Finding the right business idea can be the most difficult part of becoming an entrepreneur. Basically, you have five options. You can:
- Buy and then re-sell someone else’s products
- Make your own products and sell them
- Invent a completely new product, have it made, and then sell it
- Sell a service to your local community
- Sell your knowledge (i.e. consulting)
So where can you find ideas for products/services to sell? If this is a question that you’re struggling with, these are the most effective places to find great ideas:
1. Find Local Groups and Ask Questions
No matter where you are, there are typically plenty of local groups for people with different hobbies/interests, in different life stages, etc. that you can visit to get fresh perspective. Talking to people that aren’t like you or in a setting that you wouldn’t typically find yourself in is a great way to come up with some great ideas! (Don’t be creepy about it though – stay away from groups where you might offend people if you attend for fun like a nursing mothers group or grief counseling group.)
Sometimes you may even find that these groups have a lot of great ideas to contribute because there are products or services that they wish were available that they don’t want to pursue themselves. If you decide to launch any of their business ideas, be sure to let them know once your business is up and running so that they can be your first customers!
2. Solicit Feedback from Friends & Family
Your friends and family members may have some awesome business ideas that they’ve just been sitting on because they’re afraid to try to start a business alone. If you have the desire to start a business and need an idea to get started and they have an idea and need someone with business sense to launch it, that’s a perfect match! Plus, you already know that you can trust your friends/family (...usually), so they have great potential as future business partners!
3. Attend Free Business Events and Make Conversation
Business seminars, networking gatherings, public speakers, and other events are a great place to pick people’s brains. Go with an open mind and really listen to what people tell you about their jobs and their industries. Often times, you can come away with two helpful pieces for your upcoming business – ideas and connections. These new connections can serve as focus group participants later or just sounding boards as you start to flesh out what and how your business will sell.
4. Read… A Lot
Inspiration can come from anywhere, which means that the more business articles you read, the more likely you are to stumble across a great business idea. Remember, you don’t need to reinvent the box – you just need to find a way that you can sell something and differentiate your offerings from the rest of the market.
This sounds like an odd tip, but hear me out… I often find myself eating alone or working in public places alone, which means that I inadvertently hear other people talking. While I’m really not trying to listen to the conversations around me, it’s inevitable (especially because people talk so loudly on their cell phones these days). Whether it’s in-person conversations, phone calls, or video conferencing sessions, you can pick up on a lot of people’s pain points by just sitting someplace and paying attention to what’s going on around you. Whether you’re in a food court, on a college campus, in a library, at a coffee shop, in a public park, or anyplace else, you’re sure to get a sense of the types of things that irk people in various demographics. This can be a great place to start as you think about the business that you want to start. Ask yourself what would make these people’s lives easier or more fulfilling or more enjoyable. Whatever that thing is, that’s the business idea that you should pursue!
6. Solve a Common Problem
As humans we all have some common problems that need fixing… like the fact that when you take a trash bag out of your trash can it creates a suction, which makes it hard to get out. That’s why the venting system along the bottom of fancy trashcans was invented. Boom – problem solved! As you go about your average day, look for common problems or annoyances that you can create something to fix. This can be the basis of a wildly successful invention!
7. Modernize an Existing Product
There are plenty of things in our houses or cars or offices or out on the street that work “well enough.” These are the types of products that just keep getting used year after year because they’re fine as is. But if there’s a way to make them better, to make them work “perfectly” (or at least better than they do already), then this is also a place where you might be able to come up with a big money-making invention. So don’t settle for products as they are just because they’ve been around for a long time., Ask yourself how you can make them more reliable, faster, better looking, more durable, more versatile, or any other version of “better” that you can think of to improve on the existing design.
Now that you know where you can find some really solid business ideas, get out there and get inspired! As you figure out what you’ll sell, continue to check back here for marketing advice and business building tips so that you’ll be equipped to get your idea off the ground. And remember, we’d be happy to help you market your online business when you’re ready!
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and son and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!