This is part two in the TechWomen 2016 series where we cover some of the discussion from the Innovation Workshop sessions. In part one we talked about understanding your customers and sharing information about your project so that you may validate your idea and gather important data for bringing it to life. Now we'll look at some important points to consider when pre-selling your idea, what to share and how much.
As the concept of selling an idea can be challenging - we generally sell things that exist - the question of how to share your idea without losing it, or giving away too much information arises. At the beginning you should share "the What" of your idea:
This can start out as a simple conversation and evolve into a short presentation of three slides.
In describing your idea you can use the short elevator pitch as described in part one. Share that pitch with people and ask a couple of simple questions:
As you share your idea, you may find that the idea changes slightly and the pitch gets more natural - this is a good thing. As your pitch becomes more natural for you to share, it will be easier to work it into casual conversation and share with a wider audience. By way of example, here's a pitch that follows the template closely and then evolves to something more natural:
With version 2, it's a lot easier to slip into a casual conversation, like at a party when you're meeting new people and find people to talk to. Someone may ask for more information and then you can go into the more detailed version 1.
If someone is interested in your idea, this opens the door to learning more about them. Resist the urge to tell them more. Instead, take some time to learn about them
Idea Person: Oh, you like this idea? Please tell me a little bit about yourself.
Potential Customer 1: I'm a college teacher. Our computer lab is just starting out and we don't have enough computers for every student. Some students have their own laptops but many of them are ChromeBooks so web-based tools would be a great help for us.
This is good information. Ask for a little bit more to build up your data around the idea.
Idea Person: This is good to know. How many students do you have at your school studying programming? How long is the program?
Potential Customer 1: We have a four-year program. Last year we started with 25 students. We doubled this year and are expecting to double again next year. 100 students will be our capacity until we can get more space.
This information will help you to size your market and think about a business model. Some of this may be basic information that you've already gathered from talking to others or doing research through publically available information. If you can go a little deeper on "the Who", continue with a few more questions that will help, for example:
It is possible that the conversation doesn't work out but you should still try to gain some information from it.
Idea Person: Oh, you already have a tool for this - what is it?
Potential Customer 2: We use a tool called Binary2Infinity - everyone who makes games is now using it.
Again, for figuring out your market and increasing the value of your offering, this is great information. Consider asking more questions like:
Just like learning more about your potential customers, take some time to learn about the problems from them before you tell them your understanding of the problem. Hear the problem in their own words and avoid leading them to your problems. They may tell you new problems that you were not aware of.
If they mention your problem, that's a great sign that you're on the right track. If they don't mention your problem you can then ask them about it.
If they do not list your problem or tell you it's not a big deal, they've just saved you from a lot of work developing a solution that no one needs.
With the list of problems, ask some deeper questions to inform your solution, your knowledge of the market and your potential business model.
In the early phases of developing an idea, this can be a great place to pause the conversation and thank the person for helping you to gather information to support your idea. In an upcoming post, we'll talk about how to share "the How" in a way that elicits meaningful feedback for the continued development of your idea.
While talking about data gathering, surveys often come up.
I prefer to talk to a few people before doing a survey. This will inform the survey questions and the discussion can be used to test that the survey questions will provide the kind of information that you're looking for. The other thing I encourage people to consider with surveys is that you need to choose the best time to send them. Surveys can take time that people don't want to spend and can be best used when you have a product or service ready to evaluate, like during the beta phase to see if it's ready to launch. At the beginning phase of your idea, you want to build a following and that is best done live and in-person.
Stay tuned for more tips from the Innovation Workshop and happy innovating!