For many, coming up with a brilliant idea is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You realize you’re onto something and you turn it into something great. But for many entrepreneurs, the first brilliant idea is just that - the first. Once the dust has settled, you may find yourself ready for the next big step. So how do you get there? How do you come up with your next great product or service?
The greatest innovations, whether products or services, always solve a problem. And odds are that if you face a problem, so does someone else. So keep track of the problems you face throughout the day. What could you do to solve them? Could they be prevented or avoided?
If you have a mobile device that travels with you wherever you go, one of the best resources you can use to log problems (or ideas) you encounter throughout the day is Evernote. Evernote has replaced the good old-fashioned paper and pen and can never be lost - and the best part is that it’s free.
When it all comes down to it, it’s your customers’ opinion that really matters. Many inventions spend their lives sitting on the shelves because customers just weren’t that interested. So go straight to the source - interview your customers and ask them what problems they face. Try to be specific and narrow the possibilities to problems that are relevant to your area of expertise. If you are a gardener, you may not need to know that their car doesn’t start on the first try. But you do want to know that their son’s allergies are aggravated by dandelions.
If you’re really lucky, then an idea may just fall into your lap. But waiting around for that to happen isn’t going to pay the bills. So try to prioritize your innovation by setting aside time to brainstorm. There are lots of ways to do this, so don’t limit yourself to just staring into the ocean or running through ideas in the shower. Gather your family and friends for a barbeque and pick their brains. Organize a formal focus group to see what strangers and customers are thinking. Research and read about what is going on in the world. Utilize apps like Feedly to target and quickly scan industry news or special interests.
If you have a loyal customer base that loves your product or service, spend some time thinking about whether you can create a product that is an add-on to what you are already offering. If you own a cleaning service and notice that many customers have messy closets, you may want to offer a closet organization service that can be added on to your regular cleaning appointments.
If you have a winning product or service, try offering variations of what is already working. If your strawberry jam is flying off the shelves, consider branching out to blueberry or peach jam. You may find that your variation does just as well as the original.
The last thing you want to do is spend too much time focused on something that is never going to come to fruition. So know when it is time to cut your losses and move onto the next great idea. Sometimes things are too expensive or too confusing or just not attractive. If those issues can be fixed, then great - but if not, it may be time to abandon your idea, clear your head, and start from scratch on a new, more improved idea.
Once you have come up with your next product or service, it is important to move it out of the idea phase and take it to market. If your product or service truly is revolutionary, you should pursue a patent immediately. You also need to prepare an operational plan that will help keep track of vendors, costs, and production schedules. If your new product or service is similar to an already existing one, your path may be easy. Otherwise, you should try your best to take advantage of your existing vendor relationships to see if they can offer you any deals or discounts. Once you have the logistics in place, you will need to alter your marketing plan to incorporate the new addition, which will introduce your product or service to the marketplace.
Expanding your product or service line is a great way to propel your business to success, but that plan is easier said than done. Coming up with new ideas can be lots of work, but the payoff is worth it. Cut out time to brainstorm and talk to your customers. Keep track of all of your ideas and know which ones are worth pursuing. Before you know it, you will have doubled your business and can sit back and watch your bottom line grow.