We all have great ideas from time to time. Most of these will be remembered as ‘the greatest idea that never existed’. But what if you have a cracking idea and you actually want to turn it into a reality? How do you get your ideas and thoughts from paper and turn it into a three-dimensional reality?
In the current age of innovation, creating a prototype has become much easier. It all comes down to what your idea is and what is required to roll it out.
For example, if you have a technology concept, manufacturing design or a new service idea, they will all require a different process in bringing the idea to fruition. There is, however, one thing they all can draw from — the methodology for doing it!
Lean Canvas and minimum viable product (MVP) testing is an innovative methodology driven by marketing pioneer Eric Ries who created the ‘Lean Start-up'. By following the framework presented by Ries, you would be able to successfully turn an idea into a prototype or 'MVP' — allowing you to market, test, learn and evolve your product.
We've done the hard work for you and created a guide on the tips layed out by Ries:
It all starts with a plan
Business plans are a must in the world of startups and general business. They allow for you to set things up correctly, create quantifiable objectives, benchmark performance metrics, plan back end systems, and construct structures and processes — providing your product with a clear path.
— As a starting point, arrange to get a business plan from an expert: These experts should provide you with a defined marketing plan, timeline, and an idea on how to get things done. A business planner has background knowledge and experience about starting up a new business, including systems, processes, marketing, and sales ideas. If you're feeling particularly brave, you can take a shot at this yourself!
— Alternatively plot your business plan on a Lean Canvas template: A Laen Canvas template allows you to create your own business model in under 20 minutes. All you have to do is plot out the plan, outline what problem your business would be solving, who you are targeting, and how you will generate revenue.
Who is the target audience?
Understanding your market is a vital part of any creation. Millions of business have created fantastic prototypes products and services, only to realise that it never filled a 'need' or 'want'.
Speak to your target market before you create a prototype. Conduct research into what they like, how they buy, and what 'pain points' they are currently facing.
As an innovator, you need to ensure that you are creating something that people want – even if they don’t know it yet – and not just work on your own assumptions. Why spend your time and money on something that will flop?
Distribution is king
When you’re looking to launch a product and create a prototype it’s important to consider the following:
— How are you planning for your customers to get your product?
— How are they going to find out about it?
— Are they going to download it?
— Will they purchase it directly from your website?
— Will you have a retail store or are you going to distribute it through other retailers?
This is something you need to understand before you get going, as this will dictate elements your prototype should have included within it.
As a starting point, it’s a good idea to set up a website that has information on your company and your product lines; so that when you test your product, customers can come along for the 'journey'.
You may have created the best product in the world, but if it can't be found or bought — it will remain hidden. Once you have a website and you distribution model ideas in place, you can get building.
Time to get started with the nuts and bolts of your prototype
So, you have a business plan, a development methodology, you know your audience and what they want, you have set up information, and established a distribution model. Now's the time to finally get a prototype.
Depending on what you are developing, you will need to bring in some experts, be it to give you a hand with technical design, 3D printing, e-commerce, or all of the above.
It is important that you get experts to help you with the actual prototype process. For example, if you have developed an idea on a new drink bottle, you need to create a 3D model to take to market. So you’ll need to engage a designer to professionally and properly communicate your model ideas to a 3D printerin order to make the prototype happen.
Once you have created a prototype, you can take it to investors, third parties, or even your target market — allowing you get feedback before the product run.
Let's test it
Even though you have a prototype, it is raw and not necessarily the final product. So you need to test it.
Do a small batch run — produce 100 units and test it in the target market. Get feedback and work out what people like, what they don’t, what features they need, and what the product lacks.
This process — the MVP — will allow you to learn from your prototype, embrace customer feedback, and redevelop your prototype to a level that is far more likely to have success.
With the emergence of technology, producing prototypes is no longer as hard as it once was. The key is to know where to find good people that can help you. And while it is easier to simple get a prototype to market, make sure you take your time. Test it, evolve it, create greater services and experiements around it — don't fall in the trap of making something that no one will want.