We typically talk about new ways of approaching a market. That is, of course, not the only way to compete differently. You could come at the market the way people did in Grandma's time. In other words, you can compete differently by offering things that nobody does any more.

Four quick examples.

House calls. Having the doctor come to you, as opposed to you schlepping to the doctor, is clearly a way of adding value to a commodity. The commodity in this case is the doctor's visit. The value you have added is the convenience of the doctor coming to you.

(Obviously, you could apply this approach to every situation where you are now requiring the customer to come to you. Why do you have to take the car to the dealership for repairs, for example? Couldn't they deliver the loaner to you, driving back to the dealership in your car?)

Another idea is a variation on the narrowcasting. Suppose you were to start a radio station that once again had dramas, mysteries or comedies, as they did in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. (Yes, such a channel exists on Sirius-XM, but I am talking about creating a free channel on the AM or FM dial.) Given the diversity of the radio audience, it might work.

Service, service, service. Grandma didn't pump her own gas. A service attendant did. She didn't get own groceries when she went to the store. A clerk fetched everything she needed. At the department store, a salesperson would get her everything she want to see or try on. Where can you re-introduce service to your business.

Bring back the Bailey Savings and Loan. Remember how Jimmy Stewart's bank was run in It's a Wonderful Life? You got your loan based on your character and you made your deposits because you knew your money would be loaned out to your neighbors. There wasn't a whole lot of talk about interest rates in the film--in fact, I don't remember any--and I am betting even back then you could find someone who might give you a better deal than old Jimmy.

But the idea of a truly local bank where transactions are handled by someone who knows who you are has got to resonate with a large number of people. Would they give up getting an extra 0.25% on their savings and pay an extra 0.125% on their loans for all this? You would have to think a certain percentage of people would.

In all of these examples, the "secret" is simple. Ask yourself: What did people use to enjoy that isn't being done any more. Once you come up with an answer, you have discovered a way to compete differently.

Then before you take another step, go to a representative sample of your potential market and ask them if they will pay for what you want to develop? (In other words, you want to know if you can make the idea work economically

But the moral here is clear: Searching For A New Entrepreneurial Idea? Look Backwards.





Published on: Jan 22, 2015
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