15 Ways To Come Up With a Business Idea
Many people dream of running their own business and leaving the corporate 9 to 5 behind, but how do you come up with that brilliant business idea?
For most, it’s not about becoming the next Bill Gates, although that would be nice, but more about the freedom it can give you.
The first thing you need to think about is what you want to do. This may be easy for some if you’re going to simply move from your current job to open a business in the same sector.
But if you are thinking of branching out into new business territory, thinking up the business idea could take time. In this short article, we’ll be looking at methods of developing the initial business idea and some necessary steps to get you started.
Don’t forget, you’ll also need a business name, and it’s worth considering this at the same time. Once you’ve decided on your business idea and name, take a look at our short article on starting a business in Germany.
Don’t forget to keep all your personal and business accounts separate. A great way of doing this is by opening a Penta Business Account.
Innovation is possibly the most challenging option, so we’ll cover it first.
From the initial idea, to designing, testing, and bringing to the market, a new, innovative product is tough. Just coming up with the concept is hard work, but the process of getting it to market can be years long.
However, if you manage it, the rewards can be phenomenal. Just look at Dyson, Apple, and Microsoft. Multi-billion dollar companies that started from small original ideas.
One idea is to look for a business sector that has lacked any real innovation for a long time. There may be a new direction you can take in the industry?
Don’t Stress About Being Original!
Inventing a new product or thinking of a new idea is difficult, so instead, think about a niche within a particular market. How can you make your offering stand out from the crowd? Google was not the first search engine, but now it dominates, and Facebook was beaten to the market by MySpace, but it’s now the market leader.
It’s easy to convince yourself that your idea won’t work because there is too much competition already. But where there is competition, there are also customers!
Think About the Skills You Have
Moving into a sector where you have no knowledge or skills is likely to lead to failure. But you don’t need to think about professional skills purely. Do you have a hobby that you enjoy that could be transferred into a business?
You could be an accountant or marketer in your business life, but have a hobby in arts and crafts. Could you start a business using your artistic skills?
Of course, you could retrain to gain the skills, such as a plumber or an electrician, but that takes time.
Do You Have a Problem?
Solving everyday problems is an excellent way of coming up with a business idea, and links back to the start of the article where we talked about innovation.
Solving a problem that many people have is almost guaranteed to have a market for your product. Looking at Dyson again, he encountered the problem of vacuum cleaner bags continually getting clogged up. A clogged bag reduces the performance of the vacuum, and so he designed the bagless vacuum cleaner.
With potential business partners or just friends and family, you can organize a brainstorming session. If you have not come across this method, it’s straightforward.
Either with someone writing on a whiteboard or using post-it notes, spend ten minutes or so literally writing down any idea that comes into your head. The concept is not to try and think of ideas that work, but just as many ideas as possible.
Once you have a good list, go through each idea, discuss them, list pros and cons, or discard them as unworkable. Hopefully, at the end of the session, you’ll have a list of potential ideas. If not, try brainstorming again on another day or with other people.
Once you have a list of ideas, you need to evaluate them more thoroughly, which leads to, don’t be a perfectionist!
No One is Perfect
All too many ideas get left on the shelf because you don’t think they are ready or developed enough to run with. Instead of waiting for that perfect idea, that may never materialize, take the “maybe” ideas and try them out. In the modern digital world, it’s a lot easier to reach out to people and get their response. You might be pleasantly surprised by their enthusiasm.
One word of caution on the responses you get. Although they mean well, family and friends may not be the best people to ask. Or at least, you need to have a much larger audience than that for your idea. Family and friends will often not be frank, as they don’t want to upset you or hurt your feelings, and this can give you a false sense of security. On the other hand, you’ll find strangers can be extremely blunt with their replies, but this is a good thing in the long run!
Can You Copy an Idea From Another Country?
Some products are only available in particular countries. This may not be for any other reason than no one has tried to introduce the product to your country.
Lidl and Aldi are two German supermarket chains that set up in the United Kingdom and other countries, primarily selling German products. Both have done exceptionally well and have expanded across the European continent.
Your idea could be to import a particular product or produce your own version of something you discovered abroad.
Can You Apply Your Skills To a New Business Idea
Definitely. Your skillset is one of your greatest assets, and it can often be used differently.
An excellent example of this is JMC Soundboard, started by Jeanmichel Capt in Switzerland. Capt used his many years of experience building guitars to develop a new idea in loudspeakers. Using the same materials he built guitars from, he designed a flat wood-panel speaker that resonates rather than vibrates like a traditional speaker.
Are there skills you have that could be used differently, perhaps extending your hobby into a business idea?
Produce a Cheaper Version of a Product
It’s true that cheaper is not always the best option, but as a startup, it can be a good way of getting into the market and publicizing your brand. The idea is to find a product that seems to be over-priced, design a cheaper version, and go for rapid growth.
Once established, you can introduce new, more expensive product lines to expand your range and attract a different and more lucrative market segment.
You could carry out market research in a variety of ways to discover what the market actually wants. Say you have a passion for the outdoors and camping, and business in this sector is of interest. You could carry out shopper surveys close to an outdoor store, asking if there are any products they think are missing from the market.
Online surveys can be used to canvass a vast market, particularly if you are interested in setting up an online business.
Make Someones Life Easier
We all have chores to do, and for most of us, they are a necessary evil! Cleaning the house, doing the washing up, mowing the lawn, and washing the car are jobs that most of us would rather not have to do.
If you can find a solution that simplifies or removes a chore, then that could be a winning business idea.
Robotic vacuum cleaners are now commonplace and help with cleaning the house. There are robotic lawnmowers also, keeping the lawn at bay! Dishwashers make washing the dishes easier, and automatic, drive-through car washes are now everywhere.
So you get the idea. Think of a business idea that makes people’s lives more comfortable, and you may have found the next big thing!
This may seem like an odd way of coming up with ideas, but it has a reasonable grounding in practice. Modern life can be hectic, working full-time, caring for children or elderly parents, and generally having little time for yourself.
Taking a few minutes to stop, relax and contemplate can destress your mind and free up ideas that otherwise might never see the light of day.
Use a Base Emotion
We all react to our emotions differently. The base emotions are known as the seven deadly sins:
- Anger or Wrath
To varying degrees, you can see how some of these emotions are used. Look at the all-inclusive buffet? For one low price, you can eat as much as you want. That’s gluttony covered!
For pride, you just need to count the number of beauty salons near you, and the vast range of services they offer. Never before have people spent so much money on beauty products, taking pride in their appearance to new levels.
Envy is used almost everywhere in advertising. Adverts for the latest, fastest car play on this. In the UK, it’s known as keeping up with the Jones’s! Your next-door neighbor buys a new car, which makes you envious, so you find something bigger and better to outdo him!
Try using the seven deadly sins to work out how advertisers are using them to draw you in, and try thinking of products that exploit those desires.
Use Someone Else’s Idea
Outright copying someone else’s idea, line for line, word for word, is clearly wrong. But taking the basic seed of an idea and developing it in your own unique way is commonplace.
Looking at Dyson, his vacuum cleaners were built around the bagless idea, but many, if not all, vacuum manufacturers now have these in their product range.
Validate your Business Idea
So you’ve thought of a great idea, using one or more of the methods above.
First, you need to confirm that you really do have a great idea before diving headfirst into production. There are several ways you can do this.
Beta testing is regularly carried out on incomplete software before release, offering the software to a group of people in return for their opinions on it.
If you are producing something that people can easily touch, drink, or eat, then focus groups are a great way of testing the market. Who doesn’t like something for free? You could take your products to a fair and get people’s reactions, for example.
Online Customer Base
Facebook Groups offer a useful way of getting people interested in your product, even before you launch it. Invite people to your group, let them see or try the product, and ask for feedback. You’ve also built a list of potential first clients!
Family and Friends
We mentioned earlier that family and friends might not be the best option for checking a business idea early on. The same goes here during validation, but it does depend on your product. However, they could be an excellent source of support, first purchases, and positive feedback to kickstart your fledgling business.
More popular than ever, crowdfunding allows you to pre-sell your products and raise valuable funds. At the same time, you can judge your new product or service’s popularity based on sales.
Take the Final Hurdle
Now you have your business idea, you’ve validated it, and you’re confident it will be a success.
Don’t forget to look into tax planning, as getting it wrong could be very expensive.
The bottom line is, once you have a great idea, do whatever you can to make it a reality. If you don’t, you’ll probably regret it in the future.