Have you ever looked at a successful entrepreneur and thought “How in the world did she have that idea?” Or “What could have possibly possessed them to create that amazing product?” Or “Where did she come up with that, and how did she make it happen?!!”
(And then maybe, for good measure, you throw in a little bit of self-doubt and wonder why you don’t ever have million-dollar ideas.)
If you’ve ever worked through a traditional business plan, you’ve probably encountered the ‘products/services’ area and maybe it tied your stomach in knots. Well, I’d like to let you in a little secret: a lot of those million-dollar ideas started out as one entrepreneur’s solution to his or her own tiny problem.
Sara Blakely’s billion-dollar Spanx empire was founded on her own desire to look smooth and sleek in a pair of white capris while showing off her pedicure. She cut the feet off a pair of control-top pantyhose, and that was the first pair of Spanx. We all have to start somewhere! She got the company off the ground with $5,000 in savings she had. Today, Sara is one of the youngest self-made billionaires in the world. If she can do it from the humblest of beginnings, why not YOU?
On a smaller scale than Sara, I created The Conquer Club, my 12-month business incubator, because it’s exactly what I wish I had when I was starting my business. And I wrote my newest book, The Conquer Kit: A Creative Business Planner for Women, because I couldn’t find a fun and interactive business planning book suited to creative entrepreneurs like me.
Really and truly, necessity is the mother of invention. If you’re looking for inspiration for your next product, you needn’t look further than the problems that you, yourself, would like solved. Research and development don’t have to be hard, confusing or overwhelming – it can actually be fun! Promise. (I actually wrote a book completely devoted to fun, creative business planning!)
Create the products you wish existed or the products your ideal clients wish existed. Build things that solve your customer’s problems and you won’t be able to keep your products on the shelves!
Are there tons of products you wish existed? Not quite sure what your customers are struggling with? Luckily for us, finding those answers is just a few Google searches and questions away.
Do a Google search for forums or online communities frequented by your potential customers. Do you want to work with stay-at-home moms? Cyclists? Independent musicians? Simply search for “message board [potential customers]” and then give yourself over to some good old-fashioned sleuthing.
Now that you’ve found your customers, find the answers to these six questions. When you find the answers, you’ll find your next product.
1. What are they complaining about?
Do they wish their healthy food co-op delivered? Are they struggling to coordinate planning all their kids’ activities? Are they sick of cars using the bike lane? What are the complaints that you see over and over again?
2. What solutions are they suggesting to each other?
Are they pointing each other towards products or platforms? Do they have workarounds? Do you see a lot of “Well, it sucks, but that’s just the way it is”? Are they using DIY or home grown solutions?
3. What platforms and products do they mention? And do they have complaints about those products or platforms? If so, what are they?
How often do you see “I use X, it’s not perfect, but it’s the best I’ve found”? Or “I bought an X and then modified it by doing Y.” Or “I hired So-and-so. I wish she’d do A instead of B, but she’s decent.”
How can your product solve those problems perfectly? How can you use those complaints to fine tune your product?
4. Can this problem be solved with a one-size-fits-all solution? Or do they need customized help?
Could you solve everyone’s problem with one single solution? Like Spanx, is the answer simply footless control top pantyhose?
Or do your customers need individualized solutions. Each of them needs their bike tuned up, their diet analyzed, or their living room rearranged.
5. How would their lives be improved if you could solve this problem for them?
What would happen if you created a solution for this problem? Would they save time? Get more sleep? Feel calmer and more centered? Save money? Get more exercise? Have a cleaner house? A happier marriage?
The answer to this question will help you price and market your product with ease!
6. How much do you think these people would pay to have this problem solved?
Pricing products can be surprisingly hard – too high and no one will buy it, too low and people won’t take you seriously.
When you’re considering your pricing, think about how often you saw people complaining about this problem and how stridently they complained. Were they saying “This is compromising the quality of my life!” or “Eh, it’s annoying”? Think back to question number five – are you significantly improving your customers’ lives? The bigger and more noticeable the improvement, the higher you can price your product.
See? Finding your next big product can be easy and even fun.
Now get out there and create your own billion-dollar empire. The world is waiting for you to give it what you’ve got.
And… WHY NOT YOU?
For more from Natalie, check out The Conquer Kit, an interactive experience that brings business planning into the realm of play. You’ll sketch, scribble, glue, tape, and write all over its journal-style pages, while developing an airtight business plan for the next twelve months and learning author Natalie MacNeil’s proven strategies and systems she has used to build a seven figure business. You can also read her (awesome) book, She Takes On The World.
SheTakesOnTheWorld.com is one of the top sites on the planet for entrepreneurial women. It was recognized by Forbes as one of the "Top 10 Websites for Entrepreneurial Women" and was featured by Forbes Woman as one of the "Top 100 Websites for Women." She Takes On the World was also named the 2013 website of the year at the Stevie Awards for Women in Business.
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