Yeah I know it sounds crazy but I've actually been paid to eat chips… and not just like $5 from winning a bet with a friend… No, I was paid $50 per hour to eat freaking chips… (more about my getting paid to eat chips story in just a moment. First more about what I learned about product creation.)
It's funny how when some entrepreneurs have a good idea for a product the first thing they do without even thinking is start creating the product. Sometimes they even launch it to the world and then wonder why nobody ever likes (or buys) their awesome product…. It was a brilliant idea and they loved it so much so why didn't everyone else? Well, the unfortunate truth is that you really should validate your idea before you begin creating the product. Companies do this all the time with consumer focus groups. It's just part of their product creation processes. Companies ask these focus groups hundreds of questions about their products, colors of packaging, new product ideas, and so on. The main point here is that companies don't just willy nilly release new products. They test products and make sure they have a market segment that will buy their new product because otherwise they have wasted their resources including employee's time and lots of money so unless you have cash to burn I would not recommend releasing a product without asking some people you know about your idea!
# 1. First Things First – Learn What The Industry Needs
Before you can even begin to come up with a product idea you have to immerse yourself in a niche or industry in order to understand how the industry works and what that industry needs. Otherwise you end up creating some stupid app that doesn't even make sense…. There is no way you can possibly understand what a market needs without either being a customer yourself or talking to people who are actual customers. Companies routinely talk to their customers to learn more about them. This customer feedback is crucial to the company because with it the company can understand why the customer chose them over their competitors and how they can continue to improve their products and services. Once you understand the customers only then can you come up with a perfect solution. Take Freshbooks cloud accounting software for example. It's a pretty cool idea it's basically cloud based accounting software for the non-accountant business owners and here's what people are saying about it.
Freshbooks has only been able to create this software because they understand their customers don't want complicated accounting software but instead wants an easy to use accounting system that they can understand while saving precious business time. So first things first find out what the industry needs and then work on coming up with a product or service that will fill that NEED.
# 2. Once You Have An Idea- Validate That Idea
Once you have what you think is a good idea ask some of your friends and family what they think of the idea. I usually frame the question in context so that they can answer the question better if they are not in the specific industry for my product. It goes something like “If you were a plumber would you buy a product that helps toilets save more water per flush?” See what I did there? So you might not give a damn about that product but plumbers who have clients can sell that all day long so they would be super interested in that product. Now you're probably wondering –
This is a great question and one that I have thought about many times and here is what I have concluded. While you want to protect the idea that you have come up with you first want to research the market and make sure that your idea does not already exist. I can't tell you how many times I have come up with a brilliant idea and someone else has already made it. If you research the idea and do not find anything then you can begin to ask friends and family what they think about the idea. I would be wary of sharing the idea with people in that specific industry as word travels fast with good ideas and you don't want your competition hearing about your plans before you even begin so a note of caution there… and ask your friends and family to not share the idea with anyone else. You could even get them to sign a NDA if you are paranoid but that will only help you if things go to a courtroom so just be careful and you should be ok.
# 3. Creating Your Product / Service
This step of the product creation process can vary drastically depending on what type of product or service you are creating but the basics are the same. You will want to familiarize yourself with the technology used in creating your product or service so that you can properly hire the professionals needed. For instance if you wanted to build a high rise skyscraper you would want to know a bit about the building process before you start hiring subcontractors to lay the foundation, put in the plumbing, etc. So the two types of projects are usually the ones that are well funded and the ones that don't have a penny to spare (I know more about this one! haha)
If you have a Budget for the project
- Have A Project Timeline
- Protect Yourself Financially
- Find Qualified Professionals
- Pay Them What They're Worth
If you are on a Shoestring budget
- Put Together A Solid Plan
- Find Time To Work on Your Project (Schedule It On Your Phone Calendar!)
- Learn The Skills Needed (Lynda.com or Udemy are Great for Programming / Digital Stuff)
- The Best Way to Learn is by DOING
# 4. Selling Your Product / Service
Unless you've been living under a rock then you have probably seen Billy Mays on TV in the last 20 years. Billy was mesmerizing to watch and really knew how to get you to buy anything. The products he promoted solved problems in new and creative ways and most of them did it instantly. I would encourage you to think would Billy Mays pitch my product. Think about the benefits of your product and the need it solves.
Things To Ask Yourself About Your Product or Service
- What Problem Does My Product Solve?
- Why Would Someone Buy My Product vs. My Competitor?
- How Can I Show My Product Benefits? (Hint – Use video)
- How Will I Market My Product? (People can't buy a product they don't know about…..)
My $50 Per Hour Chip Story Contd.
I sat there with a saltine cracker in my hand looking curiously around the room with the other taste testers and I noticed that the room we were in had blue walls. Most people would not think anything of it but psychologists have studied color effects on the brain and they say the color blue has a soothing effect on the brain. I took a bite out of my saltine cracker and then took a big gulp of my water. According to the taste taste guidelines a taste tester like myself had to cleanse their palate in between taste tastings of the chip flavors in order to accurately review each chip variation. After taking my sip of water I had to taste the most bizarre chip flavor I had ever heard of… ( I can't tell you the exact flavor because of legal reasons but it was a chip flavor that was based on a type of burger…) I took the bite of the chip and it was a very interesting flavor… but not anything good…… one I would assume was created by food engineers in some type of futuristic laboratory. I then filled out the paperwork on what I liked and didn't like about that chip type. Depending on the day of the food testing I would complete it was sometimes pretty good food and other days it was downright disgusting.. Today it was the latter. I particularly enjoyed testing food items that I would see several months or even years later at the grocery store but I had a feeling this was not one of them. The chip flavor was harsh and not one I would expect people to pay to consume but I was getting paid to review this chip that tasted like a burger I could get anywhere within 5 minutes from my house. I didn't understand why anyone would want to eat a chip that was flavored to taste like something that I could easily get from my house nonetheless I filled out the paperwork about what I liked and didn't like about the chip on the forms. After completing the form I handed it to one of the two technicians in white lab coats and they then escorted me out to the main lobby where I picked up my check for $50/hr at the front desk. Not bad for giving a bit of feedback on a food item. I never saw this particular item hit the main consumer shelves at the local grocery store but I'm betting that they got some valuable feedback from taste testers like myself. 🙂
I'm currently working on a new product and this is what I have learned so far. It will be available very soon and it's really coming together nicely. If you have any advice or suggestions from your own product creation experience please share it below! (If you have been paid for eating something other than chips I would love to hear that story as well! 🙂