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8 simple steps for your next small business idea

Here are 8 simple steps for your next small business idea. How to get the idea and rapidly make it happen when budgets are limited.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts" - Bertrand Russell

Decision-making tools like the N2D Method are powerful stuff but they're only one way a company might become a "digital business". I've been spending a lot of time with small businesses since the last newsletter and, almost as a rule, they're looking for practical advice. So I'll be focusing more on that this year.

In the last newsletter, I told you I was piecing together a set of steps to help businesses improvise more in their planning. This is a synthesis of suggestions by Josh SpectorArvid Kahl and Justin Welsh mainly. They're all worth a follow on Twitter.

Step 1

Create a mindmap of your skills and interests. Consider professional expertise, accomplishments and hobbies.

Step 2

Pick something you excel at and pair it with something you're interested in. Skill + Interest = Idea

Step 3

Hit Google Trends and see how much interest there is in that idea. Is it going up or down? Keep trying different Skill+Interest ideas until you find a promising candidate.

Step 4

What sub-niche might value this idea? You're looking for a really small, focused segment and Google Trends might give you some clues. Where might you find them? You can try searching for idea-related keywords on Reddit, Twitter etc. Try SparkToro too.

Step 5

Try to identify audience pains as quickly as possible. Talking to people is the best way but you can get a sense of it quickly by using a search engine and looking for "[audience] issues".

Step 6

Create a distribution system if you don't already have one. This could be a newsletter, Twitter account, YouTube channel, Facebook group etc. Newsletters tend to be a good option because you maintain control over the data.

Step 7

Allow an audience for your idea to form. This might take some time ;-) Stop interrupting what people are interested in and become what they're interested in. One way to do this is to create short problem-specific or question-specific videos on YouTube. If you find the audience is dealing with a problem or has a common question, pop a video up where you quickly solve that problem or answer the question. Then direct them to your distribution system where you give them more valuable free stuff (standard lead magnet). I recommend ConvertKit for this, but there are loads of options.

Step 8

Keep in contact with the audience and ask them directly what they need. This is related to Step 5 but should give you much greater confidence. Ignore any "I want a faster horse" comments - you're looking for patterns and trends.

I've been following these steps and now have a new focus for my main business, Subsector. I help small companies become digital businesses. It's been a fairly rapid pivot but we're open for business ;-)

I hope you find this useful. I'm happy to chat about my experiences if that's useful.



Here are some things you might find interesting...


If you're trying to get the most out of Twitter, there are a lot of tools available to help. Typefully is a good one for crafting, scheduling and analysing your attempts. You can get a lot of mileage out of the free version.

Free Logos

If you've followed the steps above and come up with a new business idea, grab a free logo for it. This will probably alienate purist designers but you can spend waaaaay too much time agonising over this sort of thing. Just grab a logo and get on with it.

Don't listen to your customers

This article should really be titled "Don't JUST listen to your customers". The main argument is my old favourite: humans aren't rational so take what they say with a pinch of salt. As well as listening, observe behaviour and investigate environmental variables in order to understand motivations.

Subsector Signals

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Digital Operations for SMEs. Do more with less by becoming a digital business. Practical tools and techniques.
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