Premature Pitching

When I first had the idea for Tre, a side table for multitaskers, I was ecstatic. I believed that I had the next big thing. Naturally what I did was talk to people about it.

One specific person’s response was important to me. That person was part of what I had identified as my target market. He was also an extremely honest friend. He would tell me straight up if my idea didn’t resonate with him.

The first time I told him about it, I had no sketch or model. I simply explained the concept in words. His response shook me. He said that he wouldn’t consider buying such a table. You can imagine how much that conversation stuck with me. He was, after all, a prime candidate for an eventual customer. And he didn’t care for my next big thing.

My stubbornness prevailed over his feedback, and I decided to keep developing Tre. The thoughts in my mind slowly transformed into a sketch. Something visual. People respond to visuals right? So I went back to the same friend.

  • What do you think of it now?
  • Hmmm…I mean, yea, I get it but I honestly wouldn’t pay more than $40 for it.

$40? What’s wrong with this guy?

Tre, in my mind, was supposed to be much more valuable than that.

My stubbornness prevailed over his feedback. I pushed on.

I contracted an industrial designer to help me develop the concept. The outcome would be a rendering of the actual table.

Armed with a render, I went back to my friend.

  • So, what do you think?
  • Oh … this is real. You’re really doing this. You might have something promising there.

And then he started explaining how he uses his coffee table currently. And his problems with his current setup. He even began suggesting tweaks to the design that he believed should be features of the product!

I got excited about my project, and decided to produce a functional prototype with the production materials and colors. When I showed that prototype to my friend, he began talking about pricing. How he’d pay around $100 for something like that, and how much he had paid for some furniture items he currently owns.

At the time of this writing, I’m still developing Tre, but that story with my friend stuck with me. I believe there’s a profound lesson to be learned here.

Often times we seek validation for our designs a little too early. When the idea is still in our minds, and doesn’t look real yet, we can spend time validating the problems that we’re aiming to solve. We can discuss with people what solutions they’ve bought to solve that problem.

But we definitely shouldn’t pitch our ideas.

Why? Because we’ll get inaccurate feedback.

It’s tough for people to imagine what you have in mind, and it’s incredibly difficult to put a price tag on it.

Furthermore, so many ideas were dropped because we sought the feedback from family and friends. But are those people part of your target market? If they’re not, then their feedback is irrelevant.

Don’t let your idea die because you pitched your concept too early. Talk to people about the problem, the opportunity, but never your idea. There will be plenty of time to get feedback on the design once you’re ready for it.

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