You have your idea for a new widget, now let’s see if the world agrees with you. Start by sharing your idea with friends and family. Get their feed back. If you can survive this step you’re ready for comments from potential customers. But let’s first examine our immediate group .... “the family”.
What I have personally experienced as well as shared knowledge from other entrepreneurs is: friends and family are divided into 3 groups.
1)Those that don’t want to see you get hurt so they are the protectors. They want you to stay at your current job and dabble in your “little” business. They don’t want you to spend any money or take any chances. They want to keep you safe from failure.
2) Then there are the naysayers. If the truth be told these people are jealous of anything you do. They appear to want the best for you but in reality they don't want you to succeed. Plus,, they don’t seem too crazy about the idea anyway. Comments from this group go something like this "I've seen other products like that. There's nothing new in that idea". Or "it will cost a fortune to invent a product and what do you know about that anyway".
3) Then there is, “the worshiper”, the relative or friend who loves everything you do. You can do no wrong with these people. You hear phrases from them like, “You’ve got what it takes” and “How can any company or customer resist you“. Or "Oprah will be giving it to her audience as her Favorite Thing." If you hear comments like that ....take it in stride.
Now lets find some real opinions that you can use.
You'll want to hold a focus group. What’s a focus group? It can be an informal meeting with one person at lunch or as elaborate as an advertised event facilitated by a marketing company, where the attendees are paid for their opinions.
Your focus group whether it’s 1 or 8 should be made up of your target audience. As an example, my first product ,the Personal Utility Pouch or PUP was originally invented to hold my business essentials. A professional tool belt of sorts. During the concept stage, I approached my fellow associates and asked their opinions on the size and design as well as the material. It would not have made sense to get the opinions of say; teen age boys if that wasn’t my potential customer.
Another inexpensive way to reach a lot of people is your email list. Send a short letter asking them for their opinion or advice. Don’t worry at this point that someone in cyberspace will be “stealing” your idea. In your email you’re not going to disclose what you are exactly going to create only the solution to a problem. Using the PUP as an example, I wrote a letter to my email list with the following question.
Have you ever had to call your own cell phone to find it?
If so, I would like to ask your opinion. I have invented a wearable organizer to hold my multiple electronic devices in addition to my daily essentials. It will not look like anything else on the market. When worn around the waist it remains flat and could easily be hidden under a shirt or jacket. You will also be able to wear it over your shoulder or across your chest.
Question: If you were to wear this accessory on your waist, would 6 X 8 inches be about the right size? Yes, No Ask them 3 or 4 questions with yes or no, or multiple choice questions. Perhaps colors, size, price range, frequency of use. Keeping in mind when it’s only a concept, people will answer logically but when they can actually see and feel the product they will react emotionally.
To recap: Your first focus group is strictly to gather facts. You’ll have many more focus groups in the future as your product materializes.