Have a Great Idea for a Business? Here's the Most Important Thing You Need to Do.
Far too often, entrepreneurs focus on their big idea rather than listening to the market.
It all starts with an idea on a napkin, a text message or maybe even a conversation. All of a sudden, the entrepreneurial spirit takes over and the creativity comes rushing in and we all have had that moment where we walk away with the next big thing. The online searching and research begins and you uncover a similar idea, but definitely not the same thing, and also come across other similar concepts that may or may not have failed. This is the beauty of the struggle on the journey, and these are the times we look back and appreciate the excitement and experience.
The big problem with big ideas
The issue is that in our own passion and excitement, we lose sight of a certain reality. Arguably, this reality is the most important part of any venture: the customer. As entrepreneurs, passion is built into our DNA and the visions take us to new places that no other company or product has ever reached before. Yet, we cannot afford to get lost in that manufactured reality, because the rock-solid theme that every business eventually runs into is that a product is only as successful as the customer's willingness to purchase it. At the very foundation of every single business in the world, there has to be a transaction made, and if your product or brand is not inspiring the customer, the passion and excitement is all irrelevant.
Listening to the market and designing your products and business accordingly is no novel concept, but let's take it a step further. What exactly are you trying to deliver to the customer? Of course, companies want to capture a wide scope of consumers and not limit themselves in any way, but the truth is that you really cannot be everything for everybody. The day will come where you must decide the exact customer you look to serve and add value to, and when that customer feels that "custom-tailored" education and marketing, they are more likely to make that purchase.
The booming CBD industry is a perfect example of this concept, and my own company went through a rough patch of self-identification as well. In an infant industry, the thousands of companies that flooded the market all had one thing in common — this cannabinoid, Cannabidiol, was building data to support its use in different types of relief. However, it quickly became a copycat industry where every company had an oil, cream, and edible. Some companies dressed up their products for certain applications like sleep, pain, or anxiety, while others just wanted to be purchased for having CBD within. Our flagship brand CytoCx followed the same path and, candidly, struggled to take off. We tried to be the CBD brand that all people came to for skincare, pain relief, and sleep health all in one, just because we had CBD. Once CBD commoditized, why would anyone purchase these "relief products" when they did not even know if they would work and there were other options in every corner. It wasn't until we boldly made CytoCx exclusively for medical patients, specifically in pain clinics (not retail), that it really started to take off.
Defining the specific purpose of your product is so crucial to its lifecycle and can really shorten the runway if you have identified a segment that needs it. After CytoCx, we learned our lesson and launched TIDL Sport - a brand that took that same medical quality of pain relief and combined it with exercise science mechanisms like cryotherapy, specifically for the athlete. The brand took off immediately as buyers, both consumers and distributors immediately appreciated the niche we had defined and the injection of innovation for that particular demographic. The packaging, the messaging, the science all talks specifically to the particular customer that you target. Apart from our brands, the CBD space is starting to show this type of granular approach and is graduating away from what we call the Generation 1 products that the industry began with. We have seen products that focus exclusively on menstrual pain, pre-flight anxiety, and other granular applications.
Going back to the napkin that we originally wrote our great idea on, let's work backward next time. Rather than rely on our ideas to catapult the next best thing, let's listen to others. What is the market telling us? What do our friends and family complain about? What is an inefficient process everyone deals with regularly with no solution? That is what we write on the napkin and the market need will breed innovation that can create products specific to the problems that need solutions. As entrepreneurs, we are all visionaries and dreamers, but just as important is that we become sound listeners. Identify the solution, innovate products that are undeniable, and identify your specific customer so they finally agree that you truly are "the next big thing."
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor