Do you have a fantastic business idea that you’re passionate about? Passion is a wonderful quality to take into a startup. But pursuing a passion that doesn’t pay can really put you, your business and your family into financial jeopardy.
When you’re looking to start or grow your business in a new area, passion is a critical ingredient; but so is having access to a market that’s willing to pay for what you are offering. Ideally, you’re looking for the intersection of what you love to do and a profitable need in the marketplace.
How to combine your passion and your product for profit
Passion without a profitable market is a dead end for your business. Simply asking What am I passionate about is too broad a question, and it also elicits answers that aren’t very niche-friendly. You might have one-word answers like children, animals, art, and woodworking—these are all passions, but they aren’t exactly niche markets.
Asking what you’re committed to is a much better question. If you answer this question as a full sentence you will get much closer to a profitable market niche. I’m committed to women thriving after divorce or I’m committed to helping people enjoy golf or, in the case of Southwest Airlines, “Giving everyone the opportunity to fly," or, in the case of Federal Express, "Getting your package there overnight."
The intersection of passion, product and profit isn’t always obvious. In fact, it can be elusive and downright frustrating—but not impossible. Here’s a process that you can use to discover a product offering that you can sell profitably.
1. Brainstorm your passions and commitments
Use sticky notes or index cards and challenge yourself to come up with at least 10 areas that you are passionate about. If you’re feeling stuck, you can create a list of complaints, because complaints usually come out of an area of your life that you are passionate about or are committed to. Don’t judge or edit. Just write one passion, commitment or complaint per index card. The name of the game is quantity.
2. Generate a list of features or areas of expertise
Pull out another batch of sticky notes or index cards and list product features that you offer or areas of experience or expertise that you have. Again, you’re not judging or editing—just listing.
3. Generate a list of potential markets
Create a list of all the people and circumstances that might benefit from your product or service.
However, it’s not enough to simply identify a product and a market. You have to research where there is profit potential. A lot of marketers will tell you to find an empty niche where you can take up all the market share. That’s terrific if you have a huge promotional budget to support getting the word out. Instead, look for niches where people are already buying. Use these free resources to fish for products and services that are high profit and in high demand.
1. Google search
Start searching on the items or words you listed as features, your areas of expertise or specific target markets. Notice how many Google ads there are for this topic area. If there are lots of sponsored ads, people are successfully selling products in that area. Take a moment to click on the ads and notice what people are selling and how much they are charging.
2. Google Adwords
Now search Google’s Keyword Tool for phrasing ideas around your product or the problem that your customer is having that they might enter into Google to find a solution for. Do not look at the number of hits. Rather focus on the phrasing that people are using to find information.
3. eBay and ClickBank.com
There is a huge difference between searching on Google and searching on eBay. Today’s top search term on Google is Frank McCourt (who is seeking approval to sell the Dodgers). Today’s top term on eBay is “Nintendo DS." This alone tells you that people who search on Google are looking for information and people who search on eBay are looking to buy something. ClickBank.com is almost like eBay where affiliate marketers buy and sell a variety of products. It’s a terrific indicator of which products people are buying and paying for.
Amazon.com is another market research goldmine for popular topics. Search in the best-selling books on your topic and see what you find. If there are tons of entries, you are in the right direction. Now start looking at the top sellers and what it is about them that is so appealing to so many people.
Play around with word combinations and use what you’ve learned in your searches to further refine your ideas. Go back to your brainstorming index cards and mix and match them for new ideas. Look at examples of what’s being offered in these markets and look for what’s missing that you can add that will bring new value to a market that’s already buying products in these areas.
When you think you’ve had enough, keep going
Don’t give up on turning your passion into a profitable business. While it’s possible that you will come up with a profitable product for a profitable market niche within minutes, it will probably take a little more effort than you counted on. Give yourself time to do the research and evaluate each of your ideas.
There is nothing that will bring more joy and satisfaction to you and to your customers than to be fully engaged in doing what you love most. Use these research tools to make sure that you will be spending your time not only doing what you love, but making money at it.