By Rieva Lesonsky
When you think about starting a business and being your own boss, do you feel like you can’t because you don’t have a “big idea”? Unless you’re a Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs with world-shaking new business ideas that no one’s ever thought of—or at least someone with a new invention or product that’s different from everything else on the market–there’s no point in starting a business. Or is there?
A recent Nielsen study found that new business ideas or products, far from having an advantage in the marketplace, are often at a disadvantage. The global poll found that 60 percent of consumers prefer to buy products from familiar brands; 60 percent want to wait until an innovation is proven before they buy it; and just 50 percent are willing to switch brands.
In other words, the “first-mover advantage” of starting a business with new business ideas might be something of a myth. Yes, innovative products and business ideas continue to grab the lion’s share of media attention—but just because people like to read about new business ideas doesn’t mean they’ll salute them with their pocketbooks.
If you’ve got a world-changing idea for starting a business, don’t give up—just make sure your product launch is supported by plenty of sales outlets where customers can stumble across your product, strong marketing and advertising support to make them aware of it, and social media and PR efforts to spread the word.
But if you don’t have a world-changing idea, Nielsen’s study is good news because it proves you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Some of the best business ideas I’ve seen in my decades in small business came from simple tweaks on existing products or services. To come up with a new spin on an existing idea for starting a business:
Think about problems you face in your life, and what kind of product or service would solve them. Is there something out there that’s not quite the perfect solution, but could be with a few tweaks? For example, two entrepreneurs who wanted food from local restaurants that didn’t deliver came up with the idea of a delivery service that brings food from a wide range of local restaurants to customers’ doors, without the restaurants having to deliver themselves.
Think about products or services that have proven successful and how they could be tailored to a new market, or delivered in a new way. For example, the success of Curves fitness gyms for women sparked several similar concepts targeting men. Doggy day-care, once unheard of, is now a thriving industry based off children’s day-care. Dry cleaning pickup and dropoff services handle dry cleaning with a new delivery method.
You get the idea. Don’t think you have to be Ben Franklin—just think about what would make your life better, and chances are, there are customers who’d agree with you.