attitude Competition Creativity Entrepreneurs Improvement Motivation Personal development planning Small Business strategic planning Strategy The Slight Edge

Take yourself seriously first

Private moment. In public.
Creative Commons License photo credit: skedonk

Today’s guest post from AJ Leon is about getting serious about your ideas and goals.

Dan Kennedy talks about “massive action” more times than you can imagine. That’s all about getting serious.

Do you take yourself seriously? If not, how can you expect anyone else to?

Business Resources Competition Creativity Entrepreneurs Improvement Leadership Management Motivation Personal development Resources Restaurants Retail Small Business Social Media Strategy

Fishing for ideas using IdeaCast

Today’s guest post is more than one read, instead it’s a series of over 100 podcasts from Harvard Business Review’s bi-weekly production called IdeaCast.

Click here to subscribe to HBR’s IdeaCast (Note: This link will take you to iTunes, which hosts the free podcast)

Each episode is about 20 minutes and they are audio-only, well worth syncing to your mp3 player and listening as you mosey about.

Competition CPSIA Creativity customer retention Homemade products Ideas Improvement Management market research planning Positioning Retail service Small Business Strategy

4 more ways get ideas for new products/services


Part 2 in our series, “What else can you use to generate ideas for new products and services?” hits the streets today. Slide over here if you need to see part 1.

Last time, we talked about listening to feedback from your customers (rather obvious, but if everyone did it, I wouldn’t have to say it), and we talked about ways to learn about new trends / methods / products / services in your niche as well as how to borrow ideas from other niches.

Today, I’d like to give you four ways to come up with even more ideas. It’s especially timely for the CPSIA-impacted businesses who might be losing a revenue stream (such as 12-under kids clothing).

You might think that these are oriented solely toward service businesses, but they really apply to both products and services.

Think about your ideal customer’s day. 

Walk through it in your mind, step by step. If you aren’t sure about their day, do you really know enough about your customer’s business? 

Look back at each step. What can you do to smooth their day, take away the roadblocks and annoyances? How can you turn that into not only a one sale, but a repetitive one? 

Think about how your business can help them improve their efficiency, safety and profitability

For example, if your products/services involve safety risks to the employees who use them, how can you help them reduce or eliminate accidents and injuries? Training? Improved products? Their insurance firm might reduce their premium if they see documented steps to reduce risk. 

Direct marketing expert Dan Kennedy has a saying: “If I wake up at 2 am thinking about you, you’re in trouble.”

What has the customers in your market tossing and turning at night in today’s economy?

Is that different than what costs them sleep in a middle of the road economy? Maybe so, maybe not â?? but that’s the sort of thing you need to consider when coming up with ideas. 

If something is keeping your customers awake at night, it would be in your interest to find out what it is and do something about it. 

What are the top three things that frustrate your customers every single day?

How can you take those things off the table? If you can’t do that for some reason, keep going down the list of frustrations until you can. 

Take at least 5 minutes today (preferably more than that) to mull over at least one of these things. Do a different one tomorrow. Keep a list. DON’T DISCARD ANY IDEA. Prioritize them, perhaps, but don’t discard them. You never know when the seed planted by a “bad” idea grows into something spectacular.

Jim Rohn talks about harvesting in the fall because you planted in the spring and cultivated in the summer. It’s time to start planting, even though there’s snow on the ground (at least up here, anyhow).

Competition Creativity customer retention Improvement Leadership Management market research planning podcast Positioning Retail Sales service Small Business Strategy The Slight Edge

Where to get ideas for new products and services

I love the idea..
Creative Commons License photo credit: apesara

One of the questions I hear with regularity is “Where do I get ideas for new products and services?” Of course, the most obvious place would be “Your customers”.

It isn’t that easy though. If every business waited for their customers to ask for that next amazing new product, a lot of great new products and services wouldn’t come to market nearly as soon. Some might not ever come to market.

Did one of Apple’s customers ask them for the iPod? Not likely. 

What’s the biggest problem your customers have that you aren’t doing anything to solve?

Sometimes you need to be ahead of your customers’ thought process.

If you’ve positioned your business well, you are the authority in your market (and if you aren’t, you should be working on that).

You are the one that everyone looks to for the newest information in your market. You are the one that everyone looks to for the newest products that help them with problems they didn’t realize they even had.

But how do you do that?

Staying on top of your market means reading about trends and new discoveries in your industry’s publications. It doesn’t matter if that means a trade paper, a blog, a podcast, a video or a monthly conference call, you simply have to not only keep up but stay ahead of the “also rans”.

What more business owners should do is spend time reading about trends and new discoveries in complementary business niches. The really aggressive folks should be looking at these things in niches that appear to have nothing to do with their business.

For example, if you sell bicycles in a specialty retail shop, what would be the point of reading about the newest strategies used by those who retail kayaks or rent high-end digital SLRs, telescopes or ice climbing gear?

Simple â?? the customers who spend money in those markets are also inclined to spend money in your specialty bike shop.

Looking at ideas that worked in non-complementary markets has value as well. What can you take from successes in a completely unrelated niche, bring to your business, massage a little and make your own?

Plenty, if you put a little thought into it.

How many businesses have drive-up windows these days?

Do you think coffee shops, libraries or dry cleaners were the first? Nope. Oddly enough, the first drive up window appears to have been at a bank in 1928.

20 years later in 1948, In-and-Out Burger claims they opened the first drive-up window at a restaurant. Why it took the restaurant business 20 years to pick up on that is anyone’s guess.

Sometimes, you might be replacing a product line instead of simply adding a new one to widen your reach. In extreme cases, it might be about survivability.

For example, if you’re one of the many businesses that is threatened by the CPSIA, you’re looking at eliminating product lines for kids under 12. Presumably, you have items for kids over 12, but that isn’t always the case.

What else can you use to generate ideas for new products and services? We’ll talk about other ways shortly.

Creativity Ideas Leadership Motivation Small Business

Did you have that idea…AGAIN?

Jeff Pulver’s guest post today briefly explores where that feeling in the pit of your stomach comes from when that great idea floats into your head one more time…