10 Ways To Know If Your New Idea Is a Winner

So you’ve got a new concept and you’re itching to take it to market. Maybe you’re extending your product line, or perhaps you’re ready to take your company in a whole new direction. Naturally, you think it’s a dandy idea. You’re sure the whole world can’t wait… well, except when those doubts creep in. What are the best ways to decide whether to invest time and money in your new concept?

A countdown from “maybe good” to “definitely killer”:

10. Ask yourself whether you’re solving a NEED with your new product or service. If you are, is it (a) a need your customers know about, or (b) one you’re “sure” they have but you’ll have to show it to them? If your answer is (b), keep refining until you’ve hit upon a need customers already know about. Education is a tough business to be in unless you’re a teacher.

9. Ask a skeptic. This is tricky, because with no skin in the game and no need to buy from you, many friends and family will say “yeah, that’s a great idea,” to be done with the conversation, but we’ve all got that one friend who’s willing to play devil’s advocate with us on any subject. Get brave now, before you’ve sunk a lot of cash and energy into it, and tell him or her to give it to you straight. Take notes. A great refinement, or the next winner idea, could be hiding in the details of what he or she says to you. (No skeptics around? Get a professional opinion. Money you spend now to refine that concept will be a drop in the bucket compared to getting the business running smoothly—consider it insurance against running with a bad idea.)

8. Keep your ear to the ground. Check blogs, online forums, local business networking groups, newspaper articles… even classified ads… for people with needs your widget will address. Focus on those people. If you’re ready to solve a problem at the moment when buzz about that problem is high, you may have a good idea.

7. Put it aside. An underrated technique for knowing whether your idea’s a winner, is simply to walk away for a week. Ever known someone who’s just got to buy that new website address, have business cards designed, or rent a cute storefront, right now while the idea is hot? Any business that’s going to provide you with income long-term can stand to wait a week while you cool off and come back at it with fresh eyes. (If it can’t wait a week—it’s not a good idea.)

6. Ask current customers what they don’t have. What’s missing in what they currently use/ do/ buy? If you’re planning to supply what customers are itching for, then your itch to take it to market may be justified.

5. Better: Ask customers what’s wrong. If you can supply the “ahh” to something terrible that customers hate or dread, you could have a winner on your hands. “I hate” is a stronger motivator than “I wish,” especially since folks often don’t know exactly what they’re wishing for.

4. Find out whether anyone else is doing it. That’s right, in this wide world it’s pretty unlikely that you’re completely alone even when you’re coming up with a “new” killer idea, so do your research! (I know you feel like the lone, brilliant inventor, but if nobody’s doing it, there’s probably a reason.) If someone else is doing it, AND MAKING MONEY AT IT, then chances are the market’s got enough room for you in it, too. Caution, here: Make sure you’ve got a critical difference from that competition, that you can make crystal clear and exciting to buyers.

3. Write about it. I’m probably swimming against the tides, suggesting that business plans are still a very useful tool, even if banks won’t listen to you with or without one—but they are. Write a business plan. The real-world research that goes into writing a business plan, even a bare-bones one, can help you see the holes in a so-so idea and craft it into a killer.

2. Roll it out on a limited basis. Want a 4-star restaurant with your new-new-nouvelle cuisine? Try catering a few events for friends first. Dying to quit your job and become a full-time leatherworker? Do some projects on the side and see how they go over at craft fairs. Chat with folks who seem interested in buying, and learn from the market. What separates winners from also-rans in your industry? (Hint: Chances are, quality has less to do with it than you think. And you’ve got quality, anyway, haven’t you?)

1. The very best way to know that your new idea is a winner: Find someone who wants to buy it now, either as a pre-order or in “beta” condition. Better: Find more than one. Think like a venture capitalist: VCs get most excited over ideas/ products where customers have already plunked down cash for something that isn’t even ready to go yet. Early adopters may get a little discount, and of course you’ll give them a Super-Maximum Customer Experience with lots of handholding—in exchange, they’re very likely to be your most loyal customers and devoted referral sources for that long growth cycle to come.


What’s your biggest worry about taking your “killer” idea to market? Try these tips today to get it in shape!


Congratulations, you’ve put it through ten tough tests and made it shine. Your new idea’s a winner—now get it into the hands of your Ideal Customer so they can give you a big shout of thanks for solving their needs!


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson