What Matters When Evaluating An Early Stage Idea

I enjoy watching the show Shark Tank. Like the show’s hosts, sometimes I think the products are great. And other times I think, “Really???” You can tell who researched their idea before jumping in, and who didn’t. We watch the show to see both the brilliantly developed ideas and the ones that aren’t quite ready for a full market launch.

When you are in the early stages of introducing a product or service, it is important to have a clear vision of what the product or service is, how it will be used, and who is the target audience. Your early stages of evaluating an idea should focus on Idea Screening, Identifying New Opportunities and Identifying your Target Audience. Taking the time at these early stages can mean the difference between resounding successes and big flops.

Your early stages of evaluating an idea should focus on Idea Screening, Identifying New Opportunities and Identifying your Target Audience. Taking the time at these early stages can mean the difference between resounding successes and big flops.


In the Idea Screening phase, you’ll want to assess if the idea has merit.
That is, is there sufficient interest to take the product to the next stage of development? Whether it’s a breakthrough or a new twist on an existing product, are enough people interested in it? In other words, do your homework.

If there is enough interest in the product, you can move onto the next phase, which is to Identify New Opportunities that will help you to understand the category landscape, assess the current marketplace, and identify any unmet needs this product can satisfy. With your idea screened and opportunity identified, you are ready to Identify your Target Audience in order to most efficiently target your marketing and communications.

Although your new ideas won’t be subjected to the business sharks on Shark Tank, the show is a good reminder that taking the appropriate steps in the early stages will allow you to have more confidence about where your product fits in the marketplace and how it can meet the needs of customers.”

Thinking back to Shark Tank, there was one idea that stood out in respect to researching its opportunity. There was a new, miniature-sized popcorn snack looking to enter the market with specific health benefits and unique gourmet flavors. The creators of the mini-popcorn product claim that it is all natural, non-GMO and vegan — appealing to folks who find those specific benefits important. They also have several unique flavors (truffle, rosemary, vinegar) in addition to the traditional popcorn flavors (sea salt, kettle, cheddar). The product has a premium price point.

When this product was featured on Shark Tank, it was only sold via mail order through word-of-mouth. The miniature-popcorn producers had not yet come to terms with how far they could reach in the marketplace, but they did know where their product fit, who their target was, and the specific needs their product could meet. Based on the early stage evaluation steps outlined here, the mini-popcorn producers’ next phase would be to develop possible new flavor ideas to expand their line and identify claims that may help to broaden their customer base.

Although your new ideas won’t be subjected to the business sharks on Shark Tank, the show is a good reminder that taking the appropriate steps in the early stages will allow you to have more confidence about where your product fits in the marketplace and how it can meet the needs of customers.

Need help getting your latest idea ready for the marketplace?

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