Discovering a real need
You might be a great potential entrepreneur but you still need to spell out exactly what it is you plan to do, who needs it, and how it will make money. A good starting point is to look around and see if anyone is dissatisfied with their present suppliers. Unhappy customers are fertile ground for new businesses to work in.
One dissatisfied customer is not enough to start a business for. Check out and make sure that unhappiness is reasonably widespread, as that will give you a feel for how many customers might be prepared to defect. Once you have an idea of the size of the potential market you can quickly see if your business idea is a money making proposition.
The easiest way to fill an endurable need is to tap into one or more of these triggers:
Cost reduction and economy. Anything that saves customers money is always an attractive proposition. Lastminute.com’s appeal is that it acts as a ‘warehouse’ for unsold hotel rooms and airline tickets that you can have at a heavy discount.
Fear and security. Products that protect customers from any danger, however obscure, are enduringly appealing. In 1998, two months after Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM), one of America’s largest hedge funds, was rescued by the Federal Reserve at a cost of $2 billion, Ian and Susan Jenkins launched the first issue of their magazine, EuroHedge. In the aftermath of the collapse of LTCM, which nearly brought down the US financial system single-handedly, there were 35 hedge funds in Europe, about which little was known, and investors were rightly fearful for their investments. EuroHedge provided information and protection to a nervous market and five years after it was launched the Jenkins’s sold the magazine for £16.5 million.
Greed. Anything that offers the prospect of making exceptional returns is always a winner. Competitors’ Companion, a magazine aimed at helping anyone become a regular competition winner, was an immediate success. The proposition was simple. Subscribe and you get your money back if you don’t win a competition prize worth at least your subscription. The magazine provided details of every competition being run that week, details of how to enter, the factual answers to all the questions and pointers on how to answer any tiebreakers. They also provided the inspiration to ensure success with this sentence: You have to enter competitions in order to have a chance of winning them.
Niche markets. Big markets are usually the habitat of big business –encroach on their territory at your peril. New businesses thrive in markets that are too small to even be an appetite wetter to established firms. These market niches are often easy prey to new entrants as they have usually been neglected, ignored or ill-served in the past.
Differentiation. Consumers can be a pretty fickle bunch. Just dangle something, faster, brighter or just plain newer and you can usually grab their attention. Your difference doesn’t have to be profound or even high-tech to capture a slice of the market. Book buyers rushed in droves to Waterstones’ for no more profound a reason than that their doors remained open in the evenings and on Sundays, when most other established bookshops were firmly closed.