You have an idea, great, what now?
So, you’ve dreamt up an idea that you think has value, enough value that it might get someone else to spend their hard-earned dollar on it… Or so you think. At Denham Products, we take these ideas and make them real by modeling them, engineering them, and producing prototypes that our customers can then go and test the market with.
We pride ourselves on doing this at roughly half the industry’s standard cost. We get a lot of great ideas, but it is the inventor’s job to determine whether their idea has real value. So when someone asks, “When is the best time to launch an idea?” The answer is straightforward. RIGHT NOW! But let me explain why.
The most common approach (expensive, inefficient, and it can leave you holding the bag)
Let’s walk you through the approach that currently exists in this industry. The most common first step we see with a new inventor is signing an NDA and scheduling a meeting to disclose their idea privately.
They’ve come up with a great idea and now they want to develop it. So, they pay an engineer/designer upwards of thousands of dollars to create a computer model of the concept. Next, they spend more money developing a working prototype. From here, they get an intellectual property attorney to patent the idea. At this point they have probably spent close to $20,000 if they’re lucky enough to even get to this step, and this has probably taken close to six months!
So, now they have the IP and they’ve paid an engineer even more money to get a production-ready design. Next, they have to source suppliers and get tooling made. Once all that’s taken care of, they have to purchase a minimum order quantity of 500 units (on the lowest end) and pay for delivery. This round costs another $30,000.
This whole process has already cost around $50,000, and the one thing missing from all of this is the customer. The inventor forgot to ask, “Who cares about the product? How many people care? How much do they care?” The inventor was so involved with making the product “perfect,” they thought the outcome would sell itself, but products never sell themselves and sales are difficult to predict without market testing. In this case, they have gone for a lottery approach. It might be an instant hit, but the chance of succeeding in this manner is slim at best.
A failed startup that I was previously a part-owner of had developed object recognition/object detection cameras that operated on the edge. We spent a year and a half and thousands of dollars developing the product.
When we pulled our nerdy engineering heads out of the tech, we quickly realised there were no customers for our idea. We did cold calls, market research, and sales pitches, but the people we assumed wanted our product cared about a different set of needs that our tech didn’t capture. We neglected the customer, and that eventually crippled us.
Some might argue that this is a winning approach. In some cases, yes, if you have Ph.D. level research that is guaranteed to boost efficiency or benefit an entire industry, definitely take this approach. However, in most cases, the idea is to reconfigure off-the-shelf parts to be used in a new way, and the benefit might be less quantifiably guaranteed.
Even if you fall into the Ph.D. moonshot camp, it is still beneficial to talk to customers and let their input guide the product development because, at the end of the day, if they aren’t willing to give you their money, then your product is not as valuable as you thought it was. You will be left holding the bag.
Our methodology (why you need to talk to customers about your idea)
Denham Products is innovating the mindset behind product development, and it all starts with the suspected customer. In most cases engineering and design are easy while sales and marketing are complex.
I admit, you can market your way to obtaining market demand, but most of us don’t have a $2 to $80 million marketing budget, so we are better off finding a need instead of creating one.
So, if you have an idea that you think has value, launch it now! Go to the target market where you think the suspected customer is and describe the idea. This could be an individual or a business.
Ask them if they are interested, if they find value in it, and then most importantly, try and get them to do something for you in return, such as having them sign up for an email list, place a pre-order, or give you some money to secure one.
By getting the suspected customer to do a little work and “go further” with your idea, you will quickly determine how much they care. If they don’t care about your idea, they won’t do the work.
For example, you might say, “Hey, would you want to pay $20 as a deposit for the product?” and if they say no, you work with them to figure out why. You might ask why not, and they may say, “I would if it were cheaper,” so you know to lower the price. Then, if they still say no, you can ask why again.
Now they might say, “Well, it just doesn’t have value to me,” and you might start to think that this is the wrong customer for your idea. It may be time to check a different market at this point. Or, if they say they would buy it, but it needs to have an additional feature, you’re under the assumption that if you add that feature, they will want to buy it. So, change the sensor and revisit the conversation.
This is how you let the customer guide the design. Like anything, this can go too far, so it’s up to you to process the input and figure out the minimum set of specifications needed to get a sale.
One proposal against this that we hear is, “What if someone steals my idea?” Realistically, most ideas already exist. Even if your idea is cutting edge, it’s not unlikely that 100 other people have already thought of it, and a few of them have maybe started developing it. Moving quickly is imperative.
Speed will beat intellectual property almost every time. Also, most people with whom you share your idea simply don’t have the time, money, or drive to steal it. The one thing they can do is give you valuable feedback on whether or not they’d buy it and why.
Too often, inventors get weighed down by look and feel and lose sight of the need that their product is fulfilling. For example, an investor may say, “I am making a coffee cup that keeps your coffee warm because it drives me crazy when my fresh cup of coffee gets cold only a few minutes after I pour it.”
In that description, the value proposition is “keeps coffee warmer longer,” however, all-too-often, when working on the product, the inventor starts to lose sight of the “value” and starts nitpicking on things that don’t matter.
They may say, “Well, it needs to be shiny and have this pattern in the texture, and it needs to sing Ode to Joy every time you pick it up,” and the list goes on. This fallacy leads to expensive wasted time. If you’re looking at a bell curve of customers, the majority of them will buy the product based on the original value proposition of “keeps the coffee warmer longer.”
Of course, most people would want to keep their coffee warmer longer. Sure, maybe some people will buy it for the Ode to Joy feature but, realistically, it’s unlikely. The point I’m trying to make here is to start with the original value proposition and KEEP IT SIMPLE. Make the plan straightforward by developing an innovative coffee cup that keeps coffee warmer longer.
If people don’t buy it based on that value, there probably isn’t a sustainable market, even if it was flashier. Inversely, if people buy it and love it when it’s simple, then you can turn around and inject that revenue into the singing, expensive version.
Your job is to keep costs down while you flush out the truth about your invention. If you do strike a nerve, then go back and add features that will help you capture more of the customers on the fringe of your market.
Denham Products has been innovating the mindset behind product development, and it all starts with the suspected customer. We are simply applying the scientific method to product development. First, the inventor observes and questions problems around their industry and hypothesizes a solution. Then, they come to Denham Products and want to develop their solution.
In most cases, they don’t attempt to invalidate the hypothesis with experimental data; they want to jump straight to the big launch, which is a horrible way to prove anything scientifically. So, instead, we recommend that they conduct many little experiments along the way and let that data guide and direct future experiments and developments.
Then, when they have struck the right “need,” they can conclude the product will be a hit and launch with all the data to back up its success. Instead of playing the lottery game, they bring the odds in their favor.
You save 3 to 5 times the amount of money you spent taking the original approach by following this methodology and are more likely to succeed. I like to quote that if you aren’t embarrassed about the first version of your first product, you launched too late.
Choose Denham Products, we’re excited to work with you!
At Denham Products, we are working to become a platform where innovators can launch their products fast and affordably. If you have an idea, our goal is to bring it to life. So feel free to reach out.