In his book "Maverick Startup," serial entrepreneur Yanik Silver lays out his "X Factors" for turning your big idea into a profitable business, without taking on debt, partners or even a business plan. In the following excerpt, Silver guides readers through X-Factor No. 1: Developing a big idea.
If you don't have a big idea, you simply fade into the background like every other "me too" product or service. It's not always about having a proprietary product or service. This is really more about positioning and a prospect's immediate reaction to your product.
That's one of the key elements of the big idea -- gut reaction. With our world being busier than ever, people usually don't have time to explore absolutely everything about a product or service. We use shortcuts for our decision-making. The more clearly you can distinguish your product or service, the better you'll do in the crowded marketplace.
Working on your big idea is critical and means the difference between a "base hit" or a "home run" product. What follows are five major things I keep in mind when coming up with a big idea or hook.
- Give them the fish. I can't overemphasize this idea. People are lazy; cater to it. Everyone knows the saying: "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach him to fish, you feed him for life."
Let me give it to you straight: People want the fish handed to them on their plate, grilled perfectly with some seasonal vegetables on the side. Look at Home Depot, the world's largest "do it yourself" company. It started buying up companies to provide services for consumers, and their CEO thinks the "done for you" services will eclipse their current sales.
I've had big success with "giving people the fish," including my first online product, www.InstantSalesLetters.com. The whole hook is in the headline on the site: "In only 2½ Minutes You Can Quickly and Easily Create a Sales Letter Guaranteed to Sell Your Product or Service. . ." That hook has been responsible for my first million-dollar idea with a little $40 to $50 product.
- Make your promise specific. Specifics are so important but usually completely overlooked because it's much easier to make a generic promise. However, a specific promise or a specific target market makes your marketing that much more powerful.
One of my winners has been an e-book called "33 Days to Online Profits," which I co-wrote with Jim Edwards. I believe that brand has been kept alive because of the very specific hook in the title. Each day you are given a homework assignment, so it's a day-by-day course for 33 days.
At first we'd planned to call it "30 Days to Online Profits," but decided on "33" because it was specific and credible. If the title had been "30 Days to Online Profits," it wouldn't be as successful since 30 is a "normal" number.
- Go in the opposite direction. I love this. However, I don't suggest being different just for the sake of being different, but there is a lot to be said for zigging when others zag.
My biggest example of this is the "Underground" online seminar concept I developed. Every year I bring in unknown speakers who were really succeeding online. It's not the usual suspects you'd see at other seminars. And each year the event has sold out weeks in advance.
Think about when Volkswagen Beetle first came to the U.S. with their "Think Small" campaign in 1960. It was the era of big cars and automakers were trying to outdo themselves by building bigger and bigger cars. But the VW Beetle quickly became a blockbuster because it went in the opposite direction. The campaign was so powerful that AdAge magazine named it No. 1 in its "Top 100 Advertising Campaigns" list.
- Move to a new application. Many times you can create a great hook by simply taking one successful hook and using it elsewhere. For example, the time-shares concept has been successfully applied to private jets, exotic cars, luxury second homes, yachts and even vineyards.
- Be first. Sometimes the most important thing you can do is to simply be the first. Time-shares and Club Med were the very first in their category.
If you are moving into a crowded marketplace, you can slice off a piece of that market to be first. Hedonism took Club Med's concept of all-inclusive resorts and geared it toward singles. Sandals resorts niched the all-inclusive concept again, this time for romantic couples.
If you start thinking about these points for creating the big idea or a hook, you’ll begin to notice ideas everywhere. Plus, you’ll see how successful products and services are, in many ways, takeoffs on other successful concepts that came before them.
Related: How to Research Your Business Idea
Yanik Silver, a serial entrepreneur based in Potomac, Md., is the author of Maverick Startup: 11 X-Factors to Bootstrap From Zero to Six Figures and Beyond from Entrepreneur Press.