There has been a sharp increase in the number of small business start-ups in the last few years … it’s the one positive that’s come out of the financial meltdown we suffered two years ago. It’s fantastic to see People are taking action to secure their future.
If you are one of those looking to join the increasing number of the self-employed, you probably got an idea you’ve been working on and mentioned it friends and family who have given very positive feedback; so you are now writing a business plan. Or perhaps you are at the very early stage of an idea, and not sure what you should do next.
Either way, you should consider investing the time to investigate your idea further to make sure it is a viable option by making sure that there’s a market ready to receive your product or service with open arms.
Getting feedback on your ideas
Brainstorming is not a new technique and is mostly used by existing businesses these days to:
- Gather information
- Stimulate creative thinking
- Generate and develop new ideas
- Solve problems
- Establish closer working relationships between teams
For start-ups, brainstorming is useful exercise to help gain a fresher perspective on an idea. Often times business start-ups are so consumed (and rightly so!) with their new product or service, that they can miss little things, because they are too close to it.
If as a start-up, you are wondering what exactly you may gain from using brainstorming as a technique, here are 3 benefits:
Identify a ‘gap’ in an existing idea
Because the brainstorming process is about ‘collecting’ all ideas, some of the ideas could spark and stimulate additional ideas within the idea.
Focus the mind
In addition to above point, hearing someone else’s perspective could help crystallize the idea and improve the existing offering. This could generate additional revenue not previously considered.
Most importantly, the No. 1 objective for any business is to keep cost as low as possible. Through the brainstorming process start-ups can save money (and time) in the long run by identifying little things at the initial stages before they become magnified further down the line, and cost a lot more.
When you think about, you’ll probably wonder why you hadn’t done this before; and if you can find volunteers – preferably not related to you and your business (family and friends are more likely to think the same way you do, so will come up with similar suggestions); then invest in the process.
Before deciding to organise a brainstorming session, you should plan properly to make sure that you use the time effectively.
Your main objective is to find out if there are any gaps in your offering and if so, how to fill it. But before that, here are a couple questions you should ask yourself and be able to answer confidently about your offering:
- The problem you are trying to solve – i.e. why you have created your offering
- Your target audience – do you have a primary and/or secondary market?
- How you will reach your audience – online, offline or via a 3rd party
- Who your competitors are
- Your price point Vs what your competitors offer
- What potential obstacles you could face
- Timescale to market
Be honest and realistic about your answers and while you think these may seem basic, you’ll be surprised how a simple exercise like this will give you have a clearer picture, so you can plan properly for the next stage of organising your brainstorming session.
Specific questions to ask
Once you can answer the above questions, you should have a list of specific questions you want your volunteers to answer for you; but be willing and prepared to accept what people have to say – the good and not-so-good. You shouldn’t see this as a ‘bashing’ exercise of you and your idea, but more like having ‘critical friends’ are giving useful advice. Always keep in mind what your overall objective of the exercise is – ‘to fill any gaps in your offering’; and in the end get the best offering out to your audience.
Keep a record
Make sure you are either recording the session or you have someone else recording all that’s being said on a flip chart or some other form of recording – this is gold dust!
Now you have all this information, you should spend a good amount of time analysing all that’s been said during the session; you shouldn’t be in a hurry now to rush to market. The true value of this exercise is in analysing and grouping everything said against each question you asked; and deciphering what’s useful or not-so useful, realistic or unrealistic and what fits or doesn’t fit with your offering.
Perhaps the exercise uncovered an additional revenue stream you hadn’t considered, what will do you? Ignore everything you’ve working on and pursue it? These are decisions only you can make as the creator of the product or service, but be honest with yourself and realistic with what you can accomplish within the time you’ve set yourself.
After this process, you are a much better position to start your business plan and confidently approach investors with your offering.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Viv Oyolu runs Bounce Point Consultancy based in London that helps start-ups brainstorm and test their ideas. Bounce Point runs 1-2-1 and group sessions. You can find out more at www.bouncepoint.co.uk