Tutorials, how-tos & reviews for online entrepreneurs.
A group of young entrepreneurs gathering around laptop to review a business idea

How to generate great business ideas in 7 simple steps

Skip to steps

  1. Empathize with your users
  2. Define the problem
  3. What is your value proposition?
  4. Identify the market
  5. Organize your thoughts and ideas
  6. Create prototype
  7. Get feedback from customers

Introduction

As an entrepreneur myself, I can relate to the challenges and rewards associated with generating and executing ideas.

Man looking at clipboard with collage of ideas
Photo by Pexels

Over the past 10+ years, I have executed ideas for my own passion projects, as well as working with technology teams in a variety of sectors.

However, before I jump straight into the process involved in idea creation, I’d firstly like to share some insights I have discovered along the way.

I believe the following points are vital to be aware of, as they can make the creative process a lot easier and more productive…

The benefits of control

Having control of your own business idea is a huge advantage when developing an idea.

You have the benefit of answering to nobody but yourself, and while answering to no one can have its own challenges, it will also give you control of your vision.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you should aim to do everything yourself forever, far from it.

In fact, in order to achieve success and grow your business, you will eventually need to master the art of delegation and identify talented people who you can collaborate with and help you grow your business.

Therefore if you are an aspiring entrepreneur or side job hustler who is thinking about developing a business idea, you are already one step closer to controlling your own destiny.

Feed your passion

Creating something you are interested in, is a lot easier than trying to create something you know little about.

Young creative entrepreneur sitting in front of laptop
Photo by bruce mars

Take me for example, I am passionate about design, business, technology, and writing.

In late 2018, I decided to leverage my knowledge in these areas and create this website, FounderCopilot.com, a practical resource blog that helps people build, launch, optimize and monetize their online business.

My point is, by feeding your passion you will find it easier to motivate yourself to create value for your audience.

No matter what business you are starting, without passion, you will find it harder to achieve success.

Avoid being impulsive

And finally, it’s a natural reaction to jump into an idea and see what happens. However, it’s important to resist this urge. I have personally made this mistake with a few ideas only to find out later that there wasn’t a real need for it in the first place!

Simply reaching out and asking members of a related Facebook Group could have been all the research I needed!

Here are a few steps that will help you generate and develop great business ideas that are informed by research:

“All your ideas may be solid or even good … But you have to actually execute on them for them to matter.”
– Gary Vaynerchuk

1. Empathize with your customers

Before you embark on developing a great business idea you’ll need to have a holistic and empathetic understanding of the people you are trying to target. This involves having an understanding of the following:

  • The problems customers are experiencing with existing products/services
  • Their motivations, needs, and wants.
  • What obstacles they may face, if any.

The more you understand where your customers are coming from, the more likely you will be to create great services they will love. Check out my related article how to do market research  which covers best practices for how to collect feedback from your potential customers.

2. Define the problem

Once you have a good understanding of your customer’s point of view it’s important to define the problem you are trying to solve. This should be done as early as possible so that it can guide your strategy in the right direction. This is called defining a ‘problem statement’.

Sticky notes posted on a wall describing business problems and goals
Photo by Jo Szczepansk

A good problem statement should include the following:

Be human-centered

You should aim to frame your problem statement according to your specific audience, rather than business outcome or monetary value.

Customer pain points

You should aim to understand your customer’s pain points.

Remember, you won’t know what your customer’s pain points are unless you ask them. Check out my related article how to do market research  which also covers this topic in more detail.

Don’t be too focused!

When defining a problem, you should not be too focused.

Instead, you should capture all of your thoughts, observations, experiences, concerns, insights, and stories in one place.

Capturing all of this on sticky notes on a large wall is a common method and can be used for any business model.

Once you have captured it on sticky notes, it will then be possible to draw connections between these insights so you can start to group topics and ideas.

“How might we” questions

Asking the question “How might we…” is another common strategy used in ‘Design thinking’. It’s used to help you solve your problem statement.

Best results are achieved within a small group of people. Remember, your goal is to find ways to bring value to your customers.

Here are some sample questions:

  • How might we make it easier to buy our service?
  • How might we ensure our customers are more engaged with our brand?

3. What’s your value proposition?

Once you have a problem statement defined, you’ll then need to determine clearly what value your product will deliver to your customers. In ‘business-speak’ this is called defining your value proposition.

Screenshot of The Value Proposition Canvas by Strategizer
From strategyzer.com

Value Proposition Canvas
There are some great free tools to help you determine your value proposition, however, one of the most recognized is the “Value Proposition Canvas” by Strategyzer.

It is specifically designed to help entrepreneurs, innovators, and business owners, to define their value proposition.

Large companies like Microsoft, Intel, Fujitsu, and Mastercard have endorsed using Strategizer to foster creativity and innovation across their teams.

I can personally vouch for it too.

It has helped me organize countless ideas into a useful map that I can organize, modify, and refer to as I start to develop an idea.

If you haven’t already, check out the video which explains what it is and how it can help you.

4. Identify your market

When identifying your market, it’s a good idea to use market segmentation to clearly define your target customers. ‘Segmentation’ means dividing your entire market into segments. These segments include potential customers with similar needs.

Overhead shot of busy shopping mall with people looking through shop windows
Photo by: Matthew Henry

Your customer persona
Personas help you create a better picture of each potential customer, and are usually based on the defining attributes and characteristics of people who want to buy your product or service. This information can be gathered during market research.

You may also find that from talking to potential customers, they may have common pain points.

For example, if your business was a junk pick up service, some of the common pain points could be the fact that people are unable to get rid of clutter in their homes as they cannot sell online, or they simply don’t have time.

Your junk pick up service could then be the remedy for this pain point, as it would give people a good solution for the removal of junk and clutter in their homes.

The goal here is to give you a holistic view of your market. The Value Proposition Canvas can also be used to identify your market, as it can help you illustrate your customer’s persona and find a product-market fit.

5. Organize your thoughts and ideas

If you read the other articles on my blog, you will see that I am a huge advocate of free tools that help people organize their projects.

Therefore if you are serious about executing your project and managing your time, Trello is a great free solution that does just that.

Screenshot of Trello board
Source: Trello

As well, as being free, they also have an intuitive mobile app that allows you to add/edit ideas on the go.

It’s a must-have tool for anyone trying to kick-start their business idea.

6. Create a prototype

A rough paper prototype of a digital product
Photo by José Alejandro Cuffia

No matter what time of business idea you are planning, you’ll need to validate the first version of your idea in the market.

You can do this by creating a rough prototype and testing it with real users. In product design this is a process called creating and testing a ‘Minimal Viable Product’ or ‘MVP’ for short.

The goal behind an MVP prototype is to validate is not only to gather feedback from customers, but also to type to iron out any issues early on.

Prototyping tools like InVision or Figma, are designed to help entrepreneurs and startups to create ‘rapid prototypes’ that can be used at any stage of the creative process.

7. Get feedback from customers

Once you have a prototype to test with, you’ll need to gather feedback as early as possible.  Unfortunately, research is an area that a lot of entrepreneurs delay and even overlook.  A study based on the analysis of 101 startups by CB Insights revealed that 45% of startups failed because there was no market for their product.

You may ask why would one create a product when there is no market for it?

Well, there are a host of reasons why this happens however it mostly boils down to not enough research early on.

A group of young entrepreneurs gathering around laptop to review a business idea
Photo by Pexels

Research is the key to a successful business model and a successful value proposition and should never be overlooked.

There are lots of ways to collect insights from potential customers, like in-person interviews, or in the case of a digital product, a remote usability using a tool like Userlytics.

Like anything in business, successful ideas take time and it’s important to be patient and commit to a process that works for you.

Check out my related article How to do market research which covers best practices on how to do your own research and collect insights from customers.

Niall Conway

Niall Conway

Founder & Marketing Director
FounderCopilot.com

I am an online entrepreneur who helps people build, launch, optimize and monetize their online business with Wordpress, SEO, Affiliate Marketing, Adsense and a whole lot more.

On my website and on my Youtube channel, I share the skills and insights I have built up over the last 10+ years while working as a freelance designer/developer and while founding several digital businesses of my own. Read more...

Add comment

Share via
Copy link