A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

How to Read People's Minds–And Then Create the Product They Most Desire

read prospects' minds What if you had a secret mind-reading device that grabbed thoughts out of your potential customers’ heads and told you exactly what they would pay for that you could create?

That would be pretty awesome…wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, such a device doesn’t exist (at least as far as I know!) However, you can get pretty close to reading potential customers’ minds with the two methods I describe below…and if you’re anything like most business owners, you’ve probably never tried either one of these. Use both, and you may just be unstoppable…

The key to running a successful business is to align your talents and skills with something that people will pay good money for. It doesn’t matter how awesome your product or service is if no one will pay for it. And often, what we think people would pay for is totally off base. So how do we figure out what problems people will pay us to solve? Here are two ways–that are slightly less invasive than reading people’s minds!

1: Talk to people who are a part of your market.

This can seem initially scary or daunting, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing it. First, narrow down your business idea to a sentence or two, then ask them for their opinion on it. Pretty much everyone is open to giving an opinion.

If they respond with a neutral or negative reaction, ask them what they would pay for instead. The key word is pay for. Sure, it would be nice to have someone who goes out and gets a drink for you from the fridge every time you want it, but how much would you pay for that? These are all valid questions, and it’s perfectly okay to ask someone how much they would pay for your service.

If the answer is less money than you’d hope to earn from performing that service or selling that product, you have two options:

  • Increase the value. Can you bundle your product with something else or add additional benefits? Again, this is something to ask your potential customer about. What would they pay extra for?
  • Abandon the idea. This isn’t the worst-case scenario. In talking to your potential customers, you may come up with an even better idea, or decide this isn’t a target market you want to sell to. Better to fail fast than to have spent months trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole. If this just doesn’t feel right, move on. Ideas are abundant!

If, on the other hand, your potential customer gives you a positive response with a price that you can live with, you may have a winner! Talk to other potential customers first–if several respond positively, then it’s time to invest further in this business.

2: Add the Google keyword tool to your arsenal.

I love the Google keyword tool. I’ve been known to spend hours on it. I use it for everything from blog post titles to forming entire businesses. And…it’s the closest thing to reading people’s minds as you’re going to get without tapping directly into their brain.

What is the Google keyword tool? It’s a free tool that lets you see what people are typing into Google. And it’s a gold mine–the #1 business research tool I use by far.

You can type in any word…I stick to common ones, like “business.” Sometimes I will add question words, like “how to”. (Typing in “how to business” gave me the inspiration for my post How to Start A Business with No Money, which ranked #1 in Google for “start a business with no money” for months!) You can also try “help” or “advice” to find people with problems that you might be able to help solve.

Once you’ve typed in your keywords, sort by “Global monthly search volume.” That’s, on average, how many people type that particular keyword into Google in a month. For blog posts, I generally target keywords with between 800-10,000 searches a month–more and it’s too competitive; less it’s not really worth optimizing for.

How I Came Up With the Business Idea for My Startup

I’ll let you in on a secret: The Google keyword tool is exactly how I came up with my idea for my new startup. I typed in “blogs” and noticed that nearly 250,000 people a month were searching for the keywords “best blogs”.

The next step is to look at what the search results are for the terms you find in the Google keyword tool. I typed “best blogs” (without the quotes) into Google and was disappointed with the results. Where was the dynamic, social site I was expecting? There wasn’t one. After a few months of thinking about it–the idea would not leave me alone!–I decided to create one.

It’s important to remember, too, that a business can’t exist in a vacuum. What is interesting and worth money to you may not be interesting (or worth paying for) to anyone else. Though this can hurt, it’s best to get it out of the way quickly so you can use your skills in a way that will benefit even more people–which will make your business grow faster.

To find inspiration for starting a business or creating a product, the best thing you can do is tap into what other people are thinking about–either by asking them directly, looking at what they type into Google, or, best of all: all of the above!

A Note About My Survey

This post was inspired by a reader question from my recent survey. Thank you to all of you who responded!

You may remember I promised 2 $10 Amazon.com gift cards to 2 lucky random survey-takers. I randomly selected and emailed the winners, who both claimed their gift cards. Thanks again–your responses were truly amazing, and should provide blog post fodder for many months to come!

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After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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