Does my online business idea suck?

Finding a market… and owning it

An idea can work if people are already looking for what you’re offering. It’s difficult i.e. costs you a lot of money, to bring people from ‘offline’ to online, in order to sell them your product or service. Ideally, there will be a market already looking for your offering online, before you spend the first cent on development.

Here’s a few suggestions that can help filter out the good from the bad ideas. Of course, for every rule there’s an exception.

1. Is there a risk for your customer?

The perfect idea will present no risk to a potential customer. There’ll be little or no reason for them to say ‘no’.

They can ‘try before they buy’. If your product or service has value for them, they’ll be happy to pay for that value. By testing your product idea before they hand over any money, they’ll know exactly how much it’s worth to them. It’ll be easy for them to work out how much any additional services (related to your idea) are worth as well.

There are now so many opportunities that are risk-free, you can’t afford to build in perceived risk for your customers.

2. Is it simple?

It’s easiest to sell someone an idea that they already partly understand. If it’s a simple improvement on something they already know in the offline world, they’ll ‘get it’ much quicker. This isn’t always the case (think Facebook and Twitter), but it can certainly help you win over a larger group of followers.

Early adopters are prepared to invest more in understanding your offering. However, their group is small. Keeping it simple means it needs less time to understand how it benefits your customer.

3. Will you create a ‘wow’ factor?

You don’t need to create the next big thing. Your idea simply needs to impress your customers so much, they can’t help but tell everyone about it. Even better – try and build in a viral component. By using your product or service, they can’t help but tell their friends about you.

Whatever your wow factor is, you need to be able to deliver on it time and time again. You might have cut 10 steps down to 3, remove the need to fill out 20 forms in order to apply, or deliver within 24 hours – without exception!

4. Is it worth your time and money?

Don’t think that ‘if I build it, they will come… and we’ll work out later how to pay for it’.

They may come, but if they do, are they just costing you more money by their presence, or are they bringing their cash with them?

Remember too, you don’t need to be greedy. If each customer brings a small amount of profit, this is actual NET not GROSS profit, then why put off customers by being greedy and charging too much? With the low cost of supplying a digital-based service, it’s usually more important to aim for volume, not markup.

5. Will your business idea scale?

In the offline world, a business can be limited by the cost of ‘moving up to the next level’. You use all the space in your existing warehouse, and to rent a larger one it’ll go mostly empty for a long time.

The internet enables incremental scalability. It’s like adding a square metre of warehouse space, as you need it, rather than renting 2000sqm, of which 1999sqm go unused for the next year. You’re able to bite off small chunks, see if it’s profitable, and either scale back and start over, or continue growing.

6. Can you deliver?

Your idea might meet all the previous criteria… but if, in the end, you can’t deliver on your promises to your new customers, or you lose the support of your existing customers, then your idea will fail. Maybe not in the short term, but the chickens will eventually come home to roost.

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