How to get started with developing a new business idea

June 2017

Every aspiring entrepreneur needs to learn a few critical pieces of information to move forward with their idea. The first and most important of these are:

  • Customer – who do I think is my ideal customer, where and when might they use my idea, and how do I envision them using it?
  • Problem/need – what is the problem I am solving or the unmet need that I am trying to satisfy for the ideal customer? How do they solve the problem today or why can’t they solve it today?
  • Idea – what is my idea and why is it unique? Who will be my primary competition? What can I do with my idea that is unique so I can beat my competitors?

This approach is part of the “lean startup” movement whereby entrepreneurs start by learning as much as possible about the ideal customer and their problem/needs before fully developing the idea. This “customer first” approach is important as it helps ensure that the entrepreneur is designing and building a product or service that customers really want as opposed to building something that may not have a real need in the market.

Having a good understanding (also known as validation) of the above is essential to moving ahead with a new idea and serves as a foundation so the entrepreneur remains centered. While each of these will likely change over time, any entrepreneur who moves ahead without having put significant thought and work into validating them runs the risk of focusing on the wrong things.

It’s also important to focus on a very specific type of customer as opposed to trying to assume that everyone can be your customer. Even the biggest brands had to start with one customer. Figuring out your ideal first customers is very important as they will be your biggest champions as you get started.

You can use the following interview guide (crafted by Talking to Humans) once you have considered your ideal customer. Tailor the questions to your specific product idea and interview at least ten potential customers to get started:

  • Warm up: basic questions about person
  • What do you currently use today?
  • Tell me about how you found and chose it.
  • Please describe the last time you used it. What do you like and not like?
  • Walk me through the process of how you decided to buy it.
  • What was frustrating about that experience?
  • What did you like about that experience?
  • What do you like about your current product? What don’t you like?
  • Have you ever thought about changing to a different product? Why or why not?
  • How do you find out about related products and what do you know about them?

This approach will help you better determine if your idea will be a good fit for your customer and will help you determine if your idea about your ideal customer is correct. Don’t be afraid to challenge your assumptions about every aspect of your idea, your customer and the market problem/need. You can turn the answers to your interview questions into a document that answers the initial set of questions about the customer, problem/need and idea. You’ll be off to a great start in developing your new business idea.