Every Sunday morning when I’m leisurely lying in bed, my brain comes up with 10 fresh new ideas.
- “Maybe I can start a business on copywriting, or cricket, or selling an accessory, or anything else.”
- “How about this idea?”, “I think this idea this will work amazingly well!”
I have hundreds of conversations with myself; the brain working like a self-automated machine. We all do this. Part of this thought process is because we all want to escape the monotonous 9-6 job. Because we want to start something of our own. But, I digress.
Let me introduce to you a simple litmus test that you can use when you come up with any idea to check if you can proceed with it or not.
Motivation is good. Getting excited is good. We all should absolutely love our idea. But I’d rather do a little bit of research on any idea before I start dreaming. In fact, I’ve developed this invisible skill of always “not loving” my idea first. Meaning, thoroughly dissecting each part of the idea first.
For now, let’s talk about what you should do once you have a rough idea in your head.
The 3-Question Check
Here are the 3 qualifier questions to use for any idea:
Who is my target audience?
Bad answer: 18-35-year-old men
Really? An 18-year old guy has virtually nothing in common with a 35-year old guy. They have different ambitions, dreams, are at different levels in their career, and have completely different mindsets.
Good answer: 30-35-year-old men who are working professionals
Amazing answer: 27-35-year-old men who are working professionals, in the IT industry, living in Mumbai. They are either middle or senior level professionals in their career. They are mostly married. They commute either by train or a bus. They spend most of their time on social media (Facebook and LinkedIn.) Bonus: Here are the 10 pages they follow and channels they subscribe to.
You deeply want to understand
- who your ideal customer is
- what their day looks like
- what they watch
- what their challenges are
- what they really want
- where do they hang out
- what they talk about
In short, any level of granular data to drill.
Can they pay?
This one question will literally save you hours of time and effort. If you have an amazing idea, but your market cannot pay for your service, the game is over before it even begins.
The last thing I want for you is to have an idea and build it, only to realise six months later that nobody will ever pay for it.
Ask this question: “Who is my target audience, and are they able to pay?”
- A college student might not be able to pay
- A 30-year-old recently married guy, working at a company, who recently moved to a new city will be much much more likely to pay
See the difference?
How will my solution help them?
Put it another way: what problem are you solving?
Here’s a simple formula you can apply: “I will help you (some service) so that you can (some benefit)”
- I do cold calling to help you get new client prospects, so you can focus on other areas of your business
- I will do lead generation for you, so you get consistent leads coming in the door
- I will create amazing data-driven presentations for you, so you can impress your manager/boss
- I will write copy for you so your sales increase
- I will be your personal assistant for daily activities, so you don’t have to worry and can free up more time
Teardowns and Analysis
Let’s take some examples so you can nail this in your head.
Idea 1: Marketing for small-scale restaurants
Formula: I will help you market your restaurant locally, so you get more customers every day
Target audience: Small-sized restaurant owners (think local cafes or eateries)
Can they pay? Yes
Do they have a problem? No, they don’t
This seems surprising to a lot of newbies, but restaurant owners generally care less about “marketing”.
Why? They don’t have time or don’t want to put in money or more efforts on this. They’re happy with where they are currently.
In fact, go out and TALK to 5 restaurant owners for 15 minutes and you’ll quickly realise what the answer is. Your ideas will be super-concrete with a simple exercise of talking to 5 people in your target market.
Remember, the point of doing these simple tests in the initial stages is to cheaply test your ideas and save yourself from a potential failure.
Idea 2: Copywriting for marketing agencies
Formula: I will help you write amazing content, so you get more leads and keep your online presence going
Target audience: Marketing agencies (notice how we’re saying agencies and not companies.)
Can they pay? Yes
Do they have a problem? Yes, agency owners need content every day, for their clients, social media, blogs, emails, etc.
Enter you, the smart person who will handle content generation for them. God! They’re SO relieved to have met you. You’re solving a problem.
Just to reconfirm this point, I worked with a marketing agency for three months on a freelance project as well.
Idea 3: Social media for NGOs
Formula: I will create and handle social media for you
Target audience: NGOs
Can they pay? No. They really do not have enough funds to pay someone else outside to provide a service.
Quick observations here:
- This isn’t a super-analytical, multi-variance test. These are just back-of-the-napkin questions to ask for any idea you generate. This simple exercise will put half of your ideas to rest.
- You will fall in LOVE with your ideas instantaneously (so it’s extremely important to diagnose before you start dreaming about it).
- We focus on the shiny elements (funding, number of employees, office space, etc.), digital marketing gurus, technicalities (“Do SEO”, “Buy this plugin”, “Purchase the cheapest web hosting”), and never on getting the foundation right — Is the idea validated? Does my ideal customer have the ability to pay? Do I have 1-3 paying customers? etc.)
When you get started, the focus should be on getting the foundation right; everything else can be sorted later.
So, always ask yourself these questions for any idea you come up with. If they pass, great! You move on to the next step. If they don’t, you either do more research (talk to real people in your target market) or simply move on to the next potentially viable idea.