Every successful business started from an idea. In fact, everything we interact with, touch, wear, eat, read etc started from an idea.
Ideas are powerful and can be the start of something amazing. But they don’t mean anything if you don’t act on them.
Whether you have had a Eureka moment, an inspirational chat with a friend, or a slow burning germ of an idea, let’s assume your idea is there. You just need to figure out what to do with it next.
As SEO consultants in Lancashire and Yorkshire, we have helped our fair share of people grow their business online and offline.
Here are 8 steps to turn your idea into a business.
1) Commit to exploring the idea
The brain is excellent at talking you out of things. It is your body’s way of sense checking what you are about to do.
You: I’m going to juggle these knives!
Brain: Ok. Here are the things that can go wrong…….
Brain: …or death…
You: Ok…maybe not.
But that mechanism is less helpful if you are trying to do something positive, even if it is slightly risky. Your brain will probably try to talk you out of doing your amazing idea before it really gets off the ground.
Instinctively blocking negative thoughts (telling your brain to shut up) takes practice but you can start identifying negative thoughts now and start to ignore them.
It’s as simple as making the decision that you are going to commit to spending just a little bit of time figuring out if the idea actually is good or not, before you can talk yourself out of it.
2) Share the idea
Without actually examining the idea, it will swill around in your brain, half formed, until you forget about it.
You need to get the idea out of your brain and into the universe, in whichever way you prefer. Speak it out-loud, write it down, draw it. However you choose to do it, it is much easier to solidify your idea if you have started to give it form.
Next, you need to share it with someone, but choose carefully. Pick someone who is supportive, positive, and sage. Family are always good, but often struggle to be objective. Maybe you have an old boss, or business savvy friend you can call on. If you can’t think of anyone who fits the bill, there are plenty of business advisers around who work pro bono. A nay-sayer will put you back to stage one before your idea has had time to breathe.
Don’t worry about someone stealing your idea-chances are, if you choose someone supportive they will be helpful and enthusiastic about discussing your idea, rather than plotting to nick it. If you really think they will rip you off, maybe it’s time to get new friends!
But what if the person you spoke to dismissed it?
Well, you don’t have to listen to them. When we were setting up our SEO consultancy, we heard all sorts of excuses, all of which we ignored. And I’m glad we did!
Some of the main protestations we got were:
- Loads of people are already doing it. (Who cares? We will do it better!)
- No one in your area wants that (How do you know that with certainty?)
- You don’t know enough about it (We will learn!)
- What if you don’t make enough money from it? (Then we will go back to working for others, and at least we gave it a shot.)
We decided that we were possibly talking to the wrong people. It was an idea we couldn’t shake. So, we researched!
3) Is there a market for it?
Whether you have decided the idea has legs, or you aren’t quite ready to give up on it yet, the next step is research.
How do you know that people will buy your product or service?
Well, you have a look at what else is out there.
If there are loads of businesses doing what you are doing, then chances are high there is a market for it. But if you are worried that the market is too big and you won’t have a shot then the answer is simple. You have to either:
- be better
- be cheaper
- target a different audience
- approach it from a different angle
Find out the service levels they offer, the prices they charge, and the audience they target. You can find a lot out from a website, but don’t be afraid to do a bit of mystery shopping. All’s fair in love and business, right? (just don’t burn bridges-you never know when you’ll come across them in the future).
If no one has done it already, then you are either sitting on a gold-mine, or your idea isn’t so good.
Remember those catalogues that used to get shoved through your door, full of inventions that someone obviously thought were an amazing idea, but were actually ridiculous? Portable toilets that look suspiciously like a watering can-perfect for long journeys! A toilet bowl light, just in case you always wondered what your pee would look like blue. Eeek!
A good rule of thumb is: if people laugh when you tell them your business idea-and it isn’t supposed to be funny-maybe go back to the drawing board.
Having said that, there are plenty of businesses that were dismissed and have since broken the mould. Think Apple, Airbnb, Facebook, Ford even. The list of game-changing companies is endless, and growing!
Just because someone hasn’t already done your idea, doesn’t mean it isn’t needed, wanted, or valuable.
Ok, so you are onto something. What next?
4) Turn an idea into a plan
What are you going to need to get this idea off the ground? Some circles call this a ‘business plan’, but I always found that intimidating. This is just an idea so far, right?
Often it helps to ‘reverse engineer’ it. So, what does the finished business, service, or product look like?
Let’s say you want to set up a dog walking business. Sounds good. But that is a big idea with very little detail. Let’s break it down:
- How much money do you need to earn each week to be able to live the lifestyle you have or want?
- How many dogs do you have to walk each day to be able to afford this?
- How many hours will it take you to walk that many dogs?
- Is this possible, even in winter?
- How will you find customers?
- Why would they want you to walk their dog? (we will come back to this one in #5)
- What do you need to get set up? Insurance? Walking boots? Business cards? A new website?)
- Where do you get the things you need?
- Do you need money for starting up? How much? Where from?
- Do you need advice? Who will you ask for support? A business advisor? A friend?
At this stage, it is easy to use the old favourite SMART targeting. If you’ve never come across this before, it is a simple way of setting yourself goals that are manageable yet ambitious.
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
- Specific: I want to set up a dog walking business in my local area of Rotherham, where I will be the only employee.
- Measurable: I can walk 10 dogs a day, so I need at least 10 repeat clients
- Attainable: I live in the town centre where there aren’t so many dogs, so I will focus on the outskirts of town where more people have gardens and, therefore, dogs.
- Realistic: I am fit and healthy and can manage to walk all day. I like dogs too. But it is winter so I need to do shorter walks and offer another service to make up the hours-maybe dog sitting?
- Timely: I want to be up and running in 3 weeks, so I need to find 4 clients a week.
Your plan is coming together! By this point you might have that little tingle of excitement.
Or you might be thinking this is never going to work. That’s ok. You explored it. You gave your idea the respect and attention it deserves. The next idea will strike soon.
But if you are feeling quietly optimistic, read on to find out what to do next.
5) What makes you so special?
No, we really want you think about that. What skills, experiences, knowledge, and attributes do you have that other people don’t. There will be loads. Don’t be shy!
When we were first setting up the SEO consultancy in Lancashire, before we expanded to Yorkshire, we knew that, although we needed to brush up on our technical skills, we are good at ‘business’. We understood what makes a business successful.
Plus, we know what makes people tick-and if you know that, you can motivate them, which is what content marketing is all about.
We set about collecting our skills and attributes. We knew what we were good at, and from there, we could come up with a USP.
A Unique Selling Point is why people come to you instead of anyone else.
So, for example, GrowTraffic is one of about a million SEO agencies in Lancashire, and one of about two million SEO agencies in Yorkshire. We have serious competition.
But our USP is that we are straight talking, helpful, honest, and unpatronizing. Something that our research told us other SEO agents are not!
In examining what makes you brilliant, you will find your niche. And that is what you tell potential customers.
6) Action your list
Right, let’s get down to brass tax.
- You have decided your idea is valid.
- There is a market for it.
- You have a plan of what you need to do to make it work.
- You know who to ask for help (if you need it)
- You have your USP
You do it, of course!
Work through that list until all the items are ticked off. Before you know it, you have a legitimate business.
Get in Touch
Obviously the ‘just do it’ part in #6 is the most difficult. But help is available. If you would like free help planning a business, or have questions about marketing yourself online, please give us a shout.
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Hannah on 07850556244.