Choosing an idea for your business is arguably the most important step you’ll take. Get it right and all the subsequent work – site building, web marketing and monetization – will be much easier. On the other hand, all the marketing in the world can’t make a bad idea good.
The best idea is one that users will love so much they can’t wait to tell others about – but it also needs to be something that’s right for you.
1. Choose something you really want to do
Even the most innovative ideas need promotion and marketing to find an initial audience. That’s work you won’t want to do unless you’re in love with your plan.
2. Create something you’ll use yourself
If you never use the service your startup provides, you’ll never discover bugs, problems with the user interface and anything else you need to refine and improve.
3. Launch something for nothing or almost nothing
What’s the sense in re-mortgaging your family home to pay for an idea you haven’t yet launched?
Launching is testing. And testing means sometimes finding out you need to rethink the concept or maybe even try something else completely.
Borrowing money too early can force you to stick with something you should drop just because you need to repay the loan. Worse, you may need to take on another job just to finance the bad idea.
Better to start small, test the concept and scale up when user feedback tells you the basic execution is on target.
If you’re skeptical that low-cost startups can work, take a look at Chris Guillebeau’s The $100 Startup for inspiration.
4. You need sufficient number of users to make money
The key word here is “sufficient”, it doesn’t necessarily need to be lots. A web app priced at a monthly 9 dollars / pounds / euros can generate over 100,000 per year with only 1,000 users.
The Qualities of a Successful Idea
The first step is to generate as many ideas as you can – and then force yourself to think of another five. The more you think, the more creative you’re likely to become.
Don’t censor yourself. Even it sounds weird and unworkable, make a note. Often the oddest thoughts produce a breakthrough you weren’t expecting.
Here are some example business plans to help get your mind turning over.
1.Make Something Hassle-Free
Find something that people have to do but hate doing and you probably have an idea worth looking into. Especially if there are no solutions available or the current providers are doing a bad job.
Project management, client billing, booking business trips – these are things that many people need to do frequently but are often seen as chores. Make someone’s work day easier and you’ll have a regular user.
2. Give People Motivation
Who doesn’t need to be motivated sometimes to get things done?
Keeping to a diet, following an exercise regime, sticking to a savings plan – these are all long-term things that need willpower to be achieved.
There’s a market for services that gives users the nudge they need to complete goals. How about an app that tracks how far you walk per week and then emails you mid-week to let you whether you’re on target to walk the recommend distance for weight loss?
3. Teach People Your Success
Have you ever have succeeded where once you failed? You can be sure other people are trying the same thing and finding it equally challenging.
Overcoming a bad habit, achieving a long-term goal or becoming good at a hobby or sport are good starting points.
The good news from a business point-of-view is there are usually lots of products that tie in with subjects like these. You could also develop your own ebooks, videos and other course material.
4.Do something a big company does but in a niche market
Web hosting can be a low-cost, high profit business to get into – that’s why there are thousands of hosting companies.
But how many of those specialize in the needs of specific industries? The publishing needs of a life coach are very different from the needs of a portrait photographer. Why not offer an integrated hosting and publishing service for a specific industry?
Photographers love taking photos. They don’t love uploading images for clients, building portfolios and marketing for new customers. So you could build a platform that lets them do all that quickly so they can get back behind the camera sooner. A lot of professional and aspiring photographers would pay a monthly fee for that kind of time-saving.
As an added service you could provide forums for exchanging techniques and marketing successes. That would also help to draw in users not yet paying for your service who might change their mind once they see how successful your site members are.
Doesn’t have to be photographers, of course. You could target dentists, lawyers or any other profession.
Creative Juices Flowing Yet?
I hope so. Make some quick notes before you forget.
Still stuck? Take a look at Jack Foster’s classic How to Get Ideas, a five-step workbook for creative thinking.