“Why didn’t I think of that?”
Do you occasionally kick yourself when you see a product or service take off in the marketplace and you realize that you could have thought of it yourself? The sad fact is that you probably just aren’t in the habit of creating new business ideas, and that’s what needs to change if you want to be the driving force behind the next big thing.
Let me prime the pump and lead you to some “starting lines” that will help exercise your mind in the discipline of idea creation and share a tip or two that will help make the process become far easier over time.
First a tip: Capture every idea in real time. When something pops into your head – no matter how far fetched it may seem – get it immediately carved into digital stone. I suggest using Evernote. Establishing this habit alone will transform you into a person who is loaded with ideas.
With that foundational tip out of the way, here are some specifics to lubricate your gray cells:
Do more than find a solution to a problem. We always hear the advice that you just need to find a problem and solve it. The “problem” with that advice is that we become so accustomed to living with our problems, we cease to recognize them.
Start looking at the little hassles you cope with every day, and that probably means you need to look at almost everything you do. Have you created any little routines that help you get something accomplished, and could there possibly be a product or service that would allow you to cut that routine out of your day?
Question everything you do and try to roll your mind back to when you first did it. After you do this for a while, you’ll begin to recognize where improvements could be made. Solving problems doesn’t have to be moving mountains; it can be more like smoothing out a bumpy road.
Convert a service into a product. This is creating a “productized service.” If there is something you do, standardize it, put a price tag on it, and promote it online. Consultants can take one aspect of the services they provide and create marketing materials around it. Once it is “productized” it becomes easier for people to relate to and, hopefully, buy. The next idea is sometimes related to this concept.
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Create a “concierge” minimum viable product. If you have an idea for an app that performs a service for its users, before you build the app, do the work manually. This allows you to quickly bring new MVPs to market and gauge how much demand there is for them, as well as what people might pay. For example, say you developed some cool ways to use some CRM software that aren’t easily accomplished using the software itself. Before building an app to do it, do it manually for your first customers and see how they like it. If it looks promising, then proceed with the actual product development.
Troll Craigslist. You can find virtually anything on Craigslist, and there’s a “business” category within the “For Sale” items. If you’re thinking about expansion, either vertically or horizontally, you might find a local business for sale that could dovetail with your plans. You’ll also discover a lot of gear to outfit a business. For example, when I recently scrolled through, I found a lot of stuff that would be fantastic if I wanted to start a mobile business.
Review reviews. As you’re trying to resensitize yourself to the problems you face every day, reading about the problems other people are having may prove helpful. You can often find these in Amazon product reviews, or product reviews in any “honest” online location. A friend of mine was recently looking for running shorts online. As he scrolled through each offering, he read the reviews and discovered that runners had all kinds of specific problems with various running shorts designs. People are eager to share the gripes they have with products. These can serve as bread crumbs that lead you to a better design.
With these ideas, you can begin to cast a wider mental net to capture business ideas. But please, remember my first tip: organize them all in one place where you can find them when it’s time to act.
About Megan Totka
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com, which helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions, and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and also contributes to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChamberOnline or @MeganTotka.