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Entrepreneur Assessment Quiz


New Markets from Old Products

  • March 4, 2019
  • Written by Community Futures Meridian

Entrepreneurs frequently spend time and money dreaming up new products and services for their companies to sell. They carry out market research and develop prototypes and eventually manufacture new products, often at great cost. What many business owners miss is the opportunity right under their nose, their company’s existing products. Instead of developing new products, consider what other uses and markets there might be for your existing products.

One recent example is the fad toy, the fidget spinner; these are the devices people use to reduce nervous energy, and ease anxiety. Wikipedia describes a fidget spinner as, “a toy that consists of a ball bearing in the center of a multi-lobed flat structure made from metal or plastic designed to spin along its axis with little effort.” Recently it was discovered that these “toys” can also be used as a centrifuge to separate blood plasma for diagnostic tests. According to ACS’s (the world’s largest scientific society) journal, Analytical Chemistry, the device “… could be useful for medical applications in regions of the world that lack electricity and other resources.” Basically, researchers taped tiny sealed tubes containing blood to fidget spinners and discovered that flicking the spinner several times could separate about one-third of the plasma with almost 100 per cent purity in a matter of minutes.

The example above has the wow factor because it could be a major breakthrough for third-world, or emerging countries, but similar examples abound; think duct tape (which was originally used to prevent moisture getting into ammunition boxes) and was then used in the construction industry in duct work and then of course to do everything from taping up old armchairs to temporarily repairing just about anything. Warfarin, a rat poison, was used for a period as a blood thinner, and Arm and Hammer baking soda is probably used more as a deodorizer in refrigerators these days than for baking.

You may be sitting on significant untapped potential in the products you already sell. It may simply be a matter of repackaging or promoting a new use. Reusing existing products, or even parts of those products can be a goldmine waiting to be mined.

Pull your team together, and perhaps some family and friends and plan a half day brainstorming session. Put your products on some tables, or if they are too large use photographs and ask people to come up with alternative uses. Encourage outrageous, silly, ridiculous ideas, the weirder the better as these often stimulate creativity and innovation.

Don’t limit yourself to different uses, also consider different markets. Perhaps you currently market your product to the construction industry because that’s what you’ve always done, but consider who else might be a customer—perhaps colleges with training programs for the trades?

The most important thing is to have fun; when people are relaxed and enjoying themselves that is when they are most likely to come up with a million-dollar idea.

Another way to get ideas for unique uses for what you sell is to run a competition asking for people to send you photographs of people using what you sell in unique ways. Get your local newspaper involved and use social media to spread the word. You never know, it could go viral!

Making more money from what you already produce is common sense. Someone once said, “never forget the sawdust on the floor!” Think about it, if stables can sell their horses’ poop and make money, what are you waiting for?

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Entrepreneur Assessment Quiz!