There are many entrepreneurs among us, but few manage to convert their original ideas into business success. Often, this is only due to a lack of research and a systematic approach to the market. Follow these simple steps to translate thoughts into strategy, and strategy into reward.
So you've got your big idea. You have the inspiration, the motivation, and you're ready to go. At this point, most people either career headlong into the market, doomed for a fatal crash brought about by a lack of planning. Others just let their enthusiasm (and their project) evaporate into the atmosphere.
Don't join the casualties. Instead, ask yourself the critical questions that should guide any strong business proposition.
Put on your detective's cap, and delve into the industry you are wanting to break into (or are already participating in). Is there a gap in the market for the service/product you are offering? This is your opportunity to discover a niche in the market, and provide customers with something different or that they can't currently get.
To guide your 'investigation', take a step back and assess the space you are venturing into. Try to define it, and map out the direction in which it is heading.
Your brand/product/service should be designed according to where the industry is headed, not where it is now. With this in mind, find out what the major trends are (e.g. environmental and social concerns, collaboration, the demand for value) and tailor your offering to reflect the evolving needs of consumers. You also need to respect the market into which you are entering - are there any 'rules of the game'? If this is the case, learn the rules and master them.
The next step is to scope out your competitors. Who are they, and what do they offer which you don't/ can't? Find out if they are making any changes to adapt to a changing market. A useful exercise is to identify the rivals (both locally and internationally) which you most respect and would like to emulate. Then assess the competitors who are failing, and explore the reasons behind their poor performance. What can you learn from both of these groups? And most importantly, how can you differentiate from them?
You've now reached one of the most critical phases of the discovery process: seek out your consumers/clients and become intimate with their needs, concerns, hopes and demands. Understand their lives and the world they are operating in. Find out what is most important to them when buying a product or service, and what motivates their purchasing decisions. Your product, brand or service should align with their operating principles and have a real place in their lives if you are to be relevant and deliver value to them
Now you've asked all the big questions, you've done the exploring and you've discovered what makes your industry tick. It's time to translate your big idea into a carefully designed strategy.
A focused strategy will be based on several critical factors: who you are speaking to, what you are offering, and why it demands attention. In our next column we will explore what it takes to create a value proposition for your offering and to start to create a brand.
Note of caution: If you have discovered that what you are offering is not truly unique/better/relevant after all, it may be time to revisit your original idea. This is not a bad thing. The best ideas are often those that have been rehashed and reworked time and time again.
On the other hand, if you have truly identified a gap in the market, head straight for it.