Marketing Planet

Finding your business idea


This is the first of a series of articles about ImFusio’s creation from a marketing point of view. More about this series.

Good ideas always seem obvious… afterwards!

How often have you thought to yourself, when faced with an innovative product or service: "But of course! This is so clever and simple, what a brilliant idea!"?

But have you ever thought of how ideas come first?

Most people will think that these entrepreneurs have probably been struck by lightening or chance at one specific moment of their life, and right on the spot understood the potentiality in this great and very obvious idea. Consequently, on a personal basis, we have a tendency to push away our entrepreneurial ambition, simply because we are waiting for «The Big Idea».

Well, reality is quite different, and this is the first paradox in the process of launching a business: there is no such thing as an obvious idea striking you… Innovation is a process, and it’s a full time job!

Finding your business idea means deploying all the existing marketing tools and theories that you have at hand.

Finding the right business idea: a full time job

Let us give you a little background on our business options:

  • We did not have enough cash to invest in an existing company or finance a technological breakthrough
  • We did not own a patent that could turn us into rich people right away. We did not have any patent actually
  • But we had time ahead of us (a luxury in the business of launching a business), a strong experience in business services and consulting, and the necessary energy and enthusiasm to launch a company.

This situation analysis helped us focus our search in specific directions. To re-interpret Sun Tzu’s Art of War, we had to find an idea were we could capture our market – a spot that nobody’s touched yet. And we had to ensure that whatever the offering, it would either be too niche to be challenged by market leaders, or innovative enough to build good leads before competitors react.
In other words, our overall strategy to find the right business idea was to look for underserved elements in a given market.

We had to phase the search, from the more general to the very specific, and follow different tracks in parallel.

Phase 1: curiosity and acute observation

Your best tools: your eyes and a critical mindset. Whatever you do, wherever you are, observe what is going on, analyse the processes in action, and search for ruptures, missing elements, discomfort, unexpected reactions, the difference between what your pre-conceived ideas and what actually happened, etc… You would be surprised how simple it is. And how quickly it becomes a game where you find yourself having 10 good ideas per day.

Phase 2: filtering

10 ideas a day, that’s 50 a week, if you decide to close your eyes during the weekend! In the search for your business idea, quantity is reassuring but not productive. Therefore you need to be able to establish a shortlist of ideas, evolving according to dropouts and new coming ideas.
When faced with too many ideas, we started to build a selection grid. We built it by following Sun Tzu’s wisdom: we had to look for underserved elements of a given market. Our grid was built around selection criteria for any ‘given’ market!

  • Our competences
  • Our business experience
  • Our investment power
  • Our personal and professional objectives

It was key at this point to link our personal subjectivity/ one cannot be successful if he/she is not passionate about his business. This first grid helped us sort out the best 20%.

Phase 3: marketing analysis

That selection was then analyzed deeper, following marketing theory.

  • Market environment: market in decline or growth, mature or immature, concentrated or not, evolving (innovating) or not, etc.
  • Competitors,
  • Customer targets,
  • Distribution network,
  • Etc…

Based on the above information, we used a SWOT analysis on each idea to see if we were able to see a major weakness or strength in our proposition. It was also a matter of going deeper into each option, and find its relevancy… or not! An apparently revolutionary idea can turn out to be inapplicable when you start looking into details.

Phase 4: the choice – when marketing theory cannot help

Marketing theory will help you greatly in the process described above. But if it is a decision tool, it is not taking the decision. Furthermore, marketing analysis is as good as the information you feed it with.

Because in a process of building a business you do not have the necessary time and money to build on 4 or 5 different options, you will need to make a choice using a very strong feature that no machine can have: intuition.

The beauty of Intuition

Intuition is very powerful, but certainly not very easy to manage. It is a quite surprising tool, because it helped us make the right choice, but took us through very long curves before we were able to center ourselves on what ImFusio is about today.

Our initial intuition was to help Japanese tourists have a true French experience when coming to Paris, by giving them an alternative to tour-operators and groups. We wanted to manage furnished flats and include references to Japanese lifestyle so that they could enjoy a French way of life without anxiety.

12 months later, ImFusio is specialized in international training and consulting for international managers and for their families. Our fields of practice include international mobility (going on expatriation, for a short or a long term), and multicultural management (running international / multicultural teams and building synergies on a multi-country level).

The road from A to B was not a straight road, but the initial intuition was the right one: help people (Japanese tourists, managers or their families) adapt and enjoy an experience abroad or a multicultural experience.

Conclusion

Finding the right business idea is a full time job: it is a little bit like building marketing cases all day long. It uses all the tools that you have learned in college. It is very rewarding and very frustrating at the same time: you have a lot of ideas, then you have a few good ideas, and excellent or applicable ideas become very scarce.
And in the end, if marketing theory is a key component, nothing or nobody will decide but you. And this decision is a compilation of rational elements as much of what constitutes you: your past, your experience, your beliefs, your interests, your opinions, your culture, your vision, your conviction… It took us approximately 1 month to find and agree on a project that motivated us both. We then had approximately 6 months of work to come to what we do today. Overall, we can say that the project changed 3 to 4 times before becoming a company, during a 9-month period.

Let your intuition speak; don’t be afraid to not grasp 100% of the reasons that pushed you to launch a given idea on a given market!

Tips

  • Always keep a pen and notebook with you. Ideas are like shooting stars; they come and go in seconds.
  • Do not limit your ambition at this stage: think big, there is plenty of time to shrink your ambition.
  • Search the web: there is hundreds of free information about new customer tendencies, product innovation, etc.

Web sites and book references

Read also the next article of the ImFusio Chronicle: Market Research… or the search for a market!