Three years ago, I had a brilliant idea to start a small online retail business. In these past three years, I have come up with about three different revenue streams within the business. Everyone is constantly telling me I have brilliant ideas, but I’m not making any money. Sales are slow and seem to just trickle in. I feel like I’m constantly trying to come up with a new idea hoping that it will be the one that saves the business, but so far, it’s not happening. What am I doing wrong? I know my concepts are genius, but for some reason, they’re not selling.
Dear Rich Ideas,
One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was starting my business was “find a need and fill it.” Great business isn’t all about genius ideas like we’re made to believe; that’s a romantic ideal. Great business is about coming up with a solution to a need within the marketplace. Now, you can certainly look at products and say, there was no need for them before they were here, but that’s just not true. The truth is that we weren’t aware of the need.
Consider the Snuggie. I don’t think that humans were lamenting that they didn’t have a blanket with armholes before the Snuggie was invented. But, what’s genius about Snuggie is that they brought us awareness of a need we didn’t even know we had. Their marketing made it perfectly clear that a blanket traps you and restricts your freedom to eat popcorn and pick up the phone. Americans responded to the need for freedom and coziness and Snuggie did $500 million in sales their first five years!
Although I don’t know too much about your business or your process, I would guess that the slow sales of your genius products is a result of a poorly defined marketing strategy. We can’t just create products we believe to be genius and then throw them out to the world and assume they’ll be consumed. My guess is that your marketing plan is probably lacking some in-depth analysis about the real need your product is filling.
I have clients who often find it challenging to identify this need.They think the need should be obvious to the consumer or that the need is too silly. You’ve got to stretch yourself here and control the message. Keep in mind if Snuggie had thought that their need was too silly or just obvious, they would never have seen the growth they did.
So stop thinking that all you need is another genius idea to save your business. You just need one genius idea with a brilliant marketing message to connect to your consumer.
Good luck! I’m sure the world will benefit from your genius ideas. You just need to convince us.
Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.
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