- How do I know if a business idea is good?
- What steps can I take to come up with a big idea?
- How do I find a market for my business idea?
Before we talk about coming up with your business idea, let’s imagine there’s a man named Alejandro who has 2 dogs that he calls his “children.”
Because he loves being around dogs, he brings his pooches everywhere with him. This even helps him befriend other dog lovers. Alejandro is enjoying life so much, he feels that he should spread the happiness by volunteering.
Alejandro has tried volunteering in the past, but he’s never stuck with it. So he wants to find a program that he’ll commit to for a long time.
It seems pretty obvious that your business idea should be good. But, the tricky part is being able to recognize when an idea is actually worth pursuing.
Yes, some ideas are obviously bad. (There’s not much of a market for drinkable gasoline, for example.) However, some ideas might seem bad or just okay at first, but they could actually develop into a great idea.
On the other hand, an idea that seems amazing initially might not hold up as time goes by. While there’s no way to know if a business idea will be a huge success, there are ways to help improve an idea’s likelihood of success.
The first step is to reflect on yourself. What are your skills, and what are you passionate about?
Think of the very specific skills you have (“I can fix cars”) as well as the broader ones (“I’m a great project manager”). You’re basically assessing what you’re knowledgeable about and how it can be applied to a potential business idea.
Then, consider what you’re passionate about. This is important, because this passion will help you weather the tough times as you start your business. (Imagine hating coffee yet having to taste-test it all day long for your coffee shop.)
After you’ve looked inward, look outward. Study the world around you – your job, daily life, hobbies, etc. What problems do you encounter that aren’t currently being solved? For example, Alejandro might live in an area that lacks good veterinary care for his dogs.
Now consider how you can use your skills to solve the problem you’ve found in a way that taps into your passions.
Let’s say Alejandro is very skilled at coding and software. We already know he’s passionate about dogs and has problems finding a good veterinarian. So, he can build a website or app that helps pet owners get help from a vet online.
This is a “good” business idea for Alejandro because it revolves around what he’s knowledgeable about and what he cares about, and solves a real problem.
Alejandro’s idea may sound really well thought out, but don’t worry about having a perfect idea at this point in time.
You don’t need to have your entire business plan and all the variables figured out before you start researching and defining your idea. Also, it’s completely fine if you have doubts and concerns about your idea.
Right now, you’re just evaluating if your doubts can be overcome, or if the business idea should be downgraded from “good” to “not worth my time.”
Once you have your idea, make sure there’s a market for it. You know it’s solving a problem YOU have, but are there other people who also have this problem?
Make a list of keywords related to your business idea, then plug them into a search engine. What results do you get? Other businesses? Products on e-commerce sites? How many products are listed/have been sold?
Check your search results for blog posts or forum threads from people who are looking for solutions your business idea provides. Do they mention any products or services that you can improve upon?
Next, plug your keywords into online tools like Google Trends. Look at how often the keywords are searched, where the searchers are located, what else they’re searching for, and if the searches happen all year long or might be a fad.
Finally, search your keywords on social media. If businesses appear, how many followers do they have? Do they get a lot of engagement? What can you learn from the comments customers leave (both praise and complaints)?
Finding other businesses founded on the same idea you have doesn’t mean the death of your idea. Don’t be afraid of competition.
Your business idea doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. It just needs to solve the problem better than your competitors. To figure out how you can do this, list the ways you’d improve on what they’re currently doing (AKA list your key differentiators).
Can you offer a higher quality product or service? Execute better? Develop better branding and marketing? Create a better user experience?
For example, Alejandro might discover a website that lets people email vets and get a response within 24 hours. Alejandro might then decide his app will let people chat live with a vet and not have to wait for a response.
Your business also needs to be profitable, of course, so spend some time thinking about how your idea will generate enough money to be sustainable.
Finally, it’s important to get feedback on your idea. One of the worst things you can do is keep it to yourself.
Get feedback from people you trust, people in your field of expertise, and people who work in the same space/industry as the problem you’re trying to solve (Alejandro might talk to dog trainers, for example).
Be open to criticism and suggestions, and be willing to have your idea change and evolve. A lot of businesses begin thinking they’re going to solve Problem A and then realize that they’re actually solving Problem B.
Coming up with a business idea can seem overwhelming at first, but it helps to break it all down into small steps. Let’s create a to-do list that will prep you for finding your big idea.
- Make a list of your skills
- Make a list of your passions and interests
- Make note of any problems you often encounter during your daily routine
- Make note of any problems you often encounter at work
- Evaluate how much time you have to spend on starting a business
- Evaluate if you have the necessary resources to start a business
- Make a list of people you trust who could give you feedback on the idea I come up with
Once you have a list of skills, passions, and problems, see how they can all fit together into a business idea.
References: Google Webmasters, Think With Google, Google Primer