Sometimes our problems are a business in disguise. It happened to me.
Last year I was dutifully writing every week to you, dear reader. And loving it. There is something wonderfully scary and exciting about constructing 1,000 words, or so, and launching it out to the world.
What I wasn’t enjoying was telling everyone about it.
Going on Facebook and trying to be clever about what I already exhausted my cleverness to create, was frustrating, a bit boring, and definitely not my cup of tea.
So I created SOS (the acronym is Social Outlook Solutions, if you must ask). Problem solved, or so I thought.
Always get a Pre-Sale
The moment of truth came in June of last year in the final five minutes of a full-day seminar for speakers I was hosting in Vancouver. “I’m thinking of creating a new service” I boldly opened with, “that would take your blog, give it more traffic, and drive qualified followers to your door. The cost will be $197 per month.”
I passed around my hastily created sign-up sheet, thanked everyone, packed up and headed to my car.
It wasn’t until some hours later when I thought to check how many “Yes’s” I’d received. I was gobsmacked! Thirty percent of the room had signed up. I had a commitment for some $2,000 per month income and I hadn’t built the product!
The Genesis of a Solution
My plan was simple: create a system whereby some lucky soul would read my blog, create ridiculously clever posts to my social media channels and, voila!, I would enjoy a flood of new traffic to my lonely blog.
And then I woke up.
In real life creating a new business tends to be a fairly unthankful, unglamorous, grind. One step after another you plod forward with the hope of glory and fame faithfully dangling on a string encouraging you on.
In real life creating a new business tends to be a fairly unthankful, unglamorous, grind.
In fact, it took two months.
My Problem, Solved
The first step in building SOS was basic: hire someone to read the blog, create posts for Facebook and Twitter, schedule the posts and repeat.
Lots of steps and lots of repetition.
It didn’t take long to see the opportunities for systems and streamlining our process. We also needed more staff. Within a month we had 12 clients and two Content Creators working part-time from their homes. And then it was three and then four.
It didn’t take long to see the opportunities for systems and streamlining our process.
The Content Creator’s job is to understand the goals of each SOS member and to create some 200 social media posts every month that titillate followers and bring them back to the nest. And it works.
Even though we don’t promise more opt-in’s or sales, the average traffic growth for SOS members is 29% per month – some are doubling their traffic within three months. Don’t try this at home kids – it’s a lot of work.
Now that we know it works it’s time for software development and a better sales funnel. We need software to allow for member-driven on-boarding process (currently we need to talk with every client and manually set-up connections to their Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) and to help manage the work load.
The market for SOS is huge. We’ve been focussing on speakers, but there are millions of bloggers all wanting more traffic.
What Problem do you Have?
The point of this post is not to blab on about SOS (although I am damn proud of it and if you blog you should definitely check it out). I’m wondering, what problem are you experiencing that is a business in disguise?
Just watch one episode of Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank to be inspired by the variety of problem-into-product ideas (note they aren’t including many service-based companies).
Corin and Brian Mullin’s created their award-winning Holy Crap non-GMO, gluten-free cereal line to address Brian’s food allergies and sensitivities. Fast forward five years and sales of Holly Crap (I just like typing that) are north of $20 Million.
Travis Perry was a frustrated guitar teacher who invented Chord Buddy, a device that mounts on the guitar neck to hold the chord string pattern allowing the student to practice strumming with their right hand. Chord Buddy now sells in 200 retail outlets, and Perry has since developed a line of acoustic guitars.
Inventor Rick Hopper kept losing his eyeglasses so he invented Readerest (Kevin O’Leary called it “a piece of metal with two magnets”). Hopper now employs 14 people and Readerest is sold in over 6,000 stores.
Where to Next?
I’m excited to see how far we can take SOS. We have our sights on working with web design agencies, bloggers in other industries and adding more services for bloggers that need ongoing help with posting their blogs.
A year ago I was pitching a half-baked idea. Today we have a small team creating magic everyday for happy clients and we have steady revenues because of it. How cool is that?
What about you? What are you an expert in (or could become one) that has value for other people? You might be surprised by the answer.