Not every idea will make a good business. The next step is to understand which of our ideas has the right potential to take the next step.
I’m not looking at potential revenue yet, we’ll look at that next week. What interests us is whether the idea has one or more routes though which we can make money.
It’s important to understand that this process involves making assumptions in the absence of hard data. We’ll do our best but there is no guarantee we’ll get it right. Such is entrepreneurship.
Let’s start by organizing the ideas we came up with. If you haven’t gone through the idea generation process, do that first. We’ll be building on that as we go.
There’s a lot to unpack so let’s dig in.
- An Analytical Approach To Evaluating Your Business Ideas
- Business Examples To Inspire You
- Current Experiment
- This Week’s Featured Tool
An Analytical Approach To Evaluating Your Business Ideas
Once I have a collection of ideas I like to organize things in a spreadsheet. I don’t start there because it’s too easy to edit as we’re generating ideas, which defeats the purpose of brainstorming. But once we have our brainstorming done the spreadsheet is a great way to organize things.
Feel free to make a copy of the Google Sheets template I use. The rest of this process will be using that sheet.
Everything you need to know is below but this video is designed to help you with the thought process behind some of the concepts that are more difficult to put into writing.
Step 1: Drop Your Ideas Into the Appropriate Column of the Brainstorm Tab
Each of the sections we captured ideas for has a corresponding column in the spreadsheet.
As a reminder those are:
- Where I spend my time and money (a.k.a. “Take My Money”)
- Things I’m Good At
- Pain Points
- Trending Topics
- Gaps I see
I’ve also added a column for “Specialized Knowledge.” This where you’ll capture specialized training, a college degree, or deep experience you have.
Step 2: Align Your Ideas
Next, move to the “Organize” tab. We’re gong to spend a bit of time on this tab. You’ll notice the same columns from “Brainstorm” are present. But here, each cell is a drop down that pulls from the corresponding column in the Brainstorm tab.
Your task is to go through and align ideas across columns. You will repeat some items as they align with more than one item in any given column.
For example: Select the first item from your Take My Money column and align it with any item that fits in the Things I’m good at column.
In the example sheet, I aligned Art with Teaching. In the next row I aligned Art with Photography. To me these make sense as I can see a business made from teaching Art or one by specializing in photographing Art.
Work your way across and select items from each drop down that line up in your mind. There is plenty of room for creative interpretation here.
As you go through the process, you’ll likely think of different ways to combine different things. The goal is to fill out the ”Concept” column at the far right which is the result of how those selections line up. We’ll get to this in Step 3.
Watching the video above will REALLY help if you haven’t already watched it.
I also find it helpful to go through the exercise then come back to it a day later and look at it with fresh eyes.
Also, not every column will have a selection in every row. Line things up as best you can and don’t agonize over empty cells.
Some concepts will overlap, and might combine into one idea.
Last but not least, feel free to go back and add things to the Brainstorm tab if they pop into your mind. I often find while walking through this process new ideas come to me.
Step 3: Creating The Business Concept
In this step we look for commonalities and opportunities. This is very subjective so get creative!
To start select the entire sheet by clicking in the top left corner, then go to Data > Sort Range.
Click the “Data has headers” box.
Sort by column “Take My Money” and A->Z. Then click sort.
This will group our ideas in a way that’s easier to scan while developing concepts.
Apply a concept to the combination of ideas from your brainstorm. This may not be the final business but it’s the beginning of one.
For example, in the video you’ll notice the first five rows all start with “Art.” Based on the research I did I see a few opportunities to do something in Art.
For example, I can combine my love of art with my abilities to teach, present (video), write, and build websites. The outcome idea would be to create an eCommerce site that sells art projects for kids and adults.
Again, watch the video above for more details on the thought process. The bottom line is there is a convergence of my interests, skills, market trends, and pain points that lead me to this opportunity.
You’ll notice I don’t have specialized knowledge around art and haven’t identified any gaps. The goal isn’t to have something in every column, it’s to have as many as make sense.
The more you have the stronger the indicator for opportunity but don’t feel like it has to be 100% all the way across.
P.S. In the ”Concept” column, each concept should be unique. Even if there are several rows that line up to one idea, only record a unique concept next to one corresponding row. We don’t want repeat data, you’ll see why in Step 4.
Last but not least, sort the “Organize” tab again, using the same sort you used before but instead sort by column “Concepts.”
Step 4: Switch to the Concepts Tab
Your ideas should already be there lined up on the left. Now we’re going to try to figure out which of those concepts has potential.
You’ll see columns D through K as follows:
- Physical Products
- Paid Subscription
- Paid Community
- I.P. (Intellectual Property)
- Affiliate Sales
- Paid Events
Next to each concept, under each of the above column headers, put an “x” in the box if you think it applies to that concept as a way to make money.
Using my Art example from Step 3, I put an “x” next to Courses, Physical Products, Paid Subscriptions, I.P., and Affiliate Sales.
Again, watch the video for why I chose those.
I see potential revenue streams for those things in my concept.
I don’t see an opportunity (or it’s a stretch) to generate revenue from Sponsorship, Paid Community, and Paid Events.
Do this for each of your concepts. The score at the far left represents the number of x’s in each row. The more x’s the more revenue streams we see.
When you’re done, sort this sheet by the “Rank” column in descending order (Z->A). The ideas with the highest rank should be at the top of your list.
Whew! That is a lot of analysis but the good news is a lot of the work gets done for you as you go through it. You get to do the fun part and think about the business opportunities.
We’ll come back to the Concepts tab next week when we walk about revenue. We’ll determine if a concept has the potential to make at least $1M per year.
If you made it this far, great job!
Business Examples To Inspire You
Founded by Katie Wells, Wellness Mama is a business dedicated to helping naturally minded moms.
Katie started Wellness Mama as a one-person business building it to 7-figures+ before hiring her first employee around year 6.
She went on to raise capital to accelerate growth so she could help even more people.
Her key lessons in growing the business:
- Documented processes are paramount. They’ll free up your time to focus on more strategic/creative endeavors.
- Always stay focused on delivering value to your audience and customers.
- Hire for culture, train for skills.
- Take care of yourself so you have the energy to do this. That means eating well, getting enough sleep, and some kind of exercise.
40 – 54
This week I got connected with Louis Nicholls from SparkLoop. I followed his suggestion (just once so far) and picked up 4 of the 14 new subscribers in 1 day. I’ll be doing more of that for sure. If you want to see his specific recommendations, just click the link above.
- Improving SEO of existing content. One week in and traffic is flat. That said, SEO takes time, this will payoff in the long run.
- Letting friends and family know about the newsletter. I planned planing that on Monday but Snowstorm Texas hit and power has been intermittent, so we’ll focus on that next week.
- Social promotion (will go heavier on that soon). I started social promotion on Twitter with daily tweets. Tweets are repurposed segments from the newsletter, or curated content pieces that relate. Consistency will be key here but I know it drove at least a couple of new subscribers this week.
- Building a dedicated landing page for the newsletter. I have a basic page for now but want to build something to knock it out of the park. It’s a work in progress but I’ll let you know when it’s done. That will likely turn into one of these experiments.
This Week’s Featured Tool
As you know from our current experiment I’m focused on building the email list.
I track editorial flow and calendar using Trello. It’s free and flexible for any number of uses. I have this newsletter planned out for 6-months in Trello.
For each newsletter, there is a card in Trello and in that card is the concept for that week’s newsletter. The tweets I use to promote it, curated content I capture, and tool of the week are all captured on that same card.
Trello makes it very easy to keep everything in one place.
The base level of the tool is free (which is the one I use).
If you haven’t used Trello, I can’t recommend it enough.
If enough people ask by leaving a comment, I’ll do a post on how I use it for editorial management.