Some people suffer from a very real temptation to innovate in isolation and then wait for the world to respond to their brilliant insight or invention. Perhaps this is a function of the desire to protect IP or to really focus on the work required to address a gap in the market.

We all know that there are plenty of gaps in the market but of course there is not always a market in the gaps. Many apparent opportunities are there because nobody wants to buy a product that would fill the gap in the first place.

If innovators don’t ask the right questions and then listen to prospective clients or customers, how will they know that the features of the innovation line up with the established needs of the potential end users?

Of course, this should not just be a one off exercise. As the process of innovation progresses it is critically important to keep talking to the potential end market and ensure that the attributes of the innovation address a challenge that has been identified as important by prospective customers.

This may sound like a statement of the completely obvious but you would be amazed how many times we see management teams that get a long way down the development pathway without giving the market a good listening to!

It is not enough to have the best technology if you can’t sell it or at the very least articulate your value proposition, identify your target customers or explain your routes to market.

This will be made very clear the moment that a company wants to raise some money to support the innovation. The easiest way for investors (who are not necessarily technology experts) to evaluate different investment opportunities is to listen to the market and see what customers think of the solutions. Investors will be asking themselves:

‘So, how much are your customers spending right now on this product and how much they will likely be spending in the future?’. They will probably also want to know ‘who else will you be able to sell this to?’

As part of their due diligence or evaluation of your investment opportunity, investors will want to speak to past and prospective customers in order to:

Confirm the value of your solutions in solving their problems
Benchmark your technology against others that are being or which have been evaluated
Quantify how your business might scale with other potential customers.

If you haven’t done this yourself beforehand, the risk is that you will get a very nasty surprise at exactly the wrong moment. Building in the right conversations throughout the process of innovation, genuinely listening to the opinions of people you hope will become your clients and then reflecting those perspectives in your innovation is critical but often overlooked.