2. Talk to your ideal customer
Hopefully you've identified your target market, and now is the time to dive into their pain points and frustrations with existing services. For example, if you're intending to open a new coffee shop with a play space, talk to local parents or PTA groups about what they might like to see — from healthy food options to a “no sick kids" policy. Ask their opinion on what they like and don't like about current options, and then test their interest on various ideas you have.
3. Talk to existing businesses
While a direct competitor might not give away all their secrets, a complementary business owner might be willing to share intel on the local market. For example, if you're starting out as a home stager, a local real estate agent might be willing to point you in the direction of the hottest neighborhoods.
Or if you have a localized business idea — say a tree-trimming business in Birmingham — ask to do a ride-along with a successful clipper in Montgomery or Atlanta to learn more about their best practices.
4. Seek counsel from an established resource
Finding a mentor — someone who understands the industry you're trying to break into or the customer base you're trying to serve — can help you objectively evaluate your business idea.4 Since they have deep experience with closely related businesses or customers, the right mentor can help identify reasons that something may not work as you had expected — perhaps because of regulations or other unforeseen issues. Alternatively, they might have some insights into why your business idea is just what the market needs.
It's possible that a mentor will present themselves easily. You could connect with someone who runs a complementary business near you, or perhaps you could find someone who has a similar business that serves a different demographic.
If you can't locate a mentor on your own, try locating one through SCORE,5 a nonprofit resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). They'll connect you with a volunteer business expert who can provide advice via email, video chat, or an in-person meeting. Finding someone who has taken a business idea to market can give you insight into how to best evaluate yours.
Think you have a viable business idea? Come talk with a banker at Synovus. Our local bankers have their finger on the pulse of the community and are happy to share their knowledge with you. They can also walk through the numbers with you — and help you determine which loans and banking services will help your small business start off right.