How to find a great business opportunity

Whether you are looking to start a new business or grow an existing one finding a great business opportunity or opportunities is essential. But how do you go about it?

Unfortunately great opportunities in business or in life don’t usually come with a neon sign, sparkly packaging or a giant ‘X’ marking the spot. Instead it is you who needs to be able to spot the opportunity and that can be confusing – especially if the opportunity is pretending to be something else.

The other tricky thing is that opportunities start out as wonderful, sometimes crazy ideas and it takes logical assessment to see if they will actually be a great opportunity for you.

But let’s start by getting the ideas flowing because you are going to need a big list before you can find one that might be a great business opportunity.

Issues, pain points and hate points

The first place to hunt down ideas is to look for problems that you or your family or friends have. These fall into several categories; issues, pain points and hate points.

Issues could include anything from getting a baby to go to sleep to getting a teenager to wake up. It could be thinking of and preparing healthy meals for everyone or tackling a totally new way of eating. They may be ordinary, everyday occurrences which cause a problem or bigger concerns like reducing our personal contribution to global warming. Issues are all around us all the time and solving an issue may be a great business opportunity.

Then there are pain points. These will cover many different areas also but importantly they usually involve the willingness to pay for a solution to make the pain go away. Pain points are often more pressing than issues and people are looking for immediate solutions. Being able to provide a solution (or a better solution) to a pain point is a starting point for a great business opportunity.

Finally we have hate points. Everyone has these, the things we hate to do and if we can we will pay someone else to do them so we don’t have to. Think about what you hate – would you pay for a solution so you didn’t have to do it? Everyone has these different hate points and they too can create business opportunities.

So one method of finding a great business opportunity is to hunt down the problems that people have then focus on which ones you could provide a solution to.

The cool thing is that doing this just involves talking to people, especially those you already know or checking out your favourite social media forums to find out what people are complaining about, searching for and generally discussing solutions to. If you already have a business don’t forget to talk to your existing customers too about issues they are having or things they wish were available to them.

This all sounds pretty easy doesn’t it? In fact you are probably wondering if it is worth reading any further aren’t you. Just a note of warning though, the market may not know what it wants if it has never seen it or thought of it. That means they may think they want something improved rather than replaced with a better concept. As Henry Ford put it; if he had asked the public what they wanted before he set up his factory they would have said a faster horse. So just hunting down problems is not the only way to find a great business opportunity and it may not be the answer for you. So now you really do have to read on don’t you?

Become a sponge

Another way to find a great business opportunity is to get out of your comfort zone and learn a bit every day about new trends, ideas and techniques. These can be completely new ideas for you or ideas about the industry you are in.

There are so many ways that you can do this with the internet being the obvious choice for most but to ensure you are really exploring and absorbing new ideas I suggest you choose 7 areas to explore. This could be technology, science, marketing, history, arts performance, cultural differences, medicine, education, food, humour or any other topics you think will be interesting to learn about.

Each day of the week you are looking to spend about 30 minutes exploring something new on a topic. It may not seem that it will necessarily have relevance to your business but that’s actually the point. You want to find yourself thinking about how you could utilise an idea to create a great business opportunity. Many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs use the sponge method to allow the connections to form in their minds that lead to products or services which they would not have otherwise considered.

Our world is constantly changing and we share all of our knowledge and ideas every day but many of us become stuck with only considering the ideas we already have and not pushing ourselves to develop (or imitate) new ones. You need to be a learner and absorber to find opportunities and to know how to turn them into successful business strategies.

Of course to fit this into your already busy lives you are going to have to give something else up. Perhaps 30 minutes a day less of social media or watching entertainment and spending this time on exploring new trends and ideas could provide the great business opportunity breakthrough you are looking for but if this is an idea that you don’t relate to then read on because I have more to share with you.

Look for intersections

There are often opportunities where there are intersections between businesses or whole industries. A simple example is a hair salon where a beauty salon sees an opportunity to work in the same space and share customers. With the increase in the number of barber shops these days I wonder what intersections there are for other businesses to create opportunities for themselves.

Think about what industries could be complementary to your own. For example it could be the health industry with the wealth industry, the wellness industry with the fitness industry or the education industry with the start-up business industry. I am sure that you can think of a range of ideas that would work with your industry and give you a source of great business opportunities.

If that doesn’t get your creative juices flowing then consider the intersections which could occur between wildly different companies or industries. What opportunities could be created in the intersection between hairdressing and butchery, fitness and plumbing or medicine and dressmaking?

And then there are the intersections that occur between competitors. Is there an opportunity to partner with a competitor to create an opportunity? Think about how successful Food Halls are with competitor businesses side by side making sales more successful for everyone. Another great example is car sales where grouping them together both online and offline benefits all the businesses involved.

What are some intersections with competitors which you could take advantage of?

Speaking of competitors

Find out what others in your industry are doing both locally and internationally. Sometimes new trends start here and sometimes somewhere else. You can find great business opportunities everywhere that new trends are becoming commercial successes.

It could be a completely new idea but it doesn’t have to be – it could also be a new way of interacting with customers or a new service or product which adds to the customer experience and so creates success.

Most great business opportunities come from small changes or improvements rather than huge differences so focus on the small ideas which your competitors are actioning and copy or outdo them.  

And don’t just focus on your direct competitors – check out the indirect ones too. These are the businesses which aren’t in the same industry as you but which consume the same customer’s dollars as you. If you are a café then checking out what the supermarkets are up to is important because they are an alternative or indirect competitor to you even though they are not in the hospitality industry. Their customers might buy their lunch at the supermarket or in your café (and we know which you would prefer).

And then there are the great business opportunities which are being overlooked by your competitors. You need to always be thinking of small and big changes that are happening and check out if your competitors are changing too or are staying still and leaving you to race off with the best ideas. Don’t wait for someone else to take it to the next level so you can copy – be unique, be original.

Pick your customer’s brains

If you have an existing business and you want to find new opportunities to grow your business you can start with your existing customers and let them help you to create ideas.

There are a number of ways to do this; surveying them (Survey Monkey is a free tool for this), interviewing them (often just a phone call with a set of questions), running a focus group (getting several customers together in one place to get the conversation flowing) or inviting them to comment on a private customer forum on your website or social media.

The trick here is make sure that you don’t take up too much of their time so keep the questions short and easy to answer or reward them in some way for giving you their time.

Don’t be afraid to ask your customers for help – most people love to help others out. Just ensure that you explain what you need and why. Often the best topics to ask about are what problems they ever have with your business and what other products or services do they wish you had available for them.

If you are researching ideas with your customers remember that this is not the time to be trying to sell something to them. Research and idea building must be kept separate from selling at all times to avoid tainting the responses and annoying the hell out of them.

Most good ideas start with a customer not a product or service so going to your customers to find out how else you can help them is a simple but effective way of finding great business opportunities to grow your existing business.

Have a place to record your ideas

By now you will know how to find ideas which could be a great business opportunity for you but if you don’t record them they could get lost or overlooked. You are also going to need to analyse all the ideas you end up with so you can focus on the one that is most likely to succeed.

Many successful business owners who keep their businesses growing keep an idea’s notebook with them at all times. It can be digital (phones are great for this) or written on paper with a pen (that’s what I do). They try to write at least one idea every day based on what they observe, discuss, learn about or find to be a problem. When they research new ideas and trends they are always looking for ideas which might be business opportunities.

Now that’s a huge number of ideas so most of them won’t be ones that they create opportunities from but they are never short of ideas when it comes to new businesses or changes to existing businesses. Richard Branson is an entrepreneur who is always looking for new ideas and he records them so that he can develop them later or put them with other ideas to create new opportunities.

To summarise, to find a great business opportunity start by creating a list of ideas;

  • Look for issues, pain points and hate points
  • Become a sponge for new ideas
  • Look for Intersections
  • Check out your competition
  • Pick your customer’s brains
  • Keep an ideas notebook

Turning ideas into opportunities – the next step

Not every business idea is going to be a great business opportunity for you. You are an individual with your own context, goals, responsibilities, attributes and resources. So now you need to work through your list and refine it and then analyse the resulting ideas.

These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself to begin the process of testing your ideas to find a great business opportunity.

Is there a need for it? It might be wonderful, it might be exciting but if there are not enough potential customers to make it financially viable then you are probably heading in the wrong direction. For example, a cookbook for left-handed women over 6 foot tall who speak Spanish and love Mongolian throat singing sounds fantastic but the demand for it in your local area might be very limited. I’m sure you understand what I mean.

Will it work in your location? Does the area you intend to sell in already have enough businesses selling what you intend to sell? Or are the demographics of the people living there not matching the demographics of the people likely to buy this product or service. Being a specialist Turkish Rug cleaner in an area where only a few people own them could be just too difficult to overcome even if it is the greatest idea you ever heard or thought of.

Do you have the resources to help it succeed? These will include time, money and the people who will work with you to drive the success forward. You need to be really honest with yourself here and realise what it could take to get this started and be successful. Of course, you could always look for others to help with the necessary resources so this might not be a negative at all.

Can you solve the issue, pain point or hate point at the right price? Once you take everything (and I mean everything) into account will you be able to cover your costs and profit and still sell it for a price that the potential customer will be willing to pay. If the cookbook has to sell at $200 per copy because the print run is really small then it is going to end up sitting in your garage isn’t it?

Is the timing right for you? Maybe the idea is a new app that will take months to develop but you need an income starting next month – for you the timing is not going to work. Later you might be able to make it work but just not now. A great idea becomes a great business opportunity when you can give it the time it needs to be welcomed into the market.

Check out the market next

If you are sure that you have honestly answered yes to all the questions above (or maybe you are determined to get others to help you say yes) then the next step is to find out more about your customers. This will help you to work out the best way to make the most of this opportunity. Here are a few more questions that should help;

  • When are they likely to buy it?
  • Is this when they need it?
  • Where do they buy it or how?
  • How do they pay?

In other words, can you provide your product or service to the market in the way and at the time they are going to buy it and when will you get paid? This is so important because it will help you to determining the financial viability of your idea so you can see if it truly is a great business opportunity. We often get carried away imagining all the wonderful results we will achieve (and I love that) but we also need to know that we can pay the bills on time.

You should now have a small list of opportunities

And now it’s up to you to decide on the strategies you will use to make your great business opportunity real. But that’s another article for another day.

I hope you have found this useful and would love to hear your thoughts or questions.

©Robyn Forryan

The Biz Coach NZ

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