn't good enough. An idea must be great to succeed and win precious dollars from the consumer.

How do you go about evaluating whether or not consumers will support your idea? You need to take into account complex variables, including the most unpredictable variable of them all: human behavior. This variable turned bell bottoms, Mood Rings and Hula Hoops into huge successes.

This task is not easy (or consistent), but honestly evaluating your product against general, industry, market and product criteria will help determine whether it has a good chance of success.

General Criteria

1. Is your idea legal?

2. What is its environmental impact?

3. Is it safe?

4. Is it high quality?

5. Will it have wide social acceptance?

6. Will it have any negative impact?

Industry Criteria

1. Who is your competition?

2. Does your product require the assistance of existing products?

3. Is there just one product or a line of products?

4. Will pricing be competitive?

Market Criteria

1. Does your idea fit into a trend?

2. Is there a need for it?

3. Is it seasonal?

4. Is it a fad, or does it have long-term value?

5. Who will buy it?

6. Does it need instructions?

Product Criteria

1. How much will it cost to get your idea to market?

2. Does it require service or maintenance?

3. Is there a warranty?

4. Does it need packaging?

5. Is it the simplest and most attractive it can be?

Is your head spinning yet? Keep in mind that measuring your idea against these criteria is not complex brain surgery. The criteria are based on common issues that confront each and every product developer. They are the building blocks to becoming the master of your idea, making you the undisputed and unstumpable expert. But they're also just the beginning.

In my next column, I'll discuss more about the first stage of product development. Future columns will discuss the actual process of inventing and how to take an idea to market. I will share stories and examples from other people who acted on their dreams and turned them into profits. And in every column, I will give you the facts--no esoteric babble, just the facts--you need to turn your idea into your American dream.

Got a great idea? Then this column is for you.

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This article was originally published in the January 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: First, You Dream.

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