Author Topic: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?  (Read 2525 times)

ChpBstrd

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What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« on: July 06, 2018, 09:59:37 AM »
I'm trying to come up with high-growth product ideas, but it's hard to get excited about the prospects for products/services I would never buy. I just read Tim Ferris' "The 4 Hour Workweek" and like the outcomes he achieved. However, his product was a pseudoscientific, i.e. fake, "dietary supplement" sold to rubes at GNC. I see other people making money on crap like rented car rims, e-cigarettes, junk food, social media, fashion, luxury objects, etc.

It's almost like you'd need to have contempt for your customers in order to market this stuff to them. I could entertain contempt for my customers, but it seems like that sort of negativity would weigh on my morale after a while. Is the point of my life to part fools from their money and bankrupt families led by people with low financial literacy? Ooo... how inspiring.

Meanwhile, essential industries like food, shelter, transportation, healthcare, etc. are so established the margins and growth are nearly flat. Apartments in my area offer a whopping 4-5% ROE. The restaurant and grocery markets are saturated spaces where mature companies and chains eat most new entrants (70% restaurant death rate). In transportation, we would all be better off with e-bikes, but most people seem uninterested in changing their expensive car habits and it's hard to see where a very small startup could add value other than as a vulnerable middleman. Healthcare products/services seem to require scale beyond my means to produce, market, and comply with regulations unless you're relabeling Chinese placebo pills as "male enhancement".

I know, wah wah. But my thought is: What if all business models that deliver something of value - something people actually need to improve their lives - have been fully exploited to the limits of available technology and reduced to low margins and flat growth? What if almost all small business exponential growth occurs in either technology or faddish waste-of-money ripoff products and services no one actually needs or benefits from? (looking at you, check cashing places, weight loss pill marketers, energy drink makers, poop emoji sculpure manufacturers, and golf cart chrome accessory marketers)

I'm sure some businesses deliver value and contribute positively to their customers' well-being, but can they grow quickly? Have all our needs been met?

swashbucklinstache

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Re: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2018, 10:47:26 AM »
I could entertain an argument where new businesses that thrive are generally one or more of:

1) involving new technology to meet previously un-meetable needs [you covered this]
2) meeting already-met needs more efficiently, often also using new technology
3) creating "need" and meeting it. To me this is most often directly or indirectly meeting emotional need [often harming consumers, you covered this]
4) not doing any of those and either accepting lower return or risking life on the margins [you covered this]

What about door #2? I'm thinking of something like Uber, where the tech itself was really far from innovative. This is also a bit of door #3. Or, what about being the first small handyman business in the area to offer online bookings, appointments, and integrating everything into an accounting software? Maybe that takes your 4% ROI business and turns it into a 10% ROI business because you get more customers online, and spend less money on invoicing, scheduling, and accountancy. I know someone who did exactly this in a similar business line and has been very successful.

hodedofome

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Re: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2018, 09:07:38 PM »
I just saw a ‘frog ramp’ on Amazon that sells like hot cakes. It helps frogs get out of the pool on their own so they don’t get stuck and die. It had almost 900 4.5* reviews.

There are still things to come up with that make money and solve someone’s seemingly silly problem.

lost_in_the_endless_aisle

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Re: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2018, 11:14:57 PM »
Hats for your feet--so your feet don't get sunburned when you're shoe-less at the beach. Think about it!

GuitarStv

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Re: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2018, 08:11:24 AM »
I have been kicking around a 100% guaranteed winning idea for the past 10 - 15 years.

The cell phone subwoofer.

Basically it's a 15 inch subwoofer (using neodynium magnets to make it lighter) backpack with a light weight lithium ion battery and connects to your cellphone via bluetooth.

You know how there is a large group of assholes who "forget" to turn off their cellphones during meetings, classes, theater performances, quiet restaurant dinners, etc. because they want to be the center of attention?  This is like their holy grail.

BrightFIRE

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Re: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2018, 10:14:10 AM »
A friend and I have joked for years that we're going to open a tattoo removal and hearing aid shop. It's going to be the hip thing in about 20 years.

kontrakode

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Re: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2018, 10:15:04 PM »
I think there's often a place for high quality / high convenience versions of existing products or services. There are a bunch of lazy people out there willing to pay top dollar for the product or service that best meets their needs with minimal effort. Similarly, there are plenty of busy people who value their time more than attempting to find the lowest price.

HipGnosis

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Re: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2018, 11:08:01 AM »
I relate and applaud your ideal to not take advantage of your customers for profit.

There is value (ie profit margin) to sell common things in not so common locations and times.   Convenience stores, bodegas, hot dog carts, food trucks, airport stores and sports stadium wandering food and beer sellers are proof of this.

ChpBstrd

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Re: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2018, 12:36:40 PM »
The vast majority of people are living their lives in ways they don’t want to be to some extent, which means literally almost everyone is a rich, untapped market for something actually useful.

I fully agree that most people are living semi-miserable lives. This is somehow true despite living in an era with luxuries galore, choices everywhere, opportunities abounding, and plenty of food, shelter, and educational options.

As a wanna-be mustachian, I can see that so much of this misery is due to people's consumption choices. Shelter became cheap so we buy shelters so big and expensive we must make 30 years of payments to own them. Sugar, salt, and grease became cheap so we destroyed our health eating fast food. The bicycle and moped were perfected, but they don't have air conditioning, so let's lease a Lexus SUV for $350/mo plus all the other costs. All these little consumption choices eventually left people with no personal freedom to spend time doing what makes them happy and no personal strength to endure discomfort. All this weakness and self-incarceration is reflected in today's politics of excuse-making and aggrievance.

In terms of what people need to be happy, the answer is probably "less". How do we sell lifestyle simplicity or frugal solutions?

Companies like Uber, Republic Wireless, Mint.com, Vanguard, freecodecamp.com, etc. are doing so by using tech to reduce the cost of living. As another person pointed out, there are still lots of opportunities to apply tech in ways that reduce costs, cut out parasitic middlemen, and align people with their goals. MMM's little blog business produces cultural products that help people replace their old ideas with new ideas that are compatible with their life goals.

To stay motivated, I suppose I would need to consider products/services along these lines. Yes, it would probably be easier to resell fake supplements or Truck Nutz at 50% markups, but if I couldn't look my customers' kids in the eye (whose college tuition was just spent) it wouldn't be worth it.

I think this exercise has helped me narrow down my direction, so thanks to all who have posted so far.

anonymouscow

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Re: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2018, 09:33:07 AM »
Maybe just accept the fact that people desire things that you do not. You don't have to sell something that is pseudoscience or cheap Chinese plastic.

I am in the process of opening a rock and mineral store. Nobody needs rocks. I am not going to sell them as metaphysical healing crystals or sell dyed items though.

You could find a "need" within a niche, beekeeping, ball pythons, pottery, quilting, canning. Maybe you design a better bee feeder. Maybe people need properly heated enclosures for their snakes. Maybe you don't make the ceramics but you repair the kilns. Etc.

I know those are not high growth product ideas, but I'm sure within any niche there is more of an opportunity to find an unmet need, your target market will be smaller and it will not be a basic need, but they are still "needs". I don't see anything wrong with providing a good or service outside of the basics.

Nicholas Carter

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Re: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2018, 12:03:51 PM »
I have 3 side hustles, all of which meet important unmet needs, and pay me well to do so.
If that’s what you want to do, just start looking for the holes in society that desperately need to be plugged. They’re everywhere.
I'm curious to know what you mean. My primary unmet need at this point in my life is time, and that's what I'm here for. I don't know what kind of product that doesn't exist I could possibly have a use for.

GuitarStv

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Re: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2018, 01:31:30 PM »
I have 3 side hustles, all of which meet important unmet needs, and pay me well to do so.
If that’s what you want to do, just start looking for the holes in society that desperately need to be plugged. They’re everywhere.
I'm curious to know what you mean. My primary unmet need at this point in my life is time, and that's what I'm here for. I don't know what kind of product that doesn't exist I could possibly have a use for.

Cell phone subwoofer bro.  Cell phone subwoofer.

Papa bear

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Re: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2018, 09:11:43 AM »
You don't have to start a business selling to consumers. I have a hard time selling a product I don't use or agree with.

But business to business?  There is plenty that still needs done on that end. And you don't have to feel bad about getting a company to buy your stuff. 

So don't forget the B2B market!


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tralfamadorian

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Re: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2018, 11:42:39 AM »
I have 3 side hustles, all of which meet important unmet needs, and pay me well to do so.
If that’s what you want to do, just start looking for the holes in society that desperately need to be plugged. They’re everywhere.
I'm curious to know what you mean. My primary unmet need at this point in my life is time, and that's what I'm here for. I don't know what kind of product that doesn't exist I could possibly have a use for.

AKA service based businesses to save people from performing tasks they don't like. Recent example- new grads from UVA discover that people don't like picking up dog poop. Will mustachians spring for it? Probably not. But there are lots of other people willing to pay 10 bucks a week for the privilege of not picking up excrement.

profnot

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Re: What's left to sell that anyone actually needs?
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2018, 11:09:13 AM »
There's lots of quality things people wish they could buy.

I just learned of one this morning from the podcast SideHustleSchool

Fly mouthwash.  You take a little bottle of highly concentrated dental-quality mouthwash on a plane.  You add water to use.  This will take a lot less space than mints, etc, and be better for my dental health.

Pat Flynn did Google research several years ago and learned that LOTS of people in the US were wanting to learn how to become trained and certified to get security guard work.  So he researched and wrote manuals for every state.  He sold buckets of them.

Pay lots of attention IRL and online.  You'll find a high-demand, low-supply niche.

Good luck!