Focus Group Turned Your Idea Inside-Out? 15 Next Steps For Aspiring Entrepreneurs

In this age of increasing entrepreneurship, it seems just about everyone has an idea for a new business, product or service. Unfortunately, not all of those ideas are well-received. Having their idea turned inside-out and upside-down by a focus group is every aspiring entrepreneur’s fear, but it does happen.

The important thing for up-and-coming entrepreneurs to understand is how to pick themselves up and try again even if a focus group session goes worse than expected. Here, 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council share expert advice on next steps entrepreneurs can take to get back to work on ideas after they’ve been shot down.

1. Scrutinize Your Criteria For Selecting Participants

Focus groups, by design, are composed of people who represent your target market. Scrutinize your criteria for selecting individuals for the group. Then form additional groups before scrapping your idea. Evaluate their feedback and see if your idea can be tweaked and improved. Then, in the words of Kenny Rogers, “Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.” – Ron Young, Trove, Inc.

2. Trust Your Gut And Follow Your Passion

Focus groups can be helpful, but true entrepreneurs need to trust their guts, especially if they are serial entrepreneurs. Most startup leaders have a passion for an idea, and this passion is what drives them. Many focus group members have no clue about entrepreneurial passion, so I would not let those opinions sway my gut. – Dan Ryan, ryan partners

3. Acquire More Inspiring Strategies

A focus group is a good place to acquire more inspiring strategies for a goal you have in mind. The participants’ ideas and tips will help structure a good execution plan. When the ideas become too many and confusing to the point of disruption, the aspiring entrepreneur should revisit the “why,” “where,” “what” and “how” questions around the original idea. Leveraging a good mentor or coach to explore further will help. – Janet Adetu, JSK CONSULTING GROUP

4. Motivate, Investigate, Network And Evaluate

Critical feedback is always difficult to swallow, especially if it is coming from more than one source. However, there are gems in both negative and positive feedback. Next steps are to review your ambitions, ask for a copy of the feedback and read the feedback carefully. Believe in your product or service and acknowledge its weaknesses. I live by my personal motto: MINE—motivate, investigate, network and evaluate. – Michaelene Holder-March, MHM Business Solutions

5. Ask Questions And Listen To Critical Feedback

It’s always hard to hear critical feedback, but entrepreneurs need to listen. When we fall in love with our solution to a problem, we might be missing critical information about what the real problem is. Make sure you resist the urge to “tell” people about your solution. Ask questions, and really listen to what people share with you. – Thomas Frank, Ascend Coaching and Training

6. Stay Curious And Reboot

This curveball and detour are a gift. Here’s how to reboot: Care more about inquiry than advocacy—especially early in an entrepreneurial venture. Refocus on what they need rather than what you think. Maintain your original spark (the new idea, passion or calling), but let go of attachment to one solution or outcome. Finally, double down on exploration and imagination. – Anne Harbison, JourneyLead Consulting

7. Go Back To The Drawing Board With New Perspective

Having different perspectives is good. When you are innovating and coming up with new business ideas, gathering feedback and looking for new insights is important for testing out your idea, and it often helps you develop your initial idea even further. Take all the ideas and thoughts received from the focus group and go back to the drawing board to see what better ideas you can come up with. – Nida Leardprasopsuk, Nidaleard

8. Get A Second Opinion From Another Focus Group

No one likes to hear that their business idea sucks, especially from a focus group that may be made up of their idea of ideal clients. However, it is always worthwhile to get a second opinion, and it may be worth trying another focus group. Whatever comes back, it will be about taking on the feedback and making the necessary steps to possibly pivot and keep moving forward. – Rakish Rana, The Clear Coach

9. Hold On To Your Self-Belief

The key to this is your self-belief and your belief in your idea. If you have fully planned and executed your launch strategy, paused and revisited it, and you still have confidence that your idea is viable, then have the courage to trust your gut. Focus group members are not entrepreneurs and are usually unlikely to have ever conceived and launched a unique idea or concept. – Regan Hillyer, Regan Hillyer International

10. Run A Practical Real-World Market Test

Focus groups, while valuable, can be misleading. Will a small group of 12 or fewer people really catch your vision? Instead, try to run a real-world, practical market test. Set up a simple one-page website with your product or service. Send it to your network, buy some Google or Facebook ads for $10 a day. If you’ve got a good offer, people will vote with their credit cards. – Jeremiah Desmarais,

11. Do A ‘So What’ And ‘Now What’ Analysis

Do a simple “so what” and “now what” analysis of the feedback received. The “so what” portion can help you dig into the holes: So what does this mean for your idea, which is very valid and needs to be addressed critically? The “now what” segment is forward planning, the plan of action: Now what do you do to take this forward? Let the emotion subside and work with the facts to determine the next steps. – Arthi Rabikrisson, Prerna Advisory

12. Perform An Autopsy On The Focus Group’s Questionnaire

Perform an autopsy on the questionnaire and consider the age of the participants. (I have heard ideas that Gen-X loved but Millennials hated.) I would ask, “How large is the market?” Consider the feedback buckets that drew disfavor. Was it the general idea? Customer convenience? Price? If the market is $200 billion, then maybe you will only capture 2% of it. If the market opportunity is less than $100 million, then learn and move on. – Todd Zaugg, Matrix Achievement Group

13. Practice Agility By Considering Ways To Leverage The Feedback

What have you missed? What’s in their feedback that you hadn’t considered? Use this feedback as a gift: an opportunity to reset. It doesn’t mean you have to throw out everything that you’ve done; look for even small nuggets of alignment. There may be a new business idea in leveraging the great work you’ve already done with the new insights you now have. Find the gold. – Kathleen Woodhouse, Nova Leadership

14. Use Affinity Mapping To Explore Themes In The Feedback

Feedback is a gift, and the themes in it are golden. Look for a possible change or enhancement you could make to your idea within the themes. Also, consider the possibility that you may not have clearly articulated your idea in a way that captured the group’s imagination. Develop your ability to convey ideas through story, metaphor and problem-solving. – Ron N Hurst, Developing Leaders

15. Use A Business Model Canvas And Look At Your Value Proposition

This is a great opportunity to evaluate your product or service. Changing from your original business idea can be a hard decision to make, but at times it will be necessary to do so. As an entrepreneur, you need to do the right assessment and judge whether your business is moving in the right direction. The first step is to use a business model canvas and look at your value proposition. – Brent McHugh, Christar International

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1. Combine Gifts, Passions And Innovation

Know who you are today by doing a fresh analysis of your gifts and passions. Use the results of your analysis as your lens for identifying unmet needs in the business world. Think outside the box by breaking away from conventional wisdom. Combining your gifts and passions with innovative ideas is foundational to a successful business that meets your and your consumers’ needs. – Ron Young, Trove, Inc.

2. Gain Clarity And Choose Metrics For Success

I’ve had numerous pro-service clients do this, and most of them have considered it. The most important thing is to have clarity about why you want to start a business. The second thing is to very carefully choose the metrics that will indicate to yourself that you are succeeding. Your “why” and your metrics will keep you grounded when the going gets tough—and it will. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

3. Leverage Your Experience And Do A SWOT Analysis

Know your strengths, be clear on your personal motivation and leverage your current experience and insights that you have developed over the years in your industry. Think about the pains and gains your clients have experienced and gaps that have not been filled. I also recommend doing a SWOT analysis to gain clarity and alignment and to determine the value proposition. – Breshana Miller, Kairos Coaching & Consulting, LLC

4. Brainstorm With Close Friends

You can’t hesitate or keep your new business too close to your chest. You need to brainstorm with your closest friends, your professional network and those whom you trust. Bounce your ideas off of others and see if they resonate. What do they think your new business is worth? Who do they think the customers would be? Do they know someone who would buy? Have that conversation 100 times and get to work. – Jacob Warwick, ThinkWarwick

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5. Match The Commercial Proposition With The Value You Offer

It is important to match the commercial proposition with the value that you are offering. Before leaving, start researching the potential market to ensure there is a real need. When you are clear on the commercial viability, you can reverse-engineer the process to ensure the proposition fits with your personal drive and passion. – Claudine Reid, PJ’s Community Service

6. Have A Strong Support System In Place

Being an entrepreneur and working for a corporation require different mindsets. To sustain the personal drive and passion, it helps to have a strong support system in place—people who are just as passionate and driven as you and believe in the success of the new business, such as friends, a mastermind group or an experienced coach who can ensure there is a balance between work and personal well-being. – Masha Malka, The One Minute Coach

7. Don’t Follow Your Passion—Bring It To An Opportunity

Don’t follow your passion. I’d rather you bring your passion and drive to an opportunity. The first step is finding a way to improve lives in exchange for profit, then apply your natural passion and drive to improve as many of those lives as possible as efficiently as possible. Because when you do that really well, vision, momentum, growth and, eventually, profit are the results. – David Robertson, Growthpoint Coaching Co.

8. Leverage What Makes You Irreplaceable

You need to clarify the market need for what you do via research, interviews and more. In regard to fulfilling your own needs, a reflective, holistic approach is required to uncover your own personal wants, needs and values to be successful. And above all else, you must uncover something that makes you irreplaceable in the market that you serve. Get all those right and then go for it! – Linda Martin, Linda Martin Results

9. Connect With Your Four Selves

First connect with your four selves—intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical—and be crystal clear about your purpose and commitment to it. Launching a new venture requires all your energy and commitment. Sometimes, it’s rough. Second, get deep input and feedback from those around you—both your trusted network and your more fearless critics. The wider the scope, the richer the insights. – Luis Costa, Luis Costa – coach · facilitator · speaker

10. Enroll Clients To Help Craft Your Company Vision

Get connected to your purpose, build a business plan around your core values and enroll the customers you want to serve to help craft the company vision. In doing this, you will likely find that your needs and the needs of your future customers are very aligned. Trust that a successful launch will follow and that you will have a tribe of allies ready to offer guidance and support when needed. – Emily Rogers, Emily Rogers Consulting + Coaching

11. Outline The Customer Journey And Your Sales Funnel

First, outline the customer journey to define the scope of their need. Second, outline your marketing and sales funnel. If you are not excited to do that, hire someone who is or don’t launch. If the idea of selling and marketing for hours every week does not excite you, pursue a hobby instead. Third, if you don’t have the drive or passion to build a business, get a dog. The dog will love you back every day. – Kelly Tyler Byrnes, Voyage Consulting Group

12. Experiment With A Minimum Viable Product

Take small steps. Too many people get sucked into the entrepreneurial dream without realizing how tough it can be. I would suggest experimenting with the product—take a minimum viable product (MVP) to the market and get feedback. Leaning on your personal drive, experiment with your own business identity. Too many people overestimate their passion and drive and underestimate the challenge. – Devika Das, CORE Executive Presence

13. Take An Inside-Out Approach

Start with your mission and vision. I believe, as a coach, taking an inside-out approach where executives can start exploring their passion as well as what they would see as success for this new endeavor is key. Then, we can explore the marketplace and how this would be sustained as a successful business by developing a strategic business plan. Allow your personal drive to set the tone for success. – Bryan Powell, Executive Coaching Space

14. Build A Business Around Your Retirement Dreams

Start by thinking about your retirement. If you grew your business and sold it for a killing, what would you then be doing in life? At that point, when you wouldn’t have to think about money and profits, what would you be doing with your time? That’s what you should build your business around. It’s bound to be an area where a strong customer or market need is coupled with your own passion and drive. – Vinesh Sukumaran, Vinesh Sukumaran Consulting

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