The following is a post from Patrick G. Mackaronis. Patrick is the Director of Business Development for New York City-based social network Brabble. In this post, Patrick has talked about the online marketing and share some tips so how one can choose a product or service that he/she can sell online. Patrick can be best reached on Twitter at @patty__mack.
One of the biggest obstacles many online entrepreneurs face is in finding for themselves a solid product or service to sell. We often stumble over questions like “What could I offer as soon as possible?” or “Is anyone really going to be interested in Buying this?” and sometimes “So many people are offering all these different products and services, how am I supposed to compete?!” At times it just seems damn tricky. However, dont start worrying too much just yet. Let’s look at some ways in which you can get creative and put together a solid, quality product or service that keeps customers happy and you successful.
Good old fashioned imagination.
One of the most underrated of qualities with some people, your own imagination is the best place to start looking for an idea. Think of what demographic(s) you represent, what sort of target market, and then think of what sorts of products you’d be interested in as a member of this market; this can be the basis for some interesting ideas. Furthermore, pay attention to what might be missing in certain existing niches that are out there, especially in fields you have some familiarity with. For example, if you’re a computer programmer, and you find that a certain detail of your occupation is really causing you problems, knowing that you’re probably not the only one suffering from the same problem, try to find a solution that you could possibly turn into a business idea.
The same applies to services, maybe even more so. Maybe there is something you’d like to see offered which could make life easier for certain kinds of people. Use your own experience, and the experience of any friends and contacts you have, to think of possible opportunities. Lots of service opportunities can be found in circumstances where it’s difficult to have something done, or tedious to do it for oneself. If you can find one of these circumstances, brainstorm some ways by which it could be made easier, or systemized into a more streamlined form.
Analyze others and imitate.
There’s nothing wrong with imitation, especially when it’s of the helpful, dont go to jail for infringement kind. So imitate others successes. If you see that someone has started selling something or offering a service of some kind, and seems to have done well without struggling too badly, then maybe you’re onto something you yourself could be doing. However, make sure that it’s also something you can and would like to do. For example, dont go out and start offering translation services if you cant tell a foreign language from the sound of raccoons fighting in a dumpster. Likewise, don’t get into the business of selling homemade woodwork crafts if you need an instruction video just to saw a piece of wood.
For service ideas look at classified sites like Craigslist and see what kinds of services are being offered in the general categories you think you’d be interested in. See if they reappear frequently, but also check to make sure that they’re not too competitive. Nothing wrong with competing with lots of others, but it’s always easier when only a small number of others are offering the same service. Maybe even call or email a couple of the service providers you see to check on how their rates work. Price yours competitively based on this, and on your own needs and expectations.
If you decide on a service to offer, pay careful attention to how others doing the same organize their billing structure and business. You should create a version that works best for you, and which you think will be the most convenient for potential clients, but you could still learn lots from how an established player works. Pay special attention to where you could really improve on what competitors offer, and how they offer it. Remember, you want to offer something better than them.
When it comes to products, the sky is the limit. There are so many options out there for someone starting on a small budget that an idea shouldn’t be too hard to hit upon. Remember a couple key questions for any product you choose: How many others are selling the same thing? And: How good are the profit margins you could hope to make? One thing Id absolutely recommend as a starting investment is to get your hands on a good directory of drop shippers and wholesalers. One in particular, which is a bit expensive but highly extensive and reliable, is the drop shippers and light bulk wholesalers directory, published by Worldwide Brands http://www.worldwidebrands.com. Im not being paid to recommend this, and mention them because they seem to be the biggest and best organized such listing on the Internet. Having access to such a vast list of products and suppliers allows you to more effectively do something else I recommend; visit eBay and snoop around. Having perhaps made a list of products youd be interested in selling, pay a visit to eBay and see how many others are selling the same thing. More importantly, however, see how the product is moving and if it’s getting lots of bids. Also make sure that the price at which it’s being sold is significantly better than the price at which you could buy it from the source you may have found.
If you’ve got a product that matches these criteria, test it out first. Before you run off to the nearest web developer screaming in his face about how you need a website like YESTERDAY first try out a few sample sales of your products on eBay itself. See if you find yourself with a steady profit margin in your sales. If you do, you’re in business.
Keywords and keyword tools
Another great tactic for getting product ideas is to use keywords and keyword trackers to your advantage. If you’ve got an idea for a great product or service, or have found one that interests you, go onto a keyword tracking website like Wordtracker.com (paid membership site) or Google’s own keyword tool (free) to see how popular searches for certain keywords related to an idea you have are. Following that, do some Google searches of your own on those same keywords, see what kinds of products are on offer, take a look at the paid advertisements along the side and top of the page. If there aren’t so many, or if there are few offering something similar to what you might like to offer despite the popularity of such a search term, then you might just be on to something.
As a last little bit of advice I offer this: listen to others’ complaints, online, in the news, and in person. Since the best place to start on a product or service idea is in something you’re already familiar with, you presumably spend some time reading about that field, visiting sites, blogs, and forums related to it. Well, when you’re there, listen carefully to what others are saying. Listen especially to their complaints and read between the lines, maybe finding something you could make to fix that. The same goes for any other place where people with interests similar to yours gather. Find the hints of frustration and talk of “if onlys” and pay attention to them too. These could be business gold.
The basics: Imagination, investigation, creativity, and strategic imitation; hone these and you’ll be well on your way to success.