Every business needs something big that is unique and compelling to sell. Having this unique, compelling idea is at the core of your business. Without it, you can’t proceed. How do you know what to market, to sell? How do you know who to sell it to? And where?
Some marketing types refer to this concept as a “Unique Selling Proposition,” with the emphasis on unique. But I prefer “Big Idea” because it must be an idea big enough to encompass an entire business.
John Deere, a blacksmith in Illinois, invented a new kind of plow, and formed a company to sell it in 1837. Today, John Deere (the company) sells a wide variety of farm implements. That’s a Big Idea.
How do I create a Big Idea?
As you think about possible ideas, you’ll need to include these factors:
- A unique product or service. It must be something that is unlike anything else out there. If it’s the same as everyone else’s product, why would anyone want to buy yours?
- A defined set of customers to sell to. This is what’s called your Target Market. Knowing who your potential customers are helps you know how to market your product or service.
- A place to sell your product or service. Will you sell on the internet? In a retail store? Through a distributor or wholesaler?
- A vision of how your Big Idea can be expandable. This is what makes is a BIG idea as opposed to just an idea. You can have just one thing to sell, but it should be expandable (the hot word right now is “scalable”) to more products or services.
An Example of a Big Idea
Heather Saffer loves desserts. Especially cakes and cupcakes and the “piece of cake with the extra frosting.” She tried several unsuccessful cupcake businesses until she finally hit on what looked like a winner: Dollop – a preservative-free, gluten-free line of frostings. She took her Dollop idea to Shark Tank and won.
Heather sold through a retail store, which she closed in 2012 to concentrate on selling online as Dollop Gourmet Frosting (www.dollopgourmet.com). She also has a book in the works.
Dollop meets all the criteria for a Big Idea:
Her products are unique – no one else (yet) was making preservative-free frostings.
She researched to understand her potential customers: people who want “organic” but still want sweet things.
She found a place to sell, first in a retail store, then expanding to online and side products.
Know Your Customer – Key to Crafting Your Big Idea
You must know your customer and how you will uniquely meet their needs. If you’re not aware of your customer’s needs, then you certainly can’t know how you are uniquely positioned to meet those needs. Creating your Big Idea is much easier, not to mention more effective, when you know your target customer.
Here’s another great example of a successful Big Idea, from Kathryn Hendershot-Hurd, web designer and consultant:
Blackboard is one of the largest technology companies focusing on harnessing the power of the internet to benefit education. Blackboard is not the only company offering Internet solutions to educators, but it’s one of the most successful. The key to Blackboard’s success is that they know their customer. By being intimately involved with educators, Blackboard’s founder was able to craft not only a product specifically for his target market, but marketing messages that appealed directly to them as well.
By focusing on the benefits offered by the software to educators and students alike, the Blackboard software had created compelling messages about its product. By offering solutions, to their target audience’s specific problems, Blackboard’s software is the undisputed leader in the Internet/education revolution.
Knowing your customer is the key to developing your business Big Idea. Knowing their problems and your solutions will help you to craft compelling messages that focus on the benefits from the customer’s point of view.
Don’t Get Distracted From Your Big Idea
It’s really easy to get distracted with other opportunities. People will come to you with ideas: “Try this one.” “How about going in this direction too?” Going away from your Big Idea causes you to lose focus, and it can mean you don’t concentrate on the core of your business. Getting too spread out too quickly is a common reason businesses fail.
Getting away from your Big Idea also confuses customers, and confused customers don’t buy.
Proctor and Gamble started out selling soap (actually, candles) and expanded into other baby and family products. But recently the company decided to get rid of about 100 brands, to focus on their core products. Even big companies have to re-focus on their Big Idea and core market.
Stay with your core products or services. It’s simpler, and more Frugal.
Your Big Idea as an Elevator Speech
You may have heard of an elevator speech. Imagine you are in an elevator for a few minutes with someone and that person sees a logo on your polo shirt. “What’s that?” she asks. And you say, “That’s the logo for my business. We …”
There’s your opportunity to pitch your Big Idea. In 30 seconds or less.
There’s a specific formula for this elevator speech:
- Say the name of your company
- Describe your Big Idea in a few words,
- Tell who you are selling to, and
- How/where you are selling it.
For example, my elevator speech would be
“Frugal Business Secrets helps small businesses become successful by saving money, working smart, and simplifying. I communicate with them through my newsletter, a book series, and online courses.”
It looks simple, but I’ve been working on this for a long time. Mindtools has some good tips for creating and practicing your elevator speech.
First a Firm Idea, Then the Business
Don’t start your business without a clear idea of your Big Idea. If you head in the wrong direction, it will cost a lot of time and money to get back on track. And that’s not good for your Frugal Business.
Here’s to your Frugal Business success!