Coming Up With Product Ideas

Would You Like 5 Ways to Come Up With Product Ideas?

I'm often asked for advice on product development. How do you come up with good ideas? How do you know if an idea is any good? How do you decide which ideas you'll pursue. If you've been building products for any period of time, you've likely heard these questions asked of you, and you may have even asked them of yourself. So today I want to suggest 5 ways of coming up with product ideas. (You might recall a few of these from my old product innovation post / recording back in 2012.)

Product Idea 1: Product Bundling

I'm going to go old school with many of these examples. So the first one I want to talk about is the VCR / TV issue we all had when I was a kid. You had to buy two devices. Then you had to set one device to broadcast on either channel 3 or 4. Then you had to wire the two devices together. If you wanted to record anything, you had to set the clock manually. And you hoped it all worked.

Until a company came out with a TV/VCR combo that removed all the friction. They followed that ingenious idea with a TV/DVD combo that did the same thing. I know because I bought my parents one.

Product Idea 2: Shift Your Focus

Most of us are always thinking about the customer, their problems, and coming up with product ideas that they would like. But for every customer, there's another person who may already be helping that person. And those folks, the helpers, need their own tools and solutions.

I told you about GoWP the other day. They don't build websites for customers directly. Instead, their customers are the agencies that do work with customers. And so, for them, product ideas don't focus on what the end user needs. They focus on what agencies need.

Sometimes all you need to do is shift your focus.

Product Idea 3: Linking Variables

Do you remember when Dominos said if your pizza took longer than 30 minutes to arrive, it would be free? The time for delivery was one variable. The price was another. And they linked the two.

Or think about basketball – where the distance to the hoop is one variable and the point total is another. They linked the two to create a 3-point line and it changed the nature of the game.

Product Idea 4: Replacement

What if you only build part of the solution and use something else nearby to do the rest of the work. Remember when iPods were first introduced. Car stereos didn't have ports to plug our external devices. So what did some companies produce? One product idea was a device that you'd plug your iPod into and select a radio station channel, and it would broadcast your music to that so that your car was delivering the speakers. Instead of building a complete solution for speakers, they used what was already close by and available and shrunk what they needed to build.

Product Idea 5: Reduction

There's a phone that exists that looks like a smart phone but is way easier to use. It's called the Jitterbug Smart3. If you've never heard of these phones, they were created back when the smart phone was introduced. Their first product line was a flip phone. While everyone was running to more and more complicated computer phones, Jitterbug was making a simple phone. The reduced all the complexity.

And guess what? No one complained.

Mostly because they were focused on a different audience. An elderly crowd who just wanted a simple way to stay in touch.

When you need a product idea, sometimes all you need to do is shrink the product scope and see if there's a different segment for you.

We Could Go On

The truth is that we haven't begun to scratch the surface on how to come up with product ideas. This list could have been 10 or 20. But I don't want to bore you. Just know this, here are five more quick ones:

  1. Looking at Google search trends
  2. Tweak business model factors
  3. Scratch your own itch (my least favorite)
  4. Build a marketplace (the hardest of all models)
  5. Find an existing idea with issues, copy it, and make it better

If you need help coming up with product ideas, you can always reach out.