Get All Access for $5/mo

A Surprising and Unlikely Place to Look for Product Ideas When you invent with the market in mind, you set yourself up for success.

By Stephen Key Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There are many ways of coming up with new ideas. Everyone has his or her own little method.

When I quit the toy startup I had been working at to start my own design firm early on in my career, I forced myself to come up with dozens of new product ideas a day for months. Creativity wasn't this special thing that struck me from time to time -- it was work, and I approached it like that.

Back in the day, I would walk the aisles of local stores for inspiration. These days, a wealth of information can be accessed with the click of a mouse. You don't have to wonder what consumers wish was better about the products they use. It's all right there! I'm talking about product reviews, particularly those found on Amazon. There are just so many.

Related: 7 Simple Ways to Start Your Dream Business Today

Clearly, people love to complain. The Internet has provided us with the largest forum in the world to air our grievances when a product does not live up to its marketing copy. For a product developer, these reviews are gold. They offer a wealth of insight.

Not all reviews are helpful, of course. Some people just enjoy being nasty, unfortunately. Forget those people. They're just venting, and what you're looking for is constructive criticism. I love a good long complaint about why a product didn't work well. There are nuggets of gold lying around. Mine them.

What do consumers appreciate about a certain product? What do they value? What angers and frustrates them enough to write a review? What do they wish was different?

Look at the reviews as an online focus group. Maybe the product was poorly constructed. Maybe it broke. Maybe it could be made out of a better material. Read positive reviews to discover why some products are better than others.

Do consumers think a specific product is well worth the price? Why? You can learn a lot about a micro-category simply by actively reading reviews.

Related: 5 Ways to Know If Your Business Idea Is Brilliant or a Bust

When you start studying any marketplace, take a look around. How crowded is the category? I like to look for sleeping dinosaurs -- products that have been around forever but haven't really changed. Sleeping dinosaurs are ripe for innovation. Modifying them in the simplest of ways can be lucrative.

For example, years ago, I observed that guitar picks had looked the same for nearly 80 years. Why had no one thought to personalize them? A friend and I founded a successful business that ended up selling guitar picks in all sorts of shapes, including vampires, ghouls and Mickey Mouse.

If you end up designing an improvement to an existing product based on what you read, identifying a potential licensee couldn't be easier. For starters, I'd call the company that sells the product to tell them you've solved a problem -- all from the comfort of your home.

More often than not, inventors come up with an idea based on a problem they experience personally. That's fine. But I always have to wonder, "Is it a problem others experience as well? Are they willing to pay for a solution?"

When you study the marketplace for inspiration, you don't have to wonder. The answers are right there.

Related: Where Will You Find Your Next Great Idea?

Stephen Key

Co-Founder of inventRight; Author of One Simple Idea Series

Stephen Key is an inventor, IP strategist, author, speaker and co-founder of inventRight, LLC, a Glenbrook, Nevada-based company that helps inventors design, patent and license their ideas for new products.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Side Hustle

The Side Hustle He Started in His College Apartment Turned Into a $70,000-a-Month Income Stream — Then Earned Nearly $2 Million Last Year

Kyle Morrand and his college roommates loved playing retro video games — and the pastime would help launch his career.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

A Former Corporate Lawyer Now Makes Six Figures on YouTube — Here's How She Does It

Here are the secrets to starting and growing a successful YouTube channel, according to a YouTuber with millions of subscribers.

Growing a Business

How to Determine The Ideal Length of Your Marketing Emails Your Customers Will Actually Read

Wondering how long your marketing emails should be? Here's what consumers say — so you can send them exactly what they like.

Business News

Y Combinator Helped Launch Reddit, Airbnb and Dropbox. Here's What I Learned From Its Free Startup School.

The famed startup accelerator offers a free course on building a business — and answers five pressing questions for founders.