So, you want to be an entrepreneur. Awesome. People come to this decision for all sorts of reasons: desire to work from home, high income potential, flexible schedule, general hatred of having a job. These reasons can mean a lot to you, but they mean basically nothing to anyone else. A few people in your life may genuinely want to see you succeed, but probably not enough to give you much money unless you’re selling something they really want. So it’s time to move beyond your own desires and start figuring out what other people want, so that you can start selling it to them.
Here are 4 steps to nailing down exactly what product you should be developing and selling:
1. Start by determining your niche target market
Rather than developing a product and then trying to figure out who (if anyone) will buy it, start by coming up with a niche you want to service and move from there. You want a very specific niche; please don’t start your company with the goal to sell your product to literally everybody unless you’ve got millions of dollars to spend in advertising. And please, I can’t stress this enough: pick a niche that you belong to. If you’re a 20-year-old man, don’t try to sell me a fancy baby carrier. You don’t know my life, kid. At the very least, choose a niche that someone in your household belongs to, that you are intimately familiar with.
To get the appropriate level of specificity to your niche, try making a list of your own demographic information (for me this could be something like female, 30s, mother of young children, living in an urban setting) and some of your hobbies or interests (again for me this would be things like graphic design, photography, trail running, sci-fi). Combine these in different ways, choose a couple promising combinations, and then move on to step 2.
Some examples of a target niche: urban bicycle commuters, parents of twins, seniors with mobility problems, millenials with social anxiety
2. Identify a pain point and solve it
What do people in your target niche want or need? What daily frustrations do they deal with? What keeps them up at night? Does anything stand out as a problem that you feel you could help people solve? Do this for a couple of your niche options from step 1 and see if you can find a genuine and under-serviced need.
Some examples of a pain point solution: a bike helmet that doesn’t mess up your hairdo on the way to work, an app that tracks feedings and diaper changes for multiple infants, a stylish but affordable walking cane, a workshop for how to make meaningful personal connections with others
3. Find a place where your expertise fits in
It’s all well and good that you’ve identified a need for, for instance, a bike helmet that doesn’t mess up your hairdo. But no matter how avid a cyclist you are, if you have no idea how to go about developing and testing safety equipment, it might not be the best place to start (although if you’ve got the budget and the motivation to learn, then by all means, go for it). While it’s often a great idea to get help from experts when developing your product, you’re always going to find it easiest if you already have some know-how on the subject, so you can direct the project and, importantly, not get ripped off by the people you hire to help you. If you’re a great writer, writing an ebook or guide could be a great choice. If you’re more of a public speaking type, you could develop and teach a class or workshop, or even teach an online video course. If you’re an app developer, then, you guessed it…develop an app. It’s great to learn and develop new skills, but there’s also something to be said for playing to your strengths. Grab the low hanging fruit whenever possible (and profitable).
4. Research, Research, Research
So by this point you should have at least one and preferably 2-3 ideas for a product that people are going to be desperate to buy from you. Now comes the grind. Start by looking for others who are already solving the same problem in the same way. It’s ok if someone else is doing it. Familiarize yourself with who is operating within your niche. Check out their product as much as you can. Don’t copy it, that’s lame. Look at people who are doing a great job and ask yourself: how can I be as good as this person, but come at it from a different angle? Maybe there are lots of apps for tracking a baby’s feedings, but lots of them don’t support multiple babies. Or maybe there are a few out there that do, but they’re glitchy and riddled with ads. Could you do one where people pay a few dollars for the app and get a clean, smoothly-running, ad-free experience? Read reviews of your competition if you can. Find the aspects people praise and criticize, and take that into account for what YOU develop. Get a sense for what people want, and brainstorm ways that you can deliver it to them.