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8 Handy Tips to Generate Business Ideas

Thomas Alva Edison in front of his phonograph, vintage engraved illustration. From the Universe and Humanity, 1910.

As Richard Branson once said, business ideas are like buses; there is always another one coming. Business ideas are everywhere – if you pay close enough attention to them. Although generating business ideas can become natural to some, for others, it may seem like a daunting task. 

Generating a business idea is not necessarily an inborn talent. It can be practiced by conscious thinking and learning. Keeping the mind open to new ideas, experiences, and thoughts can provide the necessary inspiration for generating business ideas. 

With the gamut of research on creativity and the complexities of the mind, idea generation can be an acquired skill. By understanding the surroundings and the situations that stimulate these thoughts, you can come up with ideas that can potentially change your life and of millions across the world. 

Tip 1:   Have a problem? Fix it!

Here is an interesting story of the flat-bottomed paper bag. Margaret Knight, a paper bag factory worker, found it annoying to pack things in shapeless paper bags, day after day. And to overcome that inconvenience, she drew up plans and created prototypes resulting in not just the current day flat-bottomed paper bag but a successful business and a hoard of royalties.  

And therein lies your idea generator. Most products and services are created with the intent to solve a problem. Pay attention to what bothers you about the things you do and the services you use, and then plan to fix it. A solution to an existing problem is one of the best and enduring business ideas.

Tip 2: Improved wine, newer bottle

Not all business ideas need to be brand new. Take inspiration from existing businesses and see what you would do differently, if not better. Understand how brands fare and how these can help you generate your next big idea. The consumer has varied preferences, and there is always scope for bettering a product or a service.

Build on existing business ideas and tweaking it to make it cater to a more specific or even broadening it to a more general need, as the case may be. Sometimes, a simple quirky brand name can be enough to set you apart from the rest of the competition.

While that may not take you far enough, it’s a start. Also, although imitation is considered to be the best form of flattery, be wary of infringing on others’ intellectual property and ensure that you give credit where it is due. 

Tip 3: Love doing something? Create a business and spread the love

Do you love pets? Do your friends and family often tell you to have a green thumb. That could be your business idea. Think deep into what your interests are, where your passions lie, and what you are great at, and then share it with the world in the form of a business. 

With the advent of social media, you can reach the right audience with the click of a button. This has opened innumerable avenues for people to pursue their passions and interests as businesses. 

Some of today’s biggest brands like Amazon, Mattel, and many more started as a home business – with their founders following their passion and turning it into a business that the world could benefit from. 

Tip 4: Imperfect Vs. Speed – Strike a balance

While thinking of business ideas, a common trap that one can get into the battle between perfection and releasing the product/service too early. As you think about business ideas, stay focused on what you are building and when you plan to commercialize it. 

Shipping products too early come with the risk of failures and hence a setback to your overall business plan. However, in today’s digital and fast-paced world, speed is everything, and this is where you need to strike a balance.  

As you start ideating for your business, always focus on the customer and quality. If an idea takes longer to take shape, so be it. When a good product is released into the market, a long-lasting business is created, and that should be your focus.

Tip 5: Focus, Research, Learn

You never know where you find an idea. Tap into your network of family and friends and brainstorm to generate ideas. That old aunt who has an opinion about everything or that well-read friend who knows what-is-what and who-is-who in the world – they could be your next source of a business idea. 

Another important source for researching and learning about business and business ideas is to be part of focus groups. Such groups help you tap into the market intelligence and provide the business know-how like none other. Keep your eyes and ears open to learn, understand, and implement what the various business is doing, how they are doing it, and what are the gaps that can you filled with your business idea. 

Tip 6: Evaluate ideas and approaches

When you hit upon an idea, you may feel one of two things – that it is brilliant or that it has no potential. So before actually delving into the planning and implementation phase, evaluate the idea thoroughly.

Think through the various pros and cons, the opportunities and the distractors, and then see which ones are important and solvable and which one could be potential showstoppers. 

Also, evaluate the various marketing and brand management strategies that would need to be employed if this idea were to convert into a business. Once you are sure of all the details, delve into the implementation stage. 

Tip 7: Check the idea feasibility on the various digital platforms

Businesses today are digital – with the ease and reach that online, and mobile platforms offer, it makes perfect sense to generate business ideas with these digital technologies in mind. 

Look out for interesting website ideas online and assess the market potential of a mobile app version of it. This way, you potentially target a new market with an offering that has already proven itself.

You may further refine this app by testing different variants and positioning statements to see what works and pick an idea that works over this new channel.

Creating a strong digital presence is an essential part of a successful business, and the digital world can provide a plethora of business ideas. So, go ahead and invest your time in understanding the various options available online to get to your next big idea.

Tip 8: Connect With and Listen to Your Audience

Needless to say, your customers are likely going to know their pain points better than you or your company.  Remember, your customers are the folks who live with these problems day-to-day.

There’s a good chance that they could have a suggestion for your business that may be the next big idea internally to provide inspiration and purpose for your team as well as additional revenue for your button line. 

In situations like this, the toughest part can be to connect with your audience on a level that would build enough trust to tell you what they need.  To counter this, it’s a good idea to take the time to use online course software to create a free online course that you can use to showcase your expertise, build trust with your customers, and collect their email information.  

Once you’ve launched the course and have customers sign up, you can then reach out to them directly to get feedback on what they want your company to do for them moving forward.  Not only can this lead to some amazing ideas, but it can also build a bond with your customers that goes far beyond what most businesses will do.

Conclusion

Business ideas are hidden thoughts waiting to take shape, and it is important to actively pay attention to everything around you to generate them. Interaction with friends and family, that nagging little problem that you face every day, the hobby or passion that gets you going every morning, travel, an inspirational speech, a new website, and many more such seemingly mundane things can help you come up with some great business ideas.

Once you shortlist a few ideas, research in a focused manner to understand the nuances of that industry and start the planning and implementation, understand the various steps involved in kickstarting a business and also understand the expert perspective of the various aspects of running a business.

And above all else, remember that there is no substitute for quality and great customer service. Focus on the right ideas and propel your business to greater heights!

Published: November 19, 2020
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Anand Srinivasan

Anand Srinivasan is a marketing consultant and the founder of Hubbion, a free to use task management tool for startups, small and medium businesses.

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