Friday, May 7, 2010

Your Big Idea Could Be The Real Thing

Mom with child hanging off her as she holds a bowel of hot food while she uses her laptop
Guest Blog on The Work at Home Woman 

By Sheena Edwards

Many people have amazing ideas for new products, but don’t know where to start. Don’t feel frustrated—it just takes some time and lots of research.  There are many online resources for small businesses that can help you find the information you need to get started.

Researching Your Idea:
The first step, and most important in taking your idea to market, is research.  Are there other products on the market that are similar?  Does your product fulfill a need that no other product on the market fulfills?  Who will purchase your product?  Start with Internet searches.  Google everything you can think of that would be similar to your product.  The last thing you want to is to produce something exactly like another product.  You can also gather information from industry associations, local universities, libraries, and small business associations.  A trip to the library or a few hours online can set you on your way to really understanding the market.

Target Market:
You will need to define your target market.  A product does not need to meet the needs of all people, but instead should reach a specific customer group.   As an entrepreneur you should understand their wants and needs, income level and spending habits.  You should find out everything you can about the customers your product will target and these customers needs.  This information will help you in developing the product and structuring your marketing campaign to target them.
There are many wonderful Internet resources that can assist you with defining your target market and helping you to understand the targeted customers’ needs.  This may require assistance from a professional, but try to find as much information as you can on your own.  I contacted the UTSA Small Business Development Center in San Antonio and met with an advisor that helped me define my target market and work through my Business plan.

Understand Your Competition:
If there are products similar to your idea, then you need to learn about their pricing, manufacturing, competition, age of the product, and position on the market.  Does this product have something that your product idea does not?  Is it cheaper or more expensive, and how long has this product been available?  Where is the product being sold?  Will you sell to the same customer base or does your product target a different consumer or demographics?  All of these things are important in the pre-production stage of your product.
Many entrepreneurs fail to realize there are similar products being made and will have a hard time competing against big companies that are backed with large pocket books.
When developing my line of flip flops, understanding the competition played a huge role in the quality and characteristics of my product.  I discovered what people did and didn’t like about the competition, and made my goals accordingly.  I strived to have lower prices, better quality and comfort and styles that no one had done in a flip flop.  This made my product more competitive.

Additional Research:
One thing that can be helpful in developing a new product is customer opinions and feedback.  Large companies always use focus groups and do surveys before they launch a product in the market.  You can do this too.  Talk to your family and friends who are in your target market, meet with stores that you would sell your product too and learn everything you can about how your product will succeed.   As soon as I had samples from the manufacturer, I began working with a local boutique that had experience selling shoes to my targeted consumer.  They advised me on popular sizes, pricing, and trends in the market place.  This relationship was the key to the success of my product.