When I ask aspiring entrepreneurs why they haven’t started a business yet, I usually hear “Because I can’t figure out an idea for what I want to do yet,” or the more common, “I don’t know where to start.” In both cases, the lack of ideas is what stops this group of people.
If either of these situations describes you, I have a tactic that you can immediately use to generate loads of profitable ideas that people will pay for. I’ve used this tactic for 7 years to create five profitable software companies from nothing, and I’ve taught over 88 people how to start their own companies using it as well.
Coming up with profitable ideas is about three key words I learned from my dear friend Andrew Warner of Mixergy: Find the pain. If you’re looking for profitable ideas, pick a market and find the pain. How? By asking people some damn good questions.
After 7 years of practice, trial and error, and teaching people how to do idea extraction at the Foundation, we’ve drilled over 200 questions down to the two most valuable questions you can ask to extract profitable ideas:
- What is the most important activity you do in your business?
- Do you have any pain associated with this activity?
Start with a family member or friend you know who owns a business, and ask them the questions above. If you don’t have close acquaintance to ask in person, pick any industry that seems to be hiring from a job board like Monster.com. Don’t stress much on which industry you pick at first — remember, it’s not about industry, it’s about building the skill of asking questions. It’s about building your idea extraction muscles.
Then, search for people in that industry on LinkedIn, and start messaging them directly. Ask them something like this:
“Hey, I’m just curious — what is the most important activity you do in your business, and do you have any pain associated with that activity? I’m looking to help make your industry easier, faster, more fun and more profitable. Based on your answer, we could possibly build a solution to help take some of the pain out of your business.”
Then, sit back and await the replies. Your job is to listen intently to these answers. When the business owner is done talking, follow these two questions up with “What else? Tell me more.” Keep digging here. Sometimes you’ll find gold on the first answer, but it’s usually at the third or fourth layer where you will find that million dollar idea.
Once you’ve depleted the person of responses, and they can’t think of any more answers, it’s time to do the most important aspect of idea extraction: validating that you understood what they said.
Simply repeat back what they said for each answer and follow it up with, “Did I understand you correctly?” This process is magical because they will usually respond with, “Yes, and…” What comes after is where you’ll find even more great material.
The whole goal with this process is to find the pain, document it, define it, and then describe it back to the customer better than they can themselves. Once you’ve done that, your customer will unconsciously assume that you have a solution.
And better yet, once you’ve clearly defined the problem, your mind will flood with ideas for how you can solve it.
Courtesy of YEC
Dane Maxwell is the creator of The Foundation, a no nonsense approach to finding painful problems and solving them with software. When you visit The Foundation, you can request a case study to learn how a 22-year-old from New Zealand built a profitable software company in 6 months without any idea on what to build, limited funds and zero development skills.
Courtesy of YEC
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.