From Idea to Business in 7 Simple Steps
So, you have an idea for a business. Now what? Before you jump all-in and quit your day job, make sure you know what awaits you on the road to business success. Because, let me tell you, going from idea to business doesn’t happen overnight. It takes work and determination. Are you ready to put in the work? If you are, here’s what that road looks like for most successful entrepreneurs today.
1. Check both ways before you cross that road.
Left, right… check. How about up and down? In entrepreneur world, trucks can fly, so you’d better check 4 ways.
All kidding aside, before you start investing time and money into your idea, take a few moments to go through all the angles. I’m not saying that being spontaneous and trusting your gut is not important. I’m saying “trust but verify.” You could make it big by luck and gut instinct alone, but if you want to boost your chances, do a little research too.
Use your analytical brain, not your emotions for this step. Think about the market, the customer, the timing. Do you have a clear vision of what you’re offering? Who are you offering it to? How will you make it available to them? What will it take to start and grow your business? Sketch out a rough business plan while you’re at it. It’s a great way to get all your ideas together and let the whole project sink in.
2. Get and use feedback to perfect your business plan.
Sure, you can discuss your idea with your friends and family, but unless one of them is a business consultant or a business owner or they have some sort of expertise in the market you’re trying to reach, you’d better rely on them only for emotional support.
For business feedback, try to get in touch with people who know the business model, the market or both. If you’re worried about other people stealing your idea, don’t broadcast it. You don’t have to make your idea or your plans public until you’re ready, but that shouldn’t stop you from asking questions, reading blog posts, joining entrepreneur groups, listening to podcasts and even using SurveyMonkey or Google Forms to send out questionnaires that test consumer needs and expectations.
Do everything you can to gather data, and then use that data to perfect your business plan. Run the numbers, decide what your short term and long-term goals are. How are you going to start? How much should you invest to reach your key milestones? Can you do everything yourself, or do you need help? Factor all these things into your strategy. And when you’re ready, move on to the next step.
3. Make your imperfect first product.
This is the step where you literally go from idea to business. No matter if you’re selling a physical product or a service, you’ll need to develop it.
In your mind, the thing that you’re selling probably has a ton of cool features, it’s super useful and polished to perfection. If you have time and money to spare, by all means wait until you’ve materialized your vision. But if you’re like most of us and you have neither time nor money, start with a basic version of your product or service and you’ll get to add the cool features eventually.
Therefore, with your customer needs in mind, strip the product down to the bare minimum and build it as inexpensively as you can. Even in this basic version, it’s important that your product offer some value to your customers. Otherwise it’s useless.
4. Open for business.
Don’t wait for everything to be perfect. It’s never going to be perfect. If it’s good enough, start selling. Working on your product or service behind closed doors and never going to market will eat up a lot of money and will keep you from learning valuable lessons.
Also, one thing many entrepreneurs struggle with when starting out is managing their own expectations. They expect people to be as excited about the product as they are. That’s not going to happen. Not unless you create excitement with a good marketing campaign that includes building a good website or an effective landing page, leveraging social media, improving your SEO, running ads, doing everything you can to put your business and your product out there.
However, not all these things need to be done all at once. Just like creating your basic product meant prioritizing product features with the consumer in mind, taking your first marketing steps means prioritizing channels by thinking about where your ideal customer is hanging out. Are they on social media? Do they read the newspaper? Do they search for products or services like yours on Craigslist? You should already know all these things from when you did your research.
For example, if you’re selling designer sneakers and your ideal customers are teenage kids and young adults, you may want to skip advertising on Facebook or LinkedIn and focus more on Instagram and Snapchat. You’ll also want to make your website visually-stunning, adapt your copy to speak “young adult”, run some contests and check out influencer marketing strategies instead of advertising on Craigslist.
5. Learn while doing, test and adapt.
By now you’re well on your journey from idea to business. You’ve got a basic product that you’re selling (probably not as much as you’d like, but we’re getting there). Now you should start optimizing the whole sales and marketing process based on customer feedback. See what works and more importantly what doesn’t work, keep the good and get rid of the bad.
Feel free to experiment with marketing messages, sales channels, promotions, pitches and even new product features. Listen to your customers’ praise and their grievances. Add stuff that can make your product or service more useful, polish, test, repeat.
6. Plan for growth.
Idea to business: done. Business to successful business: just starting.
As you’re perfecting your product and expanding your marketing and sales channels, don’t forget to update your business plan. It’s time to go beyond your initial short-term goals and think about growth.
Do you know what that growth looks like, how it should happen, how fast it should happen?
Do you have the necessary resources to grow?
Can you fund the expansion yourself or do you need investors?
Is your team ready?
These are some of the questions you should be asking yourself at this point. Coming up with a strategy for growth means taking all these aspects into account, but also considering your values and objectives. Is growing the business going to affect the quality of the product or service in a good or a bad way?
When you’re done answering questions, share your plan with your team. Make sure everyone knows their role and what’s expected. Get everyone on the same page or you’ll run into setbacks very fast.
7. Never stop learning and evolving.
So, you’ve gone from simple idea to business success. It was hard work and it probably still is. Nevertheless, your journey as an entrepreneur is not over.
Whether you find yourself with a thriving business that you love and want to keep expanding, or you feel you’ve got the most out of your idea and want to move on, the path is the same: learn your lessons and evolve.
It’s good to stop and gain some perspective from time to time, but don’t linger for too long. The market is constantly evolving and you should be too. In this technology-driven society, consumers’ needs change very fast, marketing channels change, even the way people do business changes. And you’d better keep up.
One last thing: a winning idea does not make a winning business. Hard work does. If you’re prepared to put in the work, even a mediocre concept can shape up to produce a successful business. But most importantly, not putting in any work will guarantee failure. After all, the world is full of ideas that haven’t been acted on.
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