Involve the Crowd as your Partner to get from Idea to Solution

“Having a great idea is easy. But having this idea does not mean that it will be realized. Having a great product (or service) does not mean that there is a market for it. Buying your product does not mean that it is used. Using your product does not mean that it satisfies a user’s needs. – There are too many people who think their product will sell itself. Keep in mind that copycats and competitors are just a few clicks away.”
Boris Reinhard

Currently, startups are shooting up like mushrooms. Due to new technologies and the hype of digital transformation (and ‘Digital’ respectively) as well as available venture capital, a lot of people want to realize their ideas – and they try to do so. There are some outstanding new business models that work. However, there also many others that are doomed to failure. What are the things you can do? Most important is to explore your user’s needs! It is most important to address a concrete pain point for your target group. Afterwards – and I really mean afterwards – you can create ideas and develop a feasible solution.

Please note: It is not my intention to discuss innovation methods and approaches like the Lean Canvas*. I want to sensitize your awareness on the need to understand your customers and give a brief overview how the crowd can become your partner. Think of Wikipedia. The online encyclopedia would not exist without the crowd.

Why? The main reason is the gap between vision and reality. As you can see in the sketch above (drawn by Alex Osterwalder), most times so-called ‘entrepreneurs’ create fancy solutions that do not match their customers’ expectations. There are several ways to cope with this problem. Below, I focus on one: Ask the crowd – How can the crowd help you?

You think that you have identified a pain point of a specific target group? Bingo! You have a challenge you want to address with your business model. But how does it go on now? Now, the crowd can become your partner.

First of all, you have to define good questions to find out how you might solve the identified problem. And to answer these questions, you can get support from the crowd. Use the crowd to brainstorm and generate ideas**. There are some very good crowdsourcing innovation platforms, where you can involve the members of the platform for possible solutions and their ideas, for example, atizo (CH), based on HYPE (DE). Platforms like atizo will also help you to select and prioritize your favorite and most suitable idea. After that, refine your favorite idea (take value, customer needs, feasibility and idea potential into account). Then, build your first mock of the product, a minimum viable product* and collect feedback from as many people from your target group as possible.

When you have reached the phase, where the MVP seems to become a viable and market-ready product, you can ask the crowd again, this time in terms of consumer acceptance. You can do this by starting a crowdfunding** project, for example on kickstarter (international), We make it (CH), funders (CH) or Startnext (DE). Indepent from which platform you choose, you can use your crowdfunding project to test a virtual sales pitch for your product and try a possible revenue structure**. Nearly riskless, your crowdfunding initiative will help you to proof your concept. You will get answers to the following questions: Will someone buy my product? Does my product address customers’ needs? And so on…

What if your project fails? Be glad that your risks haven’t been so high. Fail early and often! In case you succeed in crowdfunding: Grats! The probability of failure for your business model has strikingly decreased.

Take advantage of the crowd! I can recommend that you ‘ask the crowd’ as often as possible – view the above-mentioned possibilities, crowdsourcing, and crowdfunding, just as examples. Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding cannot replace your job as a startup entrepreneur, but both can help you to get insights about your possible customers.

Any questions? I have a proven and structured approach to guide companies through the digital shift. Please do not hesitate to contact me for any details.

*)  Details can be found out somewhere else (ask Google or get in touch)
**) There are best practices for crowdsourcing and crowdfunding (ask Google or get in touch)

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