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How many times have you thought, “This is a great idea!” only to find that a dozen other people have had the same idea? With a seemingly endless stream of new products, services and solutions entering the market, it might feel impossible to make your dream a reality.
The truth is that nearly all startups will fail, not because they had the same idea as another brand but because they can’t prove that they matter more than the competition. Standing out is the name of the game.
In a market where everything has already been invented, you need practical strategies to help you succeed where others have failed.
1. Find the overlap between your passion and market demand
If you’re not excited about your product, then you can’t expect your target market to care either. On the other hand, simply being passionate about your product isn’t sufficient to make it a success. You need a balance of personal dedication and public interest.
Remember, just because you’re excited about your idea doesn’t mean it will work. Before you invest time, money and effort, try this: First, make a list of fields and topics that you’re passionate about. There’s no limit here, so include everything, even if you think it’s silly. Next, explore the market demand for each listed item. Keep in mind that you’re not looking to create something nobody has ever thought of. You’re looking for a niche or a fresh angle.
For example, let’s say your idea is to make coats for dogs. Well, dog clothing is a pretty saturated market, so your mission might be to find a niche within the dog-clothing market that people would be interested in paying for. Maybe pet owners wish more coats had comfortable ear coverings for their dogs, but there aren’t many options available. There’s your in.
2. Shore up your weaknesses. (Trust me, you have some).
It’s hard to turn an honest, critical eye onto your ideas, but you have to if you hope to succeed. What are you lacking? Where are the weakest points in your plan? Will people care enough about your idea to pay money for it? The best-laid plans almost always have blind spots and oversights, so before you move forward, it’s wise to approach your idea from every possible angle.
For the most helpful feedback, step outside of your immediate friend and family circles. If possible, float your ideas to successful entrepreneurs and mentors. They will be brutally honest, and they’ll often help you think of potential roadblocks or problems that were in your blind spots. If you take this feedback seriously, you’ll be able to shore up your weaknesses early on and avoid catastrophic pitfalls later in the development process.
3. Do the “little things” better than everyone else
Just because you aren’t inventing something brand new doesn’t mean that you can’t still offer novelty! There is always room for improvement and innovation, so you just have to find those “little things” and decide how to do them better.
Let’s go back to the dog-coat business plan. Maybe you’ve done your research, and you noticed that there’s an opportunity to offer extended sizing, better fabrics or more personalization options than the competition. On an even more nuanced level, maybe you’ve figured out a way to offer more streamlined checkouts or do virtual try-ons via your website.
The point here is to find creative ways to gain an edge in the market before you jump in. Innovation doesn’t have to be limited to your primary products and services. It’s the little things that will recommend you over the competition, and this can be the difference between success and failure. Many startups fail because they don’t pay enough attention to customer needs, so this is a worthwhile investment of time and effort.
4. Listen to your investors. (Especially if they’re critical).
If you’re at the investor stage of your plan, then it’s important to pay attention when they speak. Think of your investors as mentors who believe in your idea just as much as you do. However, investors also have a quite literal stake in the success of your idea, and they’re less emotionally invested than you. This, plus their business acumen, gives them a better perspective on your venture.
Investors may not always have positive things to say about your concepts and the next steps of your plan. Rejection stings, and criticism is hard to hear, but getting this kind of informed feedback is invaluable. You’re getting a free chance to go back to the drawing board and make a more solid and detailed plan of action before you sink time and money into your venture.
5. Focus on unconventional ways to explore the bigger picture
Premature scaling is a proven way to fail spectacularly. This doesn’t mean that you have to think inside the box when it comes to growth, however. There are other ways to increase your reach and work toward a larger purpose.
Many consumers across the globe prefer to buy from a brand that aligns with their personal values and believe that companies they support should be trying to make the world a better place.
Looking for avenues to increase your social impact and define your brand values is a simple way to explore the bigger picture and cultivate trust, loyalty and continued interest in your company.
Trying to be “first” in most industries is a recipe for disappointment and disaster. To succeed, you need to pivot your thinking toward how to offer your product or service in a way that’s different or better than the competition. Balancing unconventional thinking with practical solutions is the key to keeping your startup from fizzling out.