How to drive customer based innovation as an entrepreneur?

The exciting reality of the digital age is that, every day, there are new technologies and new startups emerging with better business models and simpler products and services. These innovations are making our lives better, but how to keep up with it as an entrepreneur?

Investigate market viability via big data. You don’t need to have artificial intelligence or be a data scientist to test the markets or your idea, and ask big data questions. The simplest way to test your market viability is Google search – find demand by combining complaint words with the keywords of your search.

Another key thing is to focus on the customer. If you want to make a great product, listening to your customers; reading their complaints, issues and comments about your product, helps you understand and help your customers. Don't settle just for big data, get deep feedback. Find the customers who want what you’re selling or that are already using your product/service, and get their insights. Focus on the why they’re choosing you over your competition and why they’re having good or bad experiences. The problems they’re having can work as a push to innovate new and alternative ways of doing what you’re currently doing. It is essential to observe how your customers interact with your product - communicate and meet your customers!

After you’ve figured out what features you need by using big data and deeper feedback, you need to figure our how much it costs. When you know how much your costs are, you need to see about the market fit – how much profit will you have based on the market size? Having established the demand and how much people are willing to pay, it’s important to determine what the potential market is in actual dollars. When you know this you need to ask yourself how much of this existing market you can realistically capture and how you’re going to make it happen. Plan your scaling process. Building a product requires marketing and research. Get big data, customer feedback and analyze costs and markets for every feature of your product or service to determine what set of features gets the best traction and simulate launch.

Have your whole team participate in looking at any possible problems to find alternative ways of solving them. Innovation is a competition, not every ivy-league engineer wants to be an entrepreneur, so get the most innovative talent! Business leaders who surround themselves with people from different backgrounds, countries, genders, age groups and experiences, are some of the best innovators because they bring together a number of different perspectives and ideas. Having a diverse team helps you challenge your assumptions and expand your mind, it also exposes you to alternative ways to approach opportunities and obstacles. It is found that diverse companies out-innovate and out–perform their competition.

Being a pioneer often means sailing into uncharted waters and taking risks that others haven’t taken before. This is what makes people like Elon Musk some of the greatest disruptors of our time, he takes big risks that are calculated. Do your homework, study your data and markets, and balance your risks and opportunities – get comfortable with the unknown.

Another good thing about having a startup and trying to be innovative, is that when you have fewer resources, you're pushed to think differently about how you approach problems and get things done. Valuing ingenuity over investment is key. Strategic cases of restricted resources can lead to coming up with more innovative approaches in marketing and lead generation for example. This enables more experimentation and new effective approaches.