15 Ways To Find The Next Winning Business Idea

In the last post I talked about what makes a great, profitable idea: for you. Now let’s talk about how to actually find that idea. I’ll also follow this up with how to get inspiration for your ideas. Even if you don’t have a creative bone in your body, that’s fine-read on.

1. Take an existing business model and introduce it in a new location or industry. Instead of coming up with a brand new idea, why not take something that already works and implement it somewhere else? One American entrepreneur I talked to recently introduced the “agency” method of finding and managing professional baseball players to Japan. Before him, a large barrier separated talented players and professional ball clubs. Without inventing anything new, he took a successful business model and implemented it in Japan.

2. Take an existing idea to a related market. Likewise, you can take something that works in one market and introduce it to another.

3. Make an improvement to an existing product. You’re a consumer and have the opportunity to try all sorts of new products. See if you can make them better for yourself or others. Often a good resource for this is looking at customer reviews on such sites as Amazon.com. A useful tip: often times, simply making a better product is not the answer-try to see if you can make a cheaper product with less features to satisfy demand from a customer base that isn’t willing to spend as much and doesn’t need a top quality product (big companies often overlook this area). Read The Innovator’s Dilemma for more detail on this topic.

4. Create a brand new solution to a pain point in an industry. People love to complain. Go to forum boards in your business area of interest, read blog comments, and peruse Amazon.com product reviews. Listen to what people hate and develop a solution to their problems.

5. Pay attention to new trends. Don’t try to create something really cool that no one cares about. Go to where the buzz is and you’ll likely land more customers and investors. “Green technology,” “social networking,” “cloud computing…”- these are the areas that are growing the fastest and the companies within these industries need new solutions to their problems as they grow- just pay attention.

6. Figure out what the government is throwing money at. Governments (at least in the U.S. and Europe) are notorious for throwing away money at concepts they deem important but have no clue about (“climate change mitigation, anyone?”). All it takes is reading the newspaper to find out what kind of hot issues are prevailing so that you can find your niche.

7. Take something existing and put your own spin on it. What does Southwest Airlines do that U.S. Airways can’t? Nothing. If it weren’t for slight differences in service, airlines would be as similar and commoditized as coal. But Southwest chose to brand themselves as an airline that cared about customers, could make their lives less stressful by targeting less congested airports, and allowed them to choose their own seats. If they didn’t do this, they would be competing on price alone, and as a small entrant, they would get smashed by the big airlines.

8. Find out how to do something cheaper. If you can convince a CEO that her company’s spending $X thousand per month on a certain service but you can do the same thing for 50% of that with the same level of quality or better, you’ve got a business.

9. Talk to professors and read academic research on hot topics. Academics are infamous for coming up with brilliant ideas without recognizing or having the time to implement them into practical solutions. Visit some labs and interview some experts on an area of interest to you. Universities are often more than happy to supply you with the people you need to make the business happen (lawyers, VCs, experts).

10. Hobbies and passions. Need I say more? If you enjoy something enough, you probably know exactly what fellow hobbyists want.

11. Buy a business in an area of your expertise/passions. If you want to be in business but can’t come up with an idea, why not acquire an existing business in your area of expertise? You would presumably invest in something that is already proven and generating a cash flow. This offers a few benefits: it teaches you quickly how to operate one (although I would recommend having an industry mentor along the way) and it’s easier to finance because lending banks feel secure that it’s already proven.

12. Find untapped distribution networks. Distribution networks are ways for a company to get its products to its customers. A restaurant, for example, is a way for a wine company to distribute its bottles to paying customers. If you find distribution networks that may be good avenues for a product, however the product isn’t there, you may have found an opportunity to distribute a similar product, especially if demand is high.

13. Identify lazy incumbents. Incumbents are large companies that have sustaining, rather than accelerated growth in a market. Although they seem to set up insurmountable barriers to entry, their large size makes them inflexible and often lazy. They may forgo many new technologies, ignore customers, sacrifice quality, or be slow to capture social and fashion trends. If you can catch on faster and satisfy your customers’ hunger, you win.

14. Identify an existing idea/business that could use better branding, content, or service. It’s a sad thing that many great ideas die because people don’t like them or simply don’t get the opportunity to see them. If your talent is in branding products and making them more attractive, undervalued opportunities abound.

15. Add value to a process. A furniture manufacturer could use the help of a sawmill to take the chopped wood from lumberjacks and turn it into chairs and tables. Sure it could grow and cut its own trees and save money, but they may be better off paying a slight premium for the wood from the sawmill so that it can focus on what it does best-making furniture. Think about ways that you can add value in an industry’s value chain.

Inspiration for your idea

So these are some initial types of ideas, but you may want to brainstorm and drill down to what’s right for you. For that you’re going to need to be in the right state-one that gets you inspired and feeling creative. When are you at your most creative state? I want you to think about what type of setting you need to be in to have positive thought. Is it having water run down your back in a shower? Or are you like me and need the rumbling white-noise in a transatlantic flight to free your mind? Here are some more things/environments that may motivate you and allow the free flow of ideas: reading business books or autobiographies of successful entrepreneurs, brainstorming with other MBAs or entrepreneurs, attending conferences/seminars, taking baths, skiing, driving, free writing, drawing…and the list goes on. Good luck and get inspired!

Marketing Tips – Small Business Pricing

Pricing is a key determinant in the decision making process customers use to purchase your product or service as well as a key element in determining the profitability of your business. Setting a price for your product or service that appeals to your target market and encourages them to buy is therefore an essential part of your business and marketing strategy.

Before determining your pricing strategy for your business it is important to consider the following:

Your Customer

An effective marketing strategy begins and ends with your customer. It is therefore important to establish how much your customers are willing to pay for your product or service, how sensitive your customers are to changes in price and how price discounting will affect the level of demand and profitability of your business.

Your Product or Service’s Features and Benefits

Unless you have a product or service that offers a unique or additional benefit, and you can communicate this benefit adequately to your target market, if your price is too high you may price yourself out of the market. Look at the features and benefits your product or service offers and how they compare to your competitors. Remember the benefits you provide can either be physical, emotional or both. For example, some customers may see a high price as equalling high quality and are therefore willing to pay a premium.

The Cost of Doing Business

Before setting your price you need to determine what your small business must charge for its product or service in order for you to make and sustain a profit. Look at what the cost and expenses are of doing business and what price you will need to sell at to ensure these expenses are covered. Unless you have a sustainable cost advantage, if your price is too low, your sales volume may not generate enough revenue to cover the costs associated with your business.

The Market and Your Competitors

Your competitors play an important role when setting your pricing strategy. For example, there may be competitors nearby where customers can compare prices so you may need to price match. If it is hard for your customers to compare prices you may be able to charge a premium.

Distribution Channels

Some customers may expect to pay a different price for a product or service depending on which distribution channel they use. For example, if a customer purchases a product over the internet or by mail they may expect to pay a lower price due to the elimination of the middle person i.e. the retailer.

Life Cycle of Your Product or Service

At different stages of your product or service life cycle you may change your pricing strategy to suite your business needs. For example, when you are launching a new product or service you may adopt a low price strategy to encourage trial and repurchase of your product/service on a regular basis. Alternatively if your product or service has a unique point of difference or high cost of production you may charge a premium over your competitors. As your product or service grows in customer awareness and credibility you may be able to sustain a price increase. Alternatively as sales increase, your production costs may be reduced and you may be able to pass on some of these savings in a price reduction or regular promotional offers.

(c) Marketing for Business Success Pty Ltd 2008

Four Tips Small Businesses Should Consider Before They Outsource Accounting Services

There are several important guidelines that you should take notice of when you intend to outsource accounting services. It is no waste of time to plan carefully before engaging in anything you need to do. Proper planning in this particular case is very worthwhile since it can reduce errors by a great margin. Small businesses especially should definitely implement the following guidelines since failure to do so may lead your business into financial trouble; something that you do not want to happen to you.

1. Does the company really exist on paper or it is conning you?

First and foremost, when it comes to identifying the best outsourcing services, it is very important for you to find out whether the outsourcing company is legally registered. Now that the world is turning digital a lot of people are taking advantage of the change to dupe others and extract money from them.

It is the role of the authorities to look into this, but, at the same time, as a businessperson, it is wise to ensure that your business is safe. In order to accomplish this you should carry out comprehensive research on the legality of the outsource accounting services provider that you may want to work with. This way you will avoid losing your money to conmen. This is not just talk; these cases are on the rise, believe it or not.

In your efforts to establish the right outsource accounting services always check if there are any laws or rules that have been put in place to guide you. If laws and rules exist,then abide by them in order that you get the best result possible.

2. Will outsourcing your accounting services actually benefit you?

The next thing you need to consider is the value that the outsource accounting services actually brings to your business. Does it benefit your business, and if it does then to what extent? If your business stands to gain at the end of the day then the deal is worthwhile and it is right to go ahead. If what your business stands to gain is fairly minimal then it is just common sense to simply walk away.

3. Are they trustworthy?

You business should target building long term partnerships with those providers who administer your business with outsource accounting services. This is because long-term partnerships lead to the development of greater trust and confidence between you and the outsourcing services provider.

4. How easy is it to outsource? Is it productive or not?

The moment you realize that the outsource accounting services are productive then you are safe. At the same time,if you perceive that the service is not flexible enough and is less productive for you then you need to abandon any idea of using it.

In conclusion, if you want your business to be successful outsource accounting services can be of great use to you. However, to find the best one for you, always research prospective services thoroughly to ensure success.