The best business ideas involve solving a problem — preferably in a space you’re familiar with a unique solution and a validation process. To come up with a great business idea, you’re going to need to become an idea detective, research common sources of business ideas, brainstorm solutions and test your idea. If done correctly, you can start a sustainable business.
Here’s how to come up with a business idea in four steps:
1. Become an Idea Detective
To start looking for ideas you need to stop accepting the world as is and start viewing it through a lens of how it could work properly. Start noticing things that are wrong, causing frustration or inefficient. Imperfections are no longer things to ignore but opportunities for new business ideas. The goal here is to identify inefficiencies and pain points that you can solve in the marketplace.
2. Focus on the Problems You Have
This is going to be the best place to find ideas. You’ll be familiar first-hand with the problem. You’ll also be in a good position to think through what a good solution might look like. Look at problems you have in your personal life, problems you have at work and personal goals you’re having trouble reaching and how you might make them easier to achieve. An added benefit of finding a personal problem is that you can try out potential solutions yourself quickly.
3. Focus on Problems People You Know Have
Beyond yourself, take a close look at problems that others around you are having. These could be family, friends, work colleagues, stores you buy from, service people you hire, and so on. When you see others having problems, dive in with questions. Dig into how frustrating the problem is, solutions they’ve tried, how much they’d be willing to pay for a solution and other details.
3. Brainstorm Solutions
Even though you’ve identified a problem you may not hit on the right solution immediately. Spend some time brainstorming on potential solutions. Think through how you might produce a solution, how much it would cost, how you’d scale production, where you’d get supplies or where the people needed to produce it would come from. Brainstorm on the pricing and revenue models that you might be able to use. How would you sell it to prospective users? Even if you identify a problem, it’s not useful if it’s not practical or cost-effective.
4. Validate Your Idea
If you’ve come up with a significant need in the marketplace and a potential solution, how do you know if it’s a good idea or not? You need to validate your idea with others. The most valuable feedback can be as straightforward as just talking to people. Try to get a feel for how much they’d pay to solve the problem. You can also design tests based on wireframes or 404 tests of your solution. 404 tests are where you promote a web page describing the solution and have people enter their emails to get notified when the solution will be available for purchase. This can give you a sense of demand before building anything. You can also prototype a skeletal solution and actually try selling it.
When ideating on how to come up with a business idea, don’t rely on chance inspiration. Become an idea detective, look at common areas for inspiration, brainstorm on practical solutions and get validation before jumping in with both feet. Do those four things, and you have a much better chance of coming up with that next great small business idea.
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