What’s the simple secret to creating products and services that sell like crazy?
In 1996, a month after I launched my first website and couldn’t find it in the search engines, I knew I had a problem. I’d spent $34,000 on the site and it was hardly getting any visitors much less generating any income. It was clear I needed to find out how to get it noticed and get it to the top of the search engines so I could start bringing in more traffic.
The answer? I wrote one of the first ebooks on search engine marketing – and it sold like crazy. Not only did I need a simple system for improving my search engine rankings, but so did thousands of others.
In 1999, I was doing some freelance marketing for Fortune Magazine and struggling to research topics for advertorials and to research advertisers. It was incredibly difficult to get the information I knew must be online. Remember this was before Google had become the de facto search engine.
The answer? I created a website that ranked and reviewed search engines and directories for every market niche, primarily for my own use. It took me about two weeks to put the basics of the site together and then I spent an hour or so a week adding reviews.
It turned out, at the time, I wasn’t the only one looking for the best search engines and within 12 months my site was attracting over 300,000 visits a month. And along with the huge number of visitors came a very attractive offer to buy the site.
I’m not sharing these two stories to brag. I just did what legions of other smart entrepreneurs do. They identify a problem they are having, come up with a solution they’d want to use themselves and then share it benefiting everyone involved.
You can do the same!
It’s true, the marketplace is highly competitive, it’s also true that people are always looking for a better solution and happy to pay for it.
Take Jason Freid and David Hansson. They had a fledgling company consisting of a handful of employees. It was a virtual company with their team scattered across the globe and they were looking for a simple way of helping their team work more effectively.
The solution? They created an online application called Basecamp. When their friends heard about it, they wanted to use it too. Pretty soon they had over 300,000 people using it. Since then they’ve added Backpack and Campfire to the toolbox and their small virtual company is bringing in millions in revenue each year.
No big business plan, no big marketing plan – just an interest in solving a problem they had and then selling the solution.
Troy Rhodes, Jr. did the same thing his first year in college. When he sold his textbooks at the end of his first semester for $18, after paying $600 for them he decided there had to be a better way.
The solution? Troy started MyBookBorrow.com, a service where college students can rent textbooks for a nominal fee each semester. A great idea and growing fast.
Ever heard of the outdoor clothing supplier, Patagonia?
It started in much the same way. Back in 1957, the only pitons used for attaching ropes to rock, were made of soft iron and could only be placed once and then were left in the rock. For ambitious climbers like Yvon, this was not only costly but limited the length of the climbs he could undertake.
Yvon realized the solution was a reusable piton. A visit to a junkyard resulted in the purchase of used coal fired forge, a 138 pound anvil and a few blacksmithing tools. Starting with a used harvester blade, he created his first reusable pitons.
The word spread and pretty soon he had a business. Now over 30 years later, his company Patagonia has an annual revenue of about $260 million.
In my office, my bedroom and my study I keep a stack of post it notes. They’re a great way to remind yourself of things to do or make short lists but do you know how they came to be?
In 1970 3M was trying to develop a super strong adhesive. A 3M employee, Spencer Silver was working on the project and came up with a formula that instead of being stronger and stickier, the adhesive was super weak.
Nobody knew what to do with Spencer’s adhesive until one day when another scientist, Arthur Fry was singing in his church choir. He’d placed pieces of paper in his hymnal to mark the pieces for the service but they kept falling out.
Remembering Spencer’s super weak adhesive, back in the lab, he tried coating his hymnal markers with it and found not only did they stay in place, but he could remove them without damaging the hymnal pages. Today the 3M Post-it ® Notes are one of the most popular office products available generating annual sales of $17 billion.
Of course you don’t have to make billions or sell internationally to be a big success. Take Ben Trevits and Cavan Meese of West Glover, Vermont, population 966. Trevits and Meese grew up in this small town which was rich in history but they were always grumbling about the lack of things to do as teenagers.
A few years after leaving West Glover for culinary school and theater design they returned and found that the general store, one of the key gathering places for the community was closing. Trevits and Cavan saw the opportunity to create something they’d always wanted, a place to hang out in town. So they started the Parker Pie, Co. to sell top quality pizza, cooked on stone.
How about you? How can you create top selling products and services?
The key of course is identifying a common problem and then coming up with the solution.
Whether it’s finding information on the Internet, reusable pitons, post it notes, or pizza as a way to bring the community together – there are an infinite number of ideas for making your life and other peoples’ lives better.