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How to Spot Trends and Find Viable Business Ideas (Part 2)

In our last column, I let you in on my #1 secret weapon for developing the best business ideas: how to “listen” to your customer base for product inspiration. Today we’ll discuss a few more proven ways to generate viable product ideas time and time again.

Initially, it may feel like a waste of time talking about the steps to creating great ideas. You’re probably raring to go. I encourage you to take plenty of time to do your homework to make sure your idea truly has profit potential. I want you to have the greatest chance of success in your off-the-grid business. So here are a few success tips.

Success tip #1: Look at possible business markets that are expanding and not shrinking. In other words, find a market that is living and not dying. For instance, as music increasingly goes digital, now is not the time to open a music CD store. Growing markets mean a greater bottom line, whereas shrinking markets also mean shrinking profits. Here’s just one example of a ripe and ready expanding market: the aging Baby Boomer population. Baby boomers are growing older. As they get older, they’re facing health, mobility, and independent-living concerns. There is a vast range of different products and services you could offer this one demographic alone.

Success tip #2: Take a look at your potential customer base in several ways. Take a good look at these factors: gender, age, income, location, and possible buying pattern. Women shop differently than men, midweek online shoppers differ from weekend shoppers, and so on. Try to evaluate as many consumer possibilities as you can.

Success tip #3: Look at what’s changed in recent years, and it will lead you to possible markets. Think back a generation or two. Consumers didn’t want overnight teeth whiteners and anti-virus software. But marketing those products today? A different story! What needs can you identify for possible businesses of the future? Look at identity theft, for instance. Recent cybersecurity threats have led to an explosion of new security products and services. In the future, as more and more everyday services go digital, this market will only continue to expand in ways we’ve probably not even imagined.

Success tip #4: Look at what products and services people are actually spending their hard earned dollars on. It’s not always accurate to simply ask people what they want or would like to buy. The difference between what people say and how they vote with their credit card or checkbook are often vastly different. That’s why focus groups are so often useless. Follow the money. Money trumps talk, every single time.

Bill HeidSuccess tip #5: Piggyback your idea onto someone else’s already successful idea. Look around at the current marketplace and ask yourself, “How could I improve this product to make it better?” Ask consumers what changes or additional services that they’d like to see. For example, there are thousands of campers and outdoor enthusiasts across America. What products or services could you create that would enable them to explore the great outdoors in a more enjoyable, inexpensive fashion? Our solar generator, for instance, has many fans in the camping and RVing marketplace, even though it was originally conceived as a backup generator for power outages.

Learn to add value to current products you know consumers are already buying. Spot products and services that consumers would buy, if only they were a little more affordable. Can you take something already popular and make it even more affordable, making sure not to sacrifice the quality? Could you add services, or combine the product with other products, to create something with better value? In today’s downturn economy, exceptional value, coupled with exceptional quality, are two excellent selling points to consumers.

Many new small business owners wrongly assume they need to hire a pricey advertising agency in order to make their business venture successful. But that’s simply not the case. If you follow the tips I’ve given you in the past few columns, you’ve got a great start to a successful and profitable home business.

As I close, here’s a quick review of the key points we’ve covered over the past few weeks:
• Choose something you’re passionate about.
• Check trends often to identify possible hungry markets.
• Pay attention to what works and what’s selling.
• Study expanding markets and ignore the shrinking ones.
• Talk – and listen – to people who would buy your product.

Next time: Information products and why they’re one of the best businesses to be in.

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