Want Some of This?

Getting Results

Despite what you might think, success is not based on how much people like your product. Instead, according to Shelia Mello, a market research expert in Boston, "The crux of the problem is how strongly people feel about solving their problem." To Mello, the most important point to learn is what percentage of potential users feel the new product is essential rather than just nice to have. "The classification of how much someone likes something is not really relevant," Mello explains. "It is a matter of how much they value solving the problem, so that they will spend money to get it solved or spend money to switch how they solve it."

In Kellar's case, she knew from her research that 25 percent of mascara users use eyelash curlers. When she was using the alt.fashion Usenet, she concentrated on how anxious people were to switch to a new product. She was trying to answer the same question Mello recommends asking: "Is there a significant number of people motivated to buy your product?"

Inventors often get so caught up with their ideas, which they've often worked on for years, that they start to believe they're true experts. This is a big mistake, as inventors usually don't have the same buying motivation as most consumers. So if you want to make sure you're spending your money and time wisely, take time to find out what potential buyers think of your idea. That small step will stop you from making costly mistakes, and it will give you the best shot at successfully introducing the best possible product.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
  • Customer-Centric Product Definition: The Key to Great Product Development (Amacon Books) by Shelia Mello explains the ins and outs of how to find out what customers want and then give it to them. Although the book draws on market research techniques from experts at MIT and the University of Chicago as well as experiences at large companies, its advice will help inventors and growing businesses produce the right product.
  • The Market Research Tool Box: A Concise Guide for Beginners (Sage Publications) by Edward F. McQuarrie, a great resource for both inventors and new marketers, explains the differences between various research phases such as market assessment, final go or no-go decisions, and how to formulate a research plan and assess the results for each phase.
  • Small Biz 911 (www.ndsu.nodak.edu/smallbiz911/main) is a useful site that explains the main steps inventors need to take to get their product to market. Areas covered include idea evaluation, idea assessment, product design based on market research and early stages of product development.

Don Debelak is a new-business marketing consultant and author of Think Big: Make Millions From Your Ideas. Send him your questions at dondebelak34@msn.com.

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This article was originally published in the June 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Want Some of This?.

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