5 tips to get executives on board with your product idea

Posted by Jim Sener on December 5, 2018 at 7:00 AM

In the age of crowdfunding platforms and mainstream venture capital (popularized by television shows like Shark Tank), innovative thinkers have more opportunity than ever before to receive support for their ideas.

However, for the many who are attempting to launch ideas in a complex and multi-layered executive context, the playing field operates a little differently than it does on more public channels.  Here are some tips that can help innovators win over boardrooms and launch new products.

Do immersive research and present your results

As someone presenting an idea, you are in a storytelling position with people who don’t have any time or patience for excess. Executives are looking for product ideas that are compatible with their vision and priorities. Furthermore, time is their greatest commodity and their schedules are packed. They aren’t interested in sitting through long presentations.

The first step to securing corporate interest is performing robust research that can clearly and quickly demonstrate the viability of a product and its market potential.  When presenting research, aim to be succinct but insightful. Lead with the information they most value - conclusive findings and a definitive call to action. Leave more time for discussion than for your own summarization.  Set clear expectations at the beginning of a presentation, so executives know exactly what they’re in for and at what point they’ll have opportunity to ask questions.

Excess only creates friction, and ultimately the goal is to reduce this friction wherever possible, making information both easy to grasp and highly actionable.

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Demonstrate forward thinking

Corporate executives are most concerned with the overall vision and direction of a company. They are looking for ideas that will help propel them toward that broader goal - and beyond.  To win corporate approval, innovators across all industries need to connect with not only the present but the future of that industry.

Is the idea relevant? Does it reflect the general movement of that particular industry and front-line trends of growth like IoT connectivity? And most importantly, in an intensely competitive marketplace can it be accomplished in a timeline that secures value for the company as soon as possible?

Executive committees often push for accelerated timelines on new product development, so it is good practice to foresee this and explain how the process could be expedited. It may prove helpful to separate the broader process into smaller pieces, to help executives see multiple different points throughout at which they could realize value.

Furthermore, anticipating how competitors might react is a key element of foresight.  Ideas that are supported with proactive, forward-looking strategy in this regard have a much higher chance of success.

Define your process

A successful presentation goes beyond simply presenting data, but by offering clear actionables by defining the process and its key points of decision. The goal is not to resist pressure, but use it toward testing and clarifying the idea and its larger objectives. This is a key part of the development process and should be defined clearly from the outset.

In competitive market environments where the customer is king, executives want to know how an idea will better help them connect with their unique audience. The process of developing the product should reflect this goal at every stage.  Defining this process and how you aim to achieve customer connection throughout is a key element for corporate approval.

Build a prototype

The value of prototypes cannot be understated. A prototyped product or interface serves the purpose of helping both executives and potential customers understand its functionality, viability and value.  Whereas even the most robust and descriptive forecasting can provide only a basic blueprint of an idea, a prototype can help connect the dots for executives by offering a more tactile, real-time demonstration.

Even simple “breadboard” prototypes can prove a helpful first step in this regard. As the prototyping process requires multiple iterations and revisions, even initial sketched-out ideas should aim to explain where the process is going and what features can be added further on in production, providing it passes each stage of approval.

Engage vendors early on

Whether you’re seeking a designer, engineer, market research company, or prototype developer, early supplier involvement can prove critical to saving costs further in production.  Securing development partners and procuring vendors early on in product development can gather the kind of valuable data and market foresight that executives want.

This kind of forward-looking market engagement strategy can help companies understand whether the product is viable and will meet customer need, or if the idea needs further refinement before undergoing more exploration. Feedback from suppliers can also help continue to define and clarify the unique needs of the market at hand and general interest in the idea.

While gaining executive approval can feel intimidating, innovators that are prepared to do exhaustive preparation can expect far better results in a boardroom.  Even if the most well-prepared proposal ultimately fails to meet approval, the process of developing synthesized presentations offers a key learning opportunity for innovators that can be iterated in the future. Additionally, presentations that effectively open space for executives to probe and explore the idea and offer their feedback can serve to help clarify common goals and stimulate innovation in the longer run.

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