In the last blog, I discussed the first half of the pivotal question for the great idea: How is your thing different and better? This time I’ll discuss the second half of that question.
To be sure, there are a lot of ways to be different than the competition. An eBay-like site that exclusively sold variously-aged Cheetos would pass the “different” test. Etsy would also pass the “different” test. So the question is, how can one tell if their idea is more like selling variously-aged Cheetos or artist-created handiworks?
The answer: ask around. This is a more difficult task than it sounds like for many entrepreneurs, because many of us introspective, visionary-types are used to listening to ourselves when an important question needs to be answered. It doesn’t help that other common qualities in entrepreneurs include the need for control and willingness to buck the norm. Simply put, most entrepreneurs at some point get used to living in a world of doubters and the short-sighted. So when it comes down to the most pivotal question of an idea’s existence, why would we turn to the same choir that has so regularly tried to stomp our initiatives… until around the point that said initiatives become unfathomably successful?
The first reason is that while people may not be able to imagine something better, they can often spot something they don’t like. Even if they can not absolutely determine why they don’t like an existing offering, asking people questions about their past experiences is instrumental in determining the relative degree to which certain opportunities exist in an established competitive landscape.
The second reason is that, if you’re asking your target audience, you are talking to the people that will ultimately determine your idea’s success. While human nature is naturally skeptical of all things “new” and purportedly “better,” ultimately it is the entrepreneur’s mission to dispel that skepticisim by creating a tangible product that resoundingly fills a need its competitors don’t. Without asking your target market about their needs and desires, what will guide you toward creating that tangible product that manifests your idea?
The third reason is that maybe you’re wrong. Yeah, you. Maybe your idea is variously-aged Cheetos. And if you spend thousands of dollars creating the perfect site for selling these, you will succeed only in becoming thousands of dollars poorer. Gaining feedback about your idea from the people that will ultimately use it is the ideal means by which to determine to what extent your idea needs to be adapted before it hits the bullseye.
Entrepreneurs are ultimately big dreamers and big dreamers are often very protective of their dreams. As such, I have found it difficult as a relative youngster in this game to take the first steps toward exposing my idea to the potential of Valid, Important criticism.
But that’s what this game is founded upon: having an idea, being wrong, and productively responding to that reality.
If all continues according to schedule, I should be able to report in the next week or two how being wrong feels.