Tweaking Your Original Idea
Don't get so set on an idea that you fail to consider other ways to beef up your offerings.
Q: My idea is to help elderly people sell their cars fast. I often see cars parked in driveways for months with a "For Sale" sign in the window. I would like to place ads about the vehicle on seven major car-selling Web sites. If the person is interested in the car, they would contact the seller. Why elderly? Many of them don't even own a computer, so they can't place ads on those Web sites. My cost would be about $50 to place an ad, and I was thinking of charging a client about $75. Do you think this idea will work?
A: The idea of helping people accomplish a task quickly and efficiently is always a good one, no matter what kind of industry or market you're dealing with. This is why service businesses tend to do well--people will pay money to have something done, whether it's out of necessity, the need to save time or whatever the case may be.
The question in your particular case is more about how to structure your service so that elderly people know they are getting a good bargain. In other words, will it be enough to place ads for them? It might be true that many elderly people don't own computers, but there are other ways to advertise--newspapers and The Auto Trader, for instance. And even people who don't own a computer often know people (friends, family members) who do.
You might think about how you can provide a complete service to customers rather than simply place ads for them. If you are only placing ads, the customer still has to do the rest of the work of taking phone calls, showing people the car for sale and handling the sale of the car. I suspect that many of the cars you see sitting in driveways for months are not necessarily the result of anyone not having a computer, but rather the result of the owner not wanting to devote any time to actively selling his or her car. If I were selling my car, for instance, and I didn't have the inclination to go through the selling process, I would gladly hand over XX dollars to have someone handle all the details for me. It's the same concept as selling your home. A realtor steps in and does the dirty work.
You could become a kind of "realtor" for used car sales. And you wouldn't have to just target elderly customers, although you could always start with that target group, see what kind of response you get and expand from there. Why not extend your service to anyone looking to sell a car? Handling everything from placing ads to getting the paperwork together, you could charge a flat rate that will allow you to provide a superior service as well as draw a profit. (See "Learn More" for help in pricing your service.)
I always think the true test for a product or service's potential success is whether you think you would use this product or service and why. Imagine you are selling your car, and think about how you would want someone to handle it if you were to pay them money to do so. Talk to friends and family, too, for their input. Good luck to you.
Karen E. Spaeder is editor of Entrepreneur.com and managing editor of Entrepreneur magazine.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.
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