Testing The Waters

Know the Competition

Black started work on a new shower cleaner when his wife asked for help eliminating mildew in their shower. Black tried many products, but nothing he used--no matter how hard he scrubbed--eliminated the mildew. Then he separated the products into four categories--bleaches, solvents, acids and pesticides--and learned how they worked and how effective they were. Black started developing his new product only after he was convinced there wasn't any product on the market that met his need: a work-free shower cleaner.

Just because you can't find competitive products on supermarket shelves doesn't mean they don't exist. You may need to scan trade magazines, attend trade shows, talk to potential distributors, or acquire industry buyers' directories from trade magazines to find potential competitors.

Once you learn the names of potential competitors, check out each product. After all, your product is innovative only if it's different and significantly better than existing products. If they're too expensive for you to buy, attend trade shows where they'll be displayed.

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This article was originally published in the February 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Testing The Waters.

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