The execution of a plan that brings a product or service from idea to actuality can be daunting and challenging. But with a good amount of planning, determination, resilience, and adaptability – you can start making your own product or providing a service now. With proper growth, you can become a large-scale manufacturer or huge service provider.
We have broken down the process into 7 general, but key steps that can help you on your journey from idea to product:
“Perform market research to learn about your target customer”
Before you start with any business, you have to understand the market that you are trying to serve – the pros and cons of the business, pricing, who your competitor are, who your target customer is. These are examples of things you need to find out as you venture into a new business. Entrepreneurs and other successful business owners always talk about the importance of market research to their continued success. Your main goal here is to be as curious and inquisitive as possible. Curiosity helps you dive deep into market needs to fully understand where there might be gaps that need to be filled. One must have the right sources, tools, network and most of all, patience during this phase.
“Test your idea in small iterative steps to validate the idea”
After doing some market research, it is important to test your idea on the market before you go into full production or service. Here is where the advice of “crawling before you walk” should be heeded, especially if you want to set yourself and your business up for long-term sustainable growth.
The advantage of prototyping is that you get to evaluate and validate your idea at a minimal cost. At the beginning of any venture, you want to use money wisely and be as thrifty as possible. By testing your idea on a small scale, you would have learned so much about your target customer and the market. This will help you minimize and mitigate risk as you think about scaling your operations.
“Make a product or develop a service that people need – Solve a problem”
You have prototyped and learned a lot about what your customer needs and likes. At this stage, you have decided whether you are making a product or delivering a service. Your business could actually do both. A lot of businesses make products and provide services at the same time, although one is usually more prominent than the other in any business.
Your approach when you are making a product or providing a service at this stage will be quite different. If you are making a product, you should consider outsourcing your production in the initial phases and then consider bringing your production in-house (if you want to) as your business grows.
However, if you are delivering a service, you should focus on the needs of your customer and builder the right relationships in your supply chain.
“Generate revenue by selling your product or service”
It is a great achievement when you have created your product or service, now the real work starts – you have to sell it to the customer. There are several things to consider as you think about getting what you produced in the hand of the customers. The three main things to think about are sales, marketing, and distribution.
One of the most important factors for any business is SALES. This is how you generate revenue for your business. As a small business owner, this is one of your most important duties. You are the focal sales person for your business. To be a good salesperson, you have to be comfortable with talking to your customers & clients on a consistent basis – telling them about the benefits of your product or service. It is important to also understand your sales cycle – the duration between the moment your customer is aware of your product and when they make a purchase.
“Make sure your customers are happy and keep them coming back”
Now the product is in the costumer’s hand. You believe your work is done – You produced something, someone paid for it and you made some money. Job Well done. However, there’s one more step – You have to find our if your customer is happy with your product or your service.
The best customers are happy and satisfied customers. Not only will they provide referrals about your product to their friends, they will also become potential repeat customers. If you don’t really care about long-term success, then you can choose not to provide proper customer service. However, if you care about long-term sustainable growth, having happy customers that keep coming back and leaving satisfied with your business is key.
“Finance the growth of your business with debt or equity”
For your business to be successful, it has to be financially sound. From the day you begin your business, even if you have not completely figured out how you will make money, make sure you are thinking about your finance. Finance is like the oxygen that makes your company breathe. If you run out of money, your business will not sustain. Keep an eye on your cost and expenses, understand your cash flow, and continue to think about how you are going to grow revenue – either with debt or equity.
“Set yourself up for long-term growth and success”
When you start a business on your own, you initially have to wear so many hats. You will have to be the salesperson, the marketer, the producer, the fundraiser, the customer service rep…. you get the idea. So as you grow your business and expand, you also want to plan and strategize.
One of the most important things for small business owners and entrepreneurs is dealing with uncertainty – what is going to happen to my business next? Successful businesses come about when people are willing to navigate through uncertainty, using available tools to mitigate their risks, while working towards incremental achievable goals. Planning and having a strategy will help you as your grow your business.