What kind of business should I start?

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Starting a business is way cool these days – everyone is doing it. And what’s not to love about it, right?

That being said, the only question then is what kind of business should you start? That’s the burning question on the lips of many a would be entrepreneur stuck in cubicle nation.

Small businessHere’s my take – I hope to whatever God you pray that you have discovered the next new big thing and that you have your patent attorney working overtime for you, but . . .if you want some really good, free advice, take head.

Research and find a business, industry, product or service that seems to have a number of players who already seem to be doing pretty well and jump into that potentially crowded field with an innovation and a commitment to a marketing system.

It is far easier to create a twist or unique offering in a market that already exists and appreciates what your business has to offer than it is to convince a market that they ought to want and need your great invention. I know that may not be the way to entrepreneurial stardom, but it’s the surest way to create a business with a chance of success.

But what about all the competition? Don’t sweat the competition, most have succeeded on sheer market momentum or demand. You’ve got the secret duo of innovation and marketing system on your side and you are about to blow the competition away.

So let’s talk about these two ingredients you need to add once you find your boring, but sound, business to jump into – innovation and a marketing system.

Innovation comes by simply finding a unique way to package, deliver or market your business. It must be something that allows you to clearly show how your business is different in some significant way than all the others that say they do what you do. For example, Duct Tape Marketing coaches don’t do marketing consulting, they install a marketing system.

It’s not enough to simply say you offer better service. In this regard you may need to be willing to throw off long ingrained notions. Some find that’s it harder to get old thoughts out than new thoughts in – let your innovation include green skies and blue trees!

Once you have your business idea and innovation, surround it with a marketing system. A marketing system is just my way of explaining the systematic way to build know, like and trust.

Your system must contain a strategy that helps you communicate, in very simple ways, your innovation – your difference, your core message. It must also contain a thorough and consistent, education based communication strategy combined with proven ways to toot your horn and let your ideal customers find you. (In case you want a complete road map for creating a marketing system, that’s what my book, Duct Tape Marketing, is all about.)

This may not be the path to instant gratification, but it is the long, slow, steady and perhaps boring guarantee for start-up success.


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  1. Good point! Whenever I think about going into business for myself, I usually try to think of the new, cool and creative thing I can offer the world. I should be thinking, like you said. It’s a lot better guarantee to success and it’s a lot less work trying to educate everyone on what exactly it is I do and why that’s important.

    This is definitely advice that could save a guy like me from many sleepless nights.


  2. I think what everyone needs to realize is that, though we are in a bit of a slump economically, these times are ripe for innovation and creative ways to generate revenue.

    People need alternatives. people need options and better ways to do things. They need ways that can help them make money even in the toughest of times.

    If one can help people make money in an innovative way, then you have created a niche that has no limits.
    Others may have the right idea, but if you can help them implement it, roll it out, and nourish and sustain it, you’ll have a client for life…

  3. Good stuff John. I think what you did here is actually one of the tougher things to me: condense your whole model or philosophy down to one coherent train of thought.

    One thing I would add, that the communication is an ongoing process or relationship…which is a big part of the “trust” aspect.

  4. Good job on a great article John.

    You have correctly identified two very important filters for a new business choice.

    1. Being the first penguin in the water can be lonely and fatal – if no one else is doing it – there’s a reason.

    2. Out-innovate in some way to be distinctive and capture your share of a good market. (Blue Ocean Strategy is an excellent book on the techniques for this).

    Finally – I know you’ll change this typo so it won’t be there by the time someone else reads my comment but you have put:

    “if you want some really good, free advice, take head.”

    I know you mean take “heed.” But, take head is an interesting phraseology – and if you keep using it – it may actually catch on as in “take head” meaning listen up and use your brain to think about what John is saying!” LOL

    In My Humble But Accurate Opinion
    Rick Butts

  5. Thanks John. I’ve been racking my brains to be more innovative with my coaching ‘products’, and getting no-where, but your point about packaging a service differently, eg marketing system rather than coaching, has set some ideas of in my head. I also think it has a lot to do with continually listening and finding out what your clients/market wants and tailoring services to suit that. I do that by regularly asking for customer feedback and asking clients for their views on various things.

  6. Thanks John. The strategy part. “the marketing system”, is a key ingredient that many entrepreneurs overlook. They are so excited at launching that they often want to rush by this important component. Taking the time to create the plan and the time-line for execution saves a lot of pain down the road. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. Competition is healthy; people do respond to choices. Competition requires attention to quality delivery. Either be competition or embrace it when someone else becomes yours.

  8. Very useful post. I spent years selling a service that was great, but no one was familiar with. I spent most of my time explaining the service, not explaining why they should buy from me. Its much easier to sell something people are already buying!

  9. Interesting. Even with lots of Marketing and Startup experience, Ive always thought Bigwell in Robots summed it all up the best: “See a need, fill a need.”

  10. Great article.Starting a business, no matter online or offline, takes a great deal of planning.It´s also good to know who your competition is, it´s a good way to learn new things. Improving from what your competition is doing makes you stand out from the rest.

  11. You know, after going through some entrepreneurial resources and sites, I came across the Spirus Group (http://www.spirusgroup.com/), and they seem to have found a solution to many of the classic problems faced by would-be entrepreneurs. Specifically, they help you do all the initial development work for your company while you are still at your current job (business plan, hiring, real estate planning, suppliers, etc.) Seems like the right approach to give a business idea a chance to succeed while keeping the risk relatively low. It looks like they can also help with fundraising and a few other things. Worth checking out.

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