Would you like to be able to quickly come up with new product ideas? Or train your brain to constantly scan for opportunities?
It is easy to do this – if you ask the right questions and give yourself the space the time to answer them.
Here are eight areas of questioning you can ask yourself and your team that will enable you to generate new product ideas – quickly.
Take time to ask yourself each question. Don’t jump ahead. Do one at a time – and give yourself some space to let the answers flow. Jot down them down on a large sheet of paper, ideally as a mind map, so that your creativity can jump around and is not restricted. Write down even the “daft” ideas – you never know what they will generate. By the time you have answered even one of the eight questions you will have a page full of new product ideas.
- Neglected Niches
In any industry there will be several niches that for some reason have been unattractive to bigger players or perhaps aren’t served at all. This could be because the niche has become financially unattractive for the larger players or because the product/service required falls outside their standard way of operation.
For example several British companies have started manufacturing green home improvement products mostly around gardening, energy efficiency and alternative energy, water and air quality, and eco-construction. They are helping DIY retailers and building companies improve their green credentials.
How can you serve neglected customers at a profit? What product or service do they need?
- Baby Boomer Profits
It’s widely known that the so-called Baby Boom generation is the largest in history. As the first wave of boomers approach retirement, this populous generation has also hit the peak of its earning power and assets. What can you sell them?
Change brings opportunity and changes in demographics are noticeable years before they become market reality. What changes do you notice? What will be the impact? How can you profit from these? The cosmetic surgery industry is riding the aging boomers wave and is growing tremendously, as are indulgence specialists like London’s boutique chocolatiers.
- Policy Changes
A change in government policy can create a new market overnight. For example; electronic signatures are now accepted alongside ones on paper.
A UK company has developed an application for mobile devices allowing users to sign documents in PDF and JPEG format using a finger or a stylus. The document is then sent to the recipient by e-mail – legally binding and environmentally friendly.
Look out for new opportunities by watching and deciphering the news. Ask yourself: How would this government decision help me make money?
- A New Approach
Is it possible to deliver the same product/service but in a different way that is more convenient and saves time? Can you bring your product to where your customers are instead of them coming to you?
For example; ever since the late 1990s the concept of the “smart building” has evolved with different solutions to building managers control the buildings’ maintenance and energy consumption. A Dutch company recently introduced a way to link lighting and appliances in a building to the Internet so they can be controlled remotely. And they can control them down to a single light bulb!
- Look At The Calendar
What are the significant holidays through the year? Can you capitalise on them with a special offer? Can you come up with a special limited edition of your product, tied to the holiday?
For example; a company set up an online platform to connect sport teams and sponsors. Promotion can be organised around specific games or holidays throughout the year. Or you can use the increasing popularity of neighbourhood/town festivals to sponsor an event and promote this to your business customers as well as generating long-term good feelings about your firm.
What about other significant events like a Football World Cup or Olympics or athletics championships?
- Crisis-Driven Affordability
Have you looked at some product but refrained from buying because of its price? There are millions of people like you in every conceivable industry. Is there a way to come up with a product at an affordable price now that consumers are feeling the pressure of the economic downturn?
For example, an American company came up with a lower priced hand tools line, made it only available online and targeted small and medium-sized businesses only. The site includes an online community area for customer interaction with lots of business advice.
Which variables of the existing products can be changed to provide even more value but at a lower price point? Note, I am not advocating going down the price-sensitive mass market. It’s impossible to win this game. Create a mid-market product instead.
- Look For Problems And Needs
There is a plethora of information available to us today – use it to find out what your customers need and what problems they are struggling with.
Services like Google News will serve you snippets of news based around keywords. A trip to your local library where you can access paid electronic archiving services will allow you to scan your selected handful of publications.
A recent example of discovering and addressing a need is a company selling mobile software to companies with field salespeople so they can easily find a vacant parking spot! Have you tried to park in a city centre during the busy hours of the day? It’s a treasure hunt and this tool saves a lot of time and frustration.
What are the unsolved problems in your industry or in your customer base? What can you do about it?
- Learn From The Mistakes Of Others
Study product flops. More often than not there were clever, professional people behind the product launch. They worked diligently; they looked at different scenarios, the market and customers.
Harley-Davidson is one of the best-managed brands in the world. But a few years ago the company launched perfumes. They were spectacularly unsuccessful but the company and other marketers around the world learned a lot about brand associations, positioning and brand extensions.
Where did it go wrong? Was it distribution, the way the product was positioned, pricing or the angle of the promotion effort? Can you improve on that?
Remember this is a time of opportunity; the current financial situation, massive technological innovation, social and demographic changes – all of these present openings for new products and services, and in turn the chance to make bigger profits. Don’t miss out on the opportunities – make use of them. Just developing one new product could change your business forever.
About the Author
Roderic Michelson is a company growth expert for Aralex Consulting Ltd. Working closely with his clients, he helps them prepare and implement a project plan to position them for sustained growth. Roderic holds an MBA from London Business School. He is author of “The Recession-Fighting Guide” and publishes the Business Growth Blog. Roderic can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org / www.aralex.co.uk.