How to Know If Your Business Idea Will Fly

January 20th, 2011 by Bob Bly

At least once a week, someone comes to me with a business idea ? typically a new product or service ? and asks, ?Will this work??

Perhaps you too have an idea for a new product or service ? but would like to know whether it has a realistic chance of success before you invest your time and hard-earned money in it.

I will give you the same piece of advice I give everyone else?.

*** Look around to see whether anyone else is doing what you propose.***

If you find at least one other person doing it successfully (i.e., making money at it), then it could work for you, too ? if you are smart and lucky.

On the other hand, if no one else is doing it, there?s no reason to think YOU can ? and I?d probably look for something else.

This may be somewhat counterintuitive. Then again, a lot of business success principles are.

?Isn?t it great that no one else is doing my idea?? someone asked me the last time I said this. ?That means I thought of it first and there?s no competition!?

Actually, it?s almost certain that many others thought of it before you.

What should trouble you is that these individuals ? some of whom may be as smart or even smarter than you ? evaluated the idea, and after careful consideration, decided not to proceed.

Or, they tried it and failed.

In other words, the reason no one else is doing your idea is because it won?t work!

Conversely, you might think that if others are doing your idea, there?s already too much competition.

That may or may not be the case.

But if others are doing the same idea, and making money at it, then that idea has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to work in the real world.

And if THEY are making money at it, there?s a good chance you can too.

After all, you are probably nearly as smart ? or even smarter ? than many of those people.

Most of the people you probably think of as innovators were actually not.

Bill Gates, for instance, is thought of as the creator of the first personal computer operating system, MS-DOS.

But actually, another programmer created MS-DOS.

Bill Gates bought it from him for $50,000 cash, made some modifications, and sold it to IBM for royalties that made him the wealthiest man in the world.

In fact, MS-DOS was not even the first commercially successful PC operating system.

That honor goes to CPM, a rival operating system that was invented and offered to IBM first (they didn?t take it, but the old Kaypro computers ran on it).

One other counterintuitive piece of advice?.

If you decide to market a new product or service, and your test campaign fails miserably, don?t keep pushing to make it incrementally better, in the hopes that you can turn a loser into a winner.

Much better is to cut your losses and abandon the idea — before you pour good money after bad.

Example: A reader came to me asking if I could save her business by writing a direct mail package.

I asked what her first mailing, which seemed competent to me (though not first rate), brought in. Did it break-even? Cover half its mailing cost?

Turns out, it pulled only a few orders with thousands of pieces mailed.

I reminder her, ?Even a great package might pull only double or triple a package that failed ? and even if we triple the response, you won?t even be close to breaking even ? so this just isn?t going to work.?

Needless to say, I did not write the package for her, though I am convinced I saved her from wasting many thousands of dollars on another test doomed to fail.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 20th, 2011 at 1:29 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

22 responses about “How to Know If Your Business Idea Will Fly”

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  2. Ken Hoffman said:

    It’s true we wouldn’t have many fine inventions if people took that approach…however…I think he’s talking about business. Going with things that others are doing successfully greatly increases your chance of success.

    I like what Dan Kennedy says, “pioneers have arrows in their backs.” Doesn’t sound like fun being a pioneer. If you want to be an innovator, then be an inventer not a marketer.

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  7. Codrut Turcanu said:

    There’s time for innovation and invention but there’s not time for reinventing the wheel. That’s non-sense to me. Why create a new product for a new market when you can create a better solution for the same market and reap the gains :)

  8. Darren said:

    This reminds me of what I learned from Guy Kawasaki in The Art of the Start.

    If there’s no competition for your product or service, it’s likely because there’s no market for it!

    It also reminds me of what I learned from Michael Masterson in Ready, Fire, Aim.

    Innovation usually comes from product evolution, not product revolution.

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  21. Monza said:

    that’s some advice to be considered but I don’t entirely agree. I see nothing wrong in invention. Pioneering. I know of many businesses that pioneered new products and made a success from them. Its that simple, with careful research and belief in your idea, GO FOR IT! If noone else is doing it, its because they never thought of it or were scared to do it! Why not think of it that way?

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