Many would-be innovators share a common frustration: persistent difficulty in gaining traction for their new ideas with the people they need to cultivate in order to advance them. Why do they often struggle? There are numerous reasons, but a common one is that they all too often rely on opinions to make their case instead of applying facts and data.

Last week, I received feedback from the senior R&D executive at a company that had been considering an innovation opportunity I had referred to them in behalf of a would-be entrepreneur. It seemed to us like a pretty strong strategic fit for the would-be partner. The innovation was a proprietary medical device devised by a physician. We had shared some pretty encouraging and compelling evidence of (superior) efficacy in treating a common disorder. Anecdotally, I had received pretty consistent and enthusiastic feedback on the concept from people in the consumer target group. We awaited learning of their interest.

I wasn’t overly surprised to learn that their Marketing and Business Development VPs decided to decline the opportunity. Their feedback essentially consisted of: we think you have a clever and novel invention, but we suspect that consumers are sufficiently satisfied with currently available solutions.Therefore, we don’t feel it merits our further consideration.

Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? In hindsight, not at all. Any new opportunity “pitch” must consist of 3 essential elements:

    1. an unmet consumer need,
    2. a distinctive and superior solution versus existing alternatives, and
    3. compelling evidence that the claimed benefits will be experienced by users.

The inventor had done a pretty good job of addressing points 2&3. As a physician, the inventor was convinced of the need based on interactions with patients. Unfortunately, she lacked funds to conduct formal consumer research to confirm her anecdotal evidence.  Given the consistency of her patient feedback, she really didn’t view it as necessary, either. Unfortunately, the would-be business customers were unconvinced of the consumer need. As a result, the proposition was a non-starter.

If we had started our pitch by first establishing a compelling, quantitatively based consumer need, we might have been able to get the conversation going. Instead, we were unable to generate enthusiasm for the business opportunity it represented. In making one’s case for any new opportunity, remember to not take lightly any one of the “three legs of the stool” described above. With all of them in place, the opportunity stands a much better chance of being seriously considered. Sometimes, building 3 strong legs requires making financial investments that realistically can’t be avoided if one has serious entrepreneurial ambitions. Strong medicine for the doctor, in this case.

By Chuck Frey

About the author

Chuck Frey Senior Editor, founded and served as its publisher from its launch in 2002 until the partnership with Innovation Management in 2012. He is the publisher of The Mind Mapping Software Blog, the definitive souce for news, trends, tips and best practices for visual mapping tools. A journalist by trade, Chuck has over 14 years of experience in online marketing, and over 10 years experience in business-to-business public relations. His interests include creative problem solving, visual thinking, photography, business strategy and technology. His unique combination of experience and influences enables him to envision new possibilities and opportunities.