I don’t know about you but I don’t look for new business ideas in garden centers. Interesting for two reasons. First: I associate garden centers with functional activities (not creative ones). Secondly: I had a fixed idea on where to find creative inspiration. On both counts I was wrong.
Why New Business Ideas Are Everywhere
You can develop products (not sure about services) in R&D departments and then try to launch them but something is missing… people.
The seeds for new business ideas are found where you find people.
- The idea for the walkman was made when a Sony designer saw teenagers skating on the boardwalk and wondered how could they listen to their radios.
- The idea for designer watches – think Swatch – was to connect customers love of jewelry with the opportunity to collect the entire range. No one bought a swatch because it kept better time than other watches.
- The idea for perfume arose to mask the stench from the aristocracy who didn’t bathe. It wasn’t the done thing so they lashed on oddles of perfume instead.
New business can be generated:
- By looking for twists on existing products: think boots and dogs and you get booties for pampered Chihuahuas. What’s the next animal you could design clothes for? Hats for dogs? Bracelets for kittens?
- By making it more exclusive the other similar products: think the IPad which is very limited compared to laptops but, due to its high price point, makes it very exclusive.
- By looking for ways to frighten customers into feeling the product is a necessity: how many parents have bought mobile phones to keep in touch with their kids ‘just in case’ something happened.
How to Find New Business Ideas
You’ve read that innovation is key to creating great new products, right?
The dilemma is that it’s hard to pull new ideas out of thin air.
My experience is that new killer products are usually an ‘incremental’ improvement of an existing product, usually with a nice marketing twist.
There are exceptions, of course. It’s hard to think of what precluded the web browser, but the concept of the PC, for example, had been around for decades.
So, how do you find new business ideas?
Here’s a suggested approach:
- Visit your local garden center.
- Select some products that you can experiment with.
- Examine the product and see where you can add one new feature that would improve the product design.
- Then see how you could position this so it would appeal to the current buyers or
- How you could position it so new customers would be attracted.
If you don’t have the time or budge to do this, here’s an alternative, especially if you’re selling services.
- Visit your local shopping center.
- Wander around one of the shops and observe how the staff interact with customers.
- Identify three ways staff could assist customers. I bet you’ll identify at least five.
If you develop this habit of observation, especially where customers and staff interact, you’ll see many areas where services could be improved, customers could be up-sold more products, and business process could be refined.
Most folks see the flaws in the system – complaining why checkout lines are so slow – but never ask the obvious question. Why? And then see how the process can be improved.
It’s all about ‘looking for clues’ that identify the gaps and then finding practical solutions.
The Motivation For Changing Perception
What I learnt is that creativity is everywhere if you take the effort to find it.
Or, to flip it around, if you place yourself in the shoes of the product designer, then the most mundane activities can be immensely rewarding. Instead of being stuck in the local DIY center, you can see it as a ‘shopping expedition’ for new ideas.
If the idea of starting a business appeals to you or – are was the case with me – you feel frustrated in your current job and want to setup a new business (but not sure where), then start developing the habit of looking at existing business ideas and seeing where they could be improved.
Sometimes, it’s very simple. For example, I was looking for a new mobile phone last week. All I wanted was an inexpensive phone to make calls with web surfing thrown in.
What phone did they try to sell me? Yes, the most expensive. Their strategy was to go for bust with each customer.
Rather than trying to sell me ‘any’ phone and get me into their sales database (and all the upsells down the line) they lost me within five minutes. Forever.
A little tweaking with their sales strategy would have made a huge difference.
More customers = More sales.
But not everyone gets it. And that’s the opportunity for you.
From Business Idea to Business Plan
The idea of starting a new business – and writing a business plan – is pretty intimidating for most of us. Where I went wrong was assuming it would be more than I could handle. So, I avoided it until my mid-30s. My mistake.
Once I started, and armed myself with the best business planning tools on the market, what had seemed impossible slowly began to bear fruit. And that’s where business ideas morph into successful business plans. It’s an iterative process. Every effort takes you one step closer.
Where do you find inspiration for new business ideas? And where do others go wrong?