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Innovation seems like a good idea, right? Tell that to the pioneers of nearly any industry…

Things like “leading the way,” “blazing the trail,” and other related descriptions of being at the cutting edge seem like great qualities for a new product or business venture…

But the sex appeal of being the first is like taking a bite of the forbidden apple from Eve’s garden…

Surprised?

Let the facts speak for themselves.

Statistically speaking, breaking new ground with a company or product isn’t very successful at all (except for in a few rare cases) – and instead, real success comes from entering markets that show proven demand.

Richard Maulsby, director of the Office of Public Affairs for the US Patent and Trademark Office, said:

“There are around 1.5 million patents in effect and in force in this country, and of those, maybe 3,000 are commercially viable.”

So that means that more than 99% of the patents on the books are total dogs…

And what about the dismal statistics for startups that fail within their first year or two?

All this comes back to overlooking a pretty simple concept: if you want to make a splash with a new product or a new company, it will come from finding a market with proven, well demonstrated, and desired demand… and doing it better than the existing competition.

Research by Peter Golder and Gerard Tellis found, after studying some 500 brands and 50 product categories, that nearly half (47%) of product “First Movers” (the first to sell a given product) failed!

To put that in some pretty astounding perspective, companies deemed “Fast Followers” (who entered a market early, but not first) faced an 8% failure rate…

So, what does this say about being the first one out of the gate?

The metaphor in the title is all too fitting… Pioneers lead the way down the path, and end up with arrows in their backs when the next group comes along, drawing from pioneers’ experience and using the path already laid, to leave the poor pioneers dead in the dirt…

Of course, it all comes back to doing your research (test, test, test!) to find a market that has existing demand that is absolutely proven and easily demonstrated.

Let the customers drive innovation.

You could take the greatest product ever created to market, and if no one wants it… you’ll go bust. Instead of developing and looking for demand once you’ve got a product, look to your target market and find out what they want!

There’s nothing wrong with being innovative or thinking outside the box – just make sure your innovations are rooted in meeting existing demand. You don’t want to end up like 99% of those patent owners, with a great idea and no one to sell it to.

In your corner,

Charlie

what now?

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