02/27/2013 04:12 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Packaging - What a World Renowned Inventor, High-Performance Car Designer, and Comedian All Want to Teach You

We've all heard a million cliché phrases about work ethic. The classic "genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration," or one of my personal favorites - "opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

They may be overused, but the points are still as relevant today as they were when they were first made nearly a century ago. Both of the above, by the way, were thoughts of Thomas Edison - the man famous for turning some of the most world-changing ideas into realities.

I realize that entrepreneur, after all, is just the modern-day synonym for inventor. After digging a little deeper into the biography of this entrepreneurial idol, I came across an interesting story I thought worthy of sharing.

Edison's first patent was for an electric vote-recording machine, and while he was correct in believing that a timelier process would revolutionize the political process, he failed to do the proper research and understand his perceived market. The members of the legislature, he discovered, relied upon filibusters and delays in the tabulation of votes to defeat bad legislation, and they believed his invention would render them hopeless. Edison later remarked that "there and then [he] made a vow to never again invent anything which was not wanted."

I think at that moment Edison realized that work-ethic involved more than just blood, sweat, and tears. It was more about considering and testing key details along the journey of transforming an aspiration into a tangible result. These are the lessons I want you to take away from Edison:

DO. THE. WORK. (seriously)

You will not contemplate your way to greatness. This is the "inspiration-perspiration" concept. But learn from Edison's first failure and do more than working for works sake - be intentional. Do your research to understand your buyer, your market, how your offer integrates into their life, and so on.
Take out a piece of paper and generate a list of important questions you will need to answer, and then answer them. Here is a list to get you started:

• What value will your offer bring?
• Who else is making similar promises?
• How can you guarantee the result? Can you?
• What are the biggest problems your buyer is currently facing?
• What are their objections likely to be?
• What will your responses to these objections be?
• How will your offer integrate into the business or life of the buyer
• Who can help give you access to your buyers? What is in it for them if they make an introduction?

Test It

Once you've conducted your background research and have tweaked your offering accordingly, you must get out and test your hypotheses. As I discussed in last week's post - keep re-envisioning your offer by asking time and time again "how" you might better fulfill your aspiration and appeal to the market.

Consider making a prototype of your offer. Consider finding a willing test case that can become evidence for the value you are promising.

Now try and SELL your offer in the real world. There is no better feedback than that of an actual buyer. Capture the experience and learn from it - it can be a humbling experience but one of the most powerful in your dream to transform an idea into a reality. And try to remember that one of the world's greatest inventors failed his first time out too.


Watch the video below as I unpack the process a bit further and consider how it serves both Jerry Seinfeld and Yukihiko Yaguchi, the man responsible for designing the first generation model of Lexus' F Series.

This wraps up our first segment on packaging. Get out and test your offer, and join me next week as we maneuver into just as important of a concept: positioning.

You Can't Contemplate Your Way to Success from Peter Sheahan on Vimeo.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Peter Sheahan on the topic of Making It Happen in Small Business, focused on turning those with the ideas into those with the influence. To see all of the posts in the series, click here.