Self-employed people that I know and work with have no shortage of ideas. Our creativity is what makes us good at business and potentially awesome at marketing.
The problem with having too many ideas for your business is that it keeps you spinning on the spot, with little forward momentum. Too many different things going on in your business will stretch your resources, including your attention – perhaps your most valuable business resource.
Too many business ideas that are ill conceived and poorly executed will alienate your clients and fanbase, confusing your branding and eroding your profits.
Here’s how to quickly decide whether a business idea is a good one, should be shelved for later, or filed in the trash bin of broken dreams, to crone and serenade other discarded ideas forever after (or until you clear your trash).
Why do I like this business idea?
First, ask yourself ‘why do I like this idea?’ Is it because you’re personally excited by it? Is it because you see other business owners doing it and feel you might be missing the boat? (Therefore, making a decision out of fear?)
Or do you think it would add to your business and help your clients?
Your business idea needs to be client-focused to be worthwhile. And not what you think is best for your clients and prospects, but based on real evidence you’ve observed from real people that indicate a need for your idea. If you answered ‘yes’ to the above, then proceed to the next question.
Does this idea make sense for my brand?
There are plenty of great ideas you could implement for your clients, that they’d likely appreciate, but which detract, distract or undermine your brand reputation.
Every mass email you send, every phone call, event, service, video, blog post, social media update, poster, flyer, brochure and conversation you have in your business makes up the sum total of your branding.
You’ve invested considerable time, effort and money into your branding. You don’t want to undermine this with one idea.
So how do you know whether or not it makes sense for your business to implement this new idea?
If it’s difficult for you to explain the idea to one of your clients, and it’s even harder for them to repeat it back to you, it’s probably unwise and would be best done by another business, that you can collaborate with or refer business to.
However, if your business idea passes the branding test with flying colours, then it’s time to consider the next question.
Do I have time and resources?
We could all answer “no” to this question. I don’t know that many business owners who believe they have ample time and resources. Most business owners are notoriously overstretched and probably overdue for a holiday.
Additionally, if a business idea is truly excellent, it’s likely you (and your staff) will have great motivation to implement it. However, some ideas don’t require as much time and as many resources to implement as others. Particularly if your new idea has steep competition, you need to ask yourself (and your accountant) whether you have the time and resources to make the idea work?
Which leads us to the next question.
Is my business idea highly competitive?
As we progress, these questions become harder to answer objectively, especially as most business owners believe that their industry is highly competitive.
After the initial loved up infatuation stage of your new idea fades, most people progress to the far-less-fun stage of seeing obstacles everywhere, including plenty of competition for their new business idea.
It’s important not to stop the process here.
Start with an extensive Google search on each and every search phrase you can think of that people will likely use to find your business idea. You may like to narrow down your search by location to make it more targeted. Finding some competitors is good – it shows there’s a market for your idea.
Finding lots of competitors who are doing an awesome job and delivering a superior product for a good price could indicate your market is already saturated.
However, if you can’t find plenty of stiff competition for your new business idea, proceed.
Could I do a better job or adequately differentiate my idea?
Plenty of successful businesses start because their competitors are doing a substandard job, making it straightforward for the new business to win over disgruntled former customers of the competitors. (At least until the competitors lift their game.)
‘Doing a better job’ goes far behind providing a friendly, effective service. This might work initially to win new business, but it’s easy to replicate.
And ‘adequately differentiating your idea’ goes beyond using different brand colours or having memorable marketing.
If your competitors are already established and have a good business model, your new idea will have to be significantly different and not easy to replicate if it’s to have real impact.
Ideas are worthless
It’s not enough anymore to have a great idea. And it’s easy to mistake ideas for action, and build a business on conversations and networking that feel like work but aren’t reflected in your bank balance.
Ideas are cheap. It’s implementation that differentiates a good idea from a remarkable business.
And your idea will need lots of help, even if it seems self-evidentially awesome. Nowadays, a good idea without the backing of marketing is lost amid the humdrum of louder voices.
If you’re easily dissuaded, this article will fuel your preexisting attitude. But if you’ve got stamina, determination and, most importantly, grit, then I wish you all the best with implementing your business idea. Go create something wonderful.