The startup life is built on the notion that anyone has the power to make it big with the right idea and a lot of hard work. Technology continues to level the playing field for innovators and creatives, providing new opportunities for ambitious entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs must be able to communicate their stories quickly and effectively to investors and consumers alike. They must build a cohesive brand around a central idea, create products that solve problems, and grow relationships with people who believe in them.
So how do you know whether your great new business idea is a darling or a dud? Better yet, how do you know if your big idea will connect with anyone else? Even if you lack name recognition or a proven track record, all hope is not lost — there are ways for creative entrepreneurs to ensure an idea breaks through. It just needs to be an idea worth hearing.
Finding a business idea that stands out from the crowd
You might have landed a meeting with a prominent investor, but that doesn’t matter if your idea is dead on arrival. Here are five questions to ask yourself when deciding whether a concept is worth pursuing:
- Has it been done before?
Make sure there’s something unique about your concept that hooks people. “The Voice,” for instance, took the music-competition genre (of which “American Idol” was king) and changed it just enough with spinning red chairs and blind auditions to make it a hit in its own right. Keep in mind that there is value in familiarity for audiences and consumers, but you won’t have much luck selling something that’s already available on the market.
Like in show business, entrepreneurs must measure up the competition, past and present, so that they can either learn from past mistakes or avoid coming across as derivative. Market research is an important step here, so don’t skip it.
- Can it actually get made?
Your idea may be amazing, but a concept that is too big and complex to produce in the real world is a non-starter. Stick with ideas that have reasonable or repeatable budgets. You may have a great concept for a reality series that’s set in outer space, but the realisms of creating it would be out of this world—literally. The concept applies to all entrepreneurs; above all else, be realistic about your vision.
- Can you explain it in one sentence?
Forget an elevator pitch; you should be able to explain your concept before those elevator doors even close. Simplicity is key. Steve Jobs said that you have to “create a Twitter-like headline” to break through the noise of everyone else’s ideas. If you struggle to explain your idea in one sentence, your chances of selling that idea will be slim to nil.
- Does it have a hook?
In addition to being easy to understand, your business idea needs to stand out. When people hear your idea, would someone remember at least one detail about it a week later? If not, then your idea probably needs a little more work.
- Does it evoke nostalgia?
There are certain elements and experiences from our childhood that we love and cherish. Whether it’s playing miniature golf or opening presents on your birthday, evoking positive emotions or memories from the past can cause people to connect those feelings to your business.
As a result, people might naturally feel warmly about your product or service, and thus, be more likely to buy in. Focus your idea on something your target audience either relates to or fondly remembers, and you might have a hit on your hands.
When starting a business, not every new idea is a home run. When you come up with a big concept, pitch it to friends, colleagues and even strangers to see what sort of reaction you garner. Research the market to ensure your offering is distinct from what’s already available. You’re going to need to go through several steps in order to test and validate your business idea.
Ultimately, the important thing is to keep coming up with new ideas, and to keep pitching. Failures will play a role in your ultimate success, but it only takes one hit to jumpstart your entrepreneurial career.
Originally published April 15, 2019.