Almost everyone has had a great idea that makes them think, “This could literally change the world.” But what's the difference between someone who thinks that and someone who acts on it? Nerve? Grit? Financing? Entrepreneurs tend to have a great deal of confidence and enthusiasm for their idea. Maybe that’s you. Maybe you’ve created a product and you’re ready to introduce it to the world. To that, we say “BRAVO” and “Hold up,” simultaneously.
Before you plunk down your hard-earned cash or max out your credit cards to make a prototype, engage a contract manufacturer, line up someone to do your drawings, whatever… we urge you to ask yourself 5 questions to ask about your product idea. Take our advice: Do not proceed until you come up with the answers.
This exercise will be much more useful if you write down your answers. We've made it easy for you with a download at the end of this post. But do BE HONEST with yourself, even if it means you have to defer any action for a while.
1 | WHAT makes my product unique?
You believe you’ve got a one-of-a-kind product, and maybe you do but ask yourself:
- Why does someone want it?
- Is it a want or a need?
It's important to understand the thinking behind the product. Why would someone justify buying what you're making, especially if it's a want over a need?
2 | WHO is my customer?
It’s essential that you identify your targeted customer. Build up as clear a picture of your customer as possible. You need to know the person(s) you’re building your product for. Here are some questions to get this process started:
- Is my product made for male, female or all genders?
- Is my product made to be used by adult or child or people of all ages?
- How old is my customer? Does their age factor into the use of my product?
- How much money does my customer make?
- Where does my customer live? Are they city-dwellers, suburbanites, rural or do they live anywhere?
- What level of education does my customer have? Is this a product that anyone would want regardless of education?
3 | HOW will the customer react to my product?
All these questions should be difficult, but this one might be the hardest. It requires that you release your idea to a trusted network that you know will be honest with you. It’s okay to be a little vague when you’re describing your idea if you’re concerned about intellectual property.
- Why does my customer want this product?
- What problem does my product solve or need does it fill?
- Will my product be available in a store, online or both?
- How much will my customer be willing to pay for it?
- Is this product a one-time purchase, or something they’ll buy multiple times?
4 | HOW MUCH money do I need?
Ah…the money question. It’s inevitable and necessary. You need to know two things:
- How much do I need to get started?
- How much will it cost to operate my business?
You need to factor in EVERYTHING. Business license, protecting your idea, lawyer’s fees, engineering fees and so much more. Try to plan for every contingency and understand this: it will probably cost much more than you think.
Here’s Adam Sanderson, our VP of Value Engineering, in a quick, 2-minute video giving two examples of the two biggest misperceptions of new product development:
5 | WHERE will the money come from?
Another money question?? Yes. This one is just as important as the previous question. There are several ways to approach financing your product idea. It is quite likely that, should you proceed, you will combine some or all these methods.
- Seek funding from family or friends
- Borrow from the bank
- Refinance your home
- Small Business Association loan
- Seek Venture Capital or Angel Investors (there is a difference)
- Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or Fundable
Here's a tip: Check to see what types of resources are available from the federal government or your state’s Economic Development agency for entrepreneurs or small businesses. Many states place a high value on home-grown innovation and want to help develop those businesses so they will thrive, creating jobs and increasing further investment in the state. Kentucky is a great example of a state with a strong Innovation Network to encourage entrepreneurs and small businesses.
So, that’s it. It’s time to do your research. Remember how we said that you should answer these questions on a piece of paper? We’ve got one all ready for you. Just click RIGHT HERE to download the questions all typed up for you, with space to answer.
It is also very important to note that if you are at this stage — the research stage — you're probably not ready to contact a contract manufacturer. But don't lose heart. Do the exercise of honestly asking and answering the questions to determine where you are in the process.
And if you’re looking for more help here are some blog posts that might help:
- Questions to Ask When Looking for a Product Design Services Firm
- Moving Your Product From Prototype to Production
- The Basics of Contract Manufacturing and New Product Development