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Q. What is the best, easiest, quickest and cheapest method to research one's business idea?
 

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A. Marketing expert, Joe Gracia, responds:

Great question! And one that many would-be entrepreneurs get wrong.

ALWAYS START WITH YOUR TARGET PROSPECTS

Many people put the cart before the horse and begin with a business idea first, and then go searching for people to buy it. This is backwards thinking, and often ends in failure.

The most effective way to develop a winning product or service, is to start with a particular group of prospects and determine what they 'already' want. Then develop your product or service to give it to them.

90% OF ALL NEW IDEAS FAIL

Did you know that 90% of all 'new' ideas fail?

That's why we never recommend trying to come up with a 'brand new' idea. It doesn't make economic sense for a small business owner to take an approach that guarantees a 90% chance of failure.

Instead, we always recommend that our clients take an idea that has already been proven successful and gives them a 90% chance for success.

MANY OF THE PIONEERS GOT MASSACRED

We love to hear stories about the bravery of the early pioneers. But the fact is, many of them sacrificed their lives by being first.

The later settlers benefited from their sacrifices, and lived in relative safety.

It's no different in business. The pioneers with new ideas often spend millions of dollars trying to educate the public to their brain child, only to fail in the end.

We're assuming that you're looking to launch a business idea that has the highest chance for success, not the other way around.

To do this, observe your prospects and see what they are hot to buy. If they are already conditioned to purchase a particular type of product or service, then it is going to be much, much easier to make your version a success too.

Educating people to new ideas is hard work, and extremely expensive. People are skeptical of new ideas, and few want to be the first to try something new. That's why the failure rate of new ideas is so high.

Plus, even if you have deep pockets and an unlimited budget to gamble on such a high-risk approach, what do you think would happen if you lucked out and hit a winner? Competition would swoop down on your winning idea, and the one with the deepest pockets would win.

If you're interested in financial success, then go with the approach that practically guarantees success. Sell what is already selling!

Look around you and observe what business ideas are already in high demand.

Make sure that this high demand idea has a great back-end sales potential so that you can build your business with ongoing, repeat sales.

Here's an example:

One of our clients owns a very successful frozen custard stand. His customers can't get enough of his frozen custard -- they absolutely love it!

They come back again and again. Many of his customers have been buying from his stand for over 20 years. That's a tremendous back-end potential.

If he wants to expand his financial success, he doesn't have to look for a 'new' idea, he can just replicate this one, and have a 90% chance of success.

If someone else wanted a winning business idea -- in another part of the country -- this one would be worth looking into.

There are a million already-proven ideas like this.

Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's, didn't come up with a 'new' business idea. He discovered a 'hot' business idea that had already been proven successful.

People already loved the idea of fast food, especially burgers, fries and a soda. He just took the idea, improved it, and then replicated it.

So, your research should be focused on finding a 'hot' product or service that already has a huge demand, and a tremendous back-end -- repeat sales -- potential.

Then just do it a little better than your competition.

GET ADVICE FROM SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE IN YOUR FIELD

You can often learn a great deal by talking to people who are already selling the product or service you are considering.

Of course your local competitors may not be willing to share information, but someone outside of your marketplace may be, especially if you make it worth their time.

Learn everything you can about your ultimate customers and the product/service you are considering.

SELECT A SPECIFIC GROUP OF TARGET PROSPECTS

Don't make the mistake of thinking that everyone will be a prospect for your product or service. You can't afford to go after everyone, and not everyone will want what you are offering.

Select a specific target group of prospects that are easy to reach. If you can't reach them easily, then you will have a difficult time selling them.

TEST, DON'T GUESS

Now, if you are an adventurous sort who loves to take risks and go against the odds with a 'new' and different idea, then the easiest, least costly method of researching your idea is by testing.

Offer free samples of your product or service to your selected target group. If they don't respond to a free version of your idea, then how likely will it be that they will pay? Not very.

Make them an offer.

Send them a letter or post card telling them about your free offer of a sample.

Call them on the phone and make your offer.

Fax them.

Call on them in person.

Place an ad in a publication that you know they read, etc.

Remember, you shouldn't try to sell at this point, just offer a free sample, or at the very least free, no-obligation information about your product or service.

If you get absolutely no response, that should tell you something. You may reconsider going with a proven successful product or service instead.

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