A study shows that, generally, companies do not have a structured process that guides innovation. This means that, in most companies, innovation isn’t as a result of any deliberate management.
Innovation is a risky and uncertain business. Which is why companies that have excelled at it are those that have developed a structure and methodology around it.
We are going to show you, in this post, the stages of an innovation process. These stages will give you an idea of where you are in your innovation journey and what you need to do next.
That won’t be all you’ll be getting from this article.
How do you get your first set if paying customers for your market-ready product?
As an answer to that question, we’re going to be sharing with you strategies that you can use to get your new company off the ground with early clients.
The Four Stages Of Innovation
There are specific stages that successful innovations have in common. These stages are:
- 1. Idea Generation
- 2. Research
- 3. Development and proof of concept
- 4. Market
This is the stage where new ideas are created. Every innovation initiation always starts with the search and derivation of ideas with innovative capabilities.
There are different ways through which these ideas can be gotten. You could organise brainstorming sessions or ideas contests or workshops. Or ideas could be stumbled upon randomly: through a conversation with a customer or any other person.
These ideas can originate from an existing idea or be completely brand new. Usually, innovative ideas can be in the form of:
- 1. A new market
- 2. An unsolved customer problem
- 3. A new technical or technological solution.
When generating ideas, you should make sure to evaluate each of them as not all ideas are worth implementing.
You have to judge each idea’s feasibility and measure their potential benefits. This will help you prioritize your ideas and decide which one is ready for the next stage of innovation.
At the end of stage one, you should have an idea that you’ve already outlined goals and potential benefits for.
This stage is where you perform in depth research and analysis of your idea in order to have as much information as possible. Initial concepts or plans regarding the following are detailed here:
- 1. Solution to a problem
- 2. Implementation of the solution
- 3. Marketing of the solution.
Solution To The Problem:
Here, you will be required to put down the shape of your idea in the form of descriptions or sketches. Every requirement and specification with regards to this new product is brought to life.
Implementation Of Solution
How does your solution get to their users? You have to put down your first thoughts on the concept of implementation. This should cover areas such as production, procurement and logistics.
Marketing Of The Solution
Your solution is of no use if your customers don’t know about it. You have to visualize what your value proposition is; your possible sales and distribution channels; target market; pricing strategy, etc.
All these concepts should be analyzed thoroughly and iteratively. A system whereby a loop of continuous feedback is used to improve your solution should be established.
At the end of this stage, you should have information about:
- 1. Market potential
- 2. Customer requirements
- 3. Competition
- 4. Feasibility and risks.
Development And Proof Of Concept
If you are in this stage, then you are ready to build a solution that can be brought into the market. Here, you build prototypes and carry out market tests under real market conditions.
Once comprehensive feedback has been gotten, you should develop and adapt your concepts for implementation and marketing.
What you’re trying to do here is to validate your research and concerns; and make sure that your solution is ready for market.
This last stage requires you to take your product or solution to your target audience. This isn’t just about the availability of your product. In this stage, marketing and fulfillment is also important.
You have to make sure that your concepts on logistics, production and procurement are effective. Marketing and sales channels should be running and your salespeople should be trained on how to bring the product to the customers.
How To Get Your First Set Of Paying Customers
Once you have gotten your product ready for the market, you don’t just wait for the sales to start rolling in. You have to make sure that people start paying money for it.
Outlined below are strategies that you can use to get your first set of paying customers so that you can launch your startup off the ground.
- 1. Leverage your network
- 2. Discover where your customers hangout. Hangout with them.
- 3. Give out free deals
- 4. Cold email
Leverage Your Network
One of the first avenues you should be looking at to get your first set of paying customers is your network.
Talk to people you know and ask them to introduce you to people they know. You might be surprised at the number of valuable connections that might turn up. You might not have a large amount of people but people in your network would naturally have their own network. Why not take advantage of that?
Contact your friends who own businesses. Tell them to introduce you to other businesses. They might have a pain point that your product takes care of.
And if you’ve already been funded, don’t forget that your investor is now part of your network. Investors usually have good connections, so you should tell yours to help spread the word about your product.
Discover Where Your Customers Hangout. Hangout With Them
If you understand your industry and niche, then you must know a place where your target market usually spends time. On these platforms, news about your industry, the problems facing it and solutions are usually being discussed.
Find these places and blend in. Here you can show your expertise by answering questions, offering advice and building your network. These platforms include Facebook groups, Quora, Reddit, Product Hunt etc.
On these platforms, you can find a community of people who are probably looking for solutions to problems that you can solve.
Give Out Free Deals
Who doesn’t like free stuff? As an entrepreneur, you probably don’t. Especially if you’re the one giving it out. But if you want to quickly grow your customer base and have people validate your product, you might need to start doing so.
There are different ways you could entice your first customers with a free deal.
If you’re offering a SaaS product, then you really do not have much of a choice in this case. Offering free trials on a SaaS product is now the norm.
How else do you intend to make people pay regularly for your product if they have never used it before and have no idea what it feels like to use it. During the free trial, you have a chance to engage and impress your users so that they become paying customers.
If you’ve not validated your product yet and you need help solidifying your product-market fit, getting beta testers is a good way to go. These are users who test your product for free.
Putting your app up for beta testing is a good idea as it can help skyrocket your app’s attraction when it goes live.
In this model, you give up part of your product for free while you make other (powerful) features exclusive. This gives your users just enough features to keep them wanting more.
Use Cold Emails
Some might argue that cold emails are now ineffective. But that’s not true. They still work – if you know how to write a good one.
A good cold email should be to the point, conversational and have a clear call to action. Cold emails are especially useful if you’re building your network. Cold emails can get different people to notice you – potential customers,investors, press, influencers and so on.
Innovation is a continuous process. Companies don’t just stop innovating unless they want to be left behind. The stages of innovation outlined in this article will help you make sure that your innovation approach is more deliberate.