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Got a Great Product? Now Make a Great Business (Pt 1)

In the 80’s, Procter & Gamble invented a superior shampoo technology that could obsolete the need for a separate conditioner. It worked great in the lab and in-home-use tests. The company was convinced it represented the future of their haircare business.

Except consumers didn’t care. P&G couldn’t sell the stuff.

Sound familiar? How many brilliant engineers have built a better mousetrap only to find that no one wanted one?

Maybe you’re one of those for whom creating something remarkable is satisfaction enough. But most of us aspire to generate income, make a difference in the world, or both. If you’re one of us, heed the words of America’s great inventor, Thomas Edison: “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent.”

Marketplace success is a rich stew made from many ingredients. If you leave one out, your chances of cooking a tasty dish plummet. You still might succeed, but your business plan now starts looking like a lottery.

So how to begin? It’s not a formula. There are at least three different starting gates:

  • Product/Service – yep, that thing you just tinkered up might be a fine place to begin. Now you need to figure out why anyone would want it.
  • Insight – research to learn what people need that they don’t have or where they are dissatisfied with the status quo. Now you need to figure out how to fill these needs and dissatisfactions.
  • Vision – can you conceive of something previously unimaginable? (Hey, let’s build a network of communication satellites!) Now you need to find a way to translate your vision into something the rest of us can understand and want.

If you start with product, you need insight. If you start with insight, you need product. If you start with vision, you need both.

And none of that is enough. Check out Part 2 to learn what else you need to do before a great product has a shot at becoming a great business.

What are your favorite examples of great products that failed to become great businesses?

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