How do you know which ideas to execute on? Can you really uncover demand in communities? How do you know which project ideas will solve real needs out there in the wider world? These are the questions that have been plaguing me again recently. And I decided to do an experiment with products that I know have demand.
Frameworks for finding ideas
Much has been said & written about this topic. There's Sales Safari by 30x500. There's Arvid Kahl's Embedded Entrepreneur. There's The Mom Test too, although in my opinion, that's more about validating ideas after already having users in mind.
All of these suggest pretty much the same thing - try to find real needs, in real communities, over brainstorming random "business ideas". How? By monitoring what people are complaining about, ask for, and create weird, hacky solutions for.
This, they say, will help you more reliably build products that have real demand. With a build-in community as a distribution channel to boot.
And I agree. This approach sounds really promising. Problem is though - and I'm sure most of you who've actually tried this would agree - is it's really, REALLY hard. There's very little useful complaints and expressions of pain.
The signal-to-noise ratios in most communities is bonkersly skewed towards noise. I have tried to find problems this way countless times. I've browsed subreddits, forums and social media for literal days, taking notes and making spreadsheets. And nothing of value ever really came up.
So clearly I've been doing something wrong(this does happen more often than not). And to uncover the problem, I decided to flip the script and approach it from the other side.
I will take products I know have proven, validated demand, and go and look for evidence of said demand out in the wild. Hopefully this would reveal a pattern or methodology that would help me discover other profitable problems to solve.
And I'm sharing this little experiment with you good folks in the hope that you could offer some feedback and tips on how to do it even better.
Research & Premise
This experiment requires two main components: products and communities.
I'll be focussing on products aimed at internet businesses exclusively to simplify things. This would then mean communities with the same focus, most of which should be intimately familiar to you.
Now I'm not one with a lot of time, so I have to try and hack this process a little to speed things up with some assumptions. This being that the product landing pages of my little product cohort would be optimised to contain the keywords their customers would use to discover them.
And what would my signals of demand/needs/pain be? I reckon frequent posts or threads with plenty of upvotes and comments would be a sure sign of interest. I will essentially be counting expressions of needing to solve the problem suggested by the keywords, and their level of engagement.
The primary subreddits I will be focussing on will /r/startups, /r/entrepreneur, /r/socialmedia, /r/marketing and /r/saas.
I will search for the keywords(along with alternate simplified versions) within the subs, sorted by "top" and for the last year. I will then go through the top 5 and look for vague but relevant mentions of the keywords.
Again, I will focus on mentions framed in the context of wanting a problem to be solved, and record the amount of signs of interest.
For Twitter specifically I'll be using my own advanced search tool atsh.io.
And finally, I'll add the monthly global searches for the keywords(or highest closely related keyword) according to Keywords Everywhere.
Of course, I'll not be adding signs of interest if they are connected with one of the tools in question directly, for instance launch posts or reviews or something. The idea is to find the demand without the popularity of these specific tools(or their makers) influencing things.
As a final note: this will not be a rigorous, scientifically sound experiment. This is me playing with ideas the odd free hour or so.
Instead of taking individual products, I will be taking a sample from a bunch of similar solutions, in order to widen my keyword net a bit.
The products also have to adhere to the following criteria, in order to uncover information pertinent enough to fit my personal situation;
- Proven existing and growing MMR
- Made by a solo indie dev or small company(no huge budgets and marketing teams)
- Have clear enough target markets that would likely frequent my sample communities.
And this is what I came up with;
- Social media screenshot sharing tools
- Customer Testimonial videos
- Twitter Audience Growth Tools.
Product 1: Social media image sharing
I'll be using the following products to hunt for keywords:
All of these solve one primary problem - helping people share great looking screenshots on social media without wasting time messing about in design software. Brilliant. I definitely see the need, but would have never thought people would pay for it.
So let's dig for some keywords.
First up, BrandBird.
From the H1 and H2 we get;
- "image editor of busy saas founders"
- "Saas founders who build in public".
- "screenshots into captivating graphics"
- "branded screenshots"
- "boost social media reach and engagement".
Here we have
- "beautiful screenshots for your audience"
- "screenshots that boost social engagement".
And finally Xnapper
This one is simple, "beautiful screenshots instantly", "no design, no problem"
I then collated all of these in the following generalised list of keywords;
- "no design skills screenshots"
- "beautiful screenshots"
- "screenshots to boost social engagement"
- "branded screenshots"
Social Screenshot Tools Signs of Interest
|no design skills screenshots||1||0||0||90|
|screenshots to boost social engagement||0||0||0||0|
This is not one I would have considered to have enough demand to pursue. I couldn't get a single person expressing the need for a better tool to make screenshots look beautiful. Or that it's something people actually, really worry about at all. Only some mild expressions of "yeah, cool".
The biggest signal I could find was for a free tool doing something very similar on HackerNews, and then a couple of mentions on Twitter regarding others.
This is not a tool I would have considered building, yet a couple of makers seem to be generating good revenue with it. 🤷♂️
Product 2: Video Testimonials
For this one, we'll be considering
- Testimonial by Damon Chen
- Boast by Ryan Doom
- Senja by Olly and Wilson
These are tools to help SAAS business collect and display video testimonials from their clients. It's a powerful social proof generator and I can immediately see the value it offers.
But will we find explicit demand out there in the communities? Let's see.
From this one I'm getting
- "easy customer testimonials"
- "text and video testimonials from your customers"
- "video testimonials without the hassle"
- "video to build trust"
- "proof-based marketing"
- "testimonial marketing tool"
- "testimonial sales tool"
- "text and video testimonials"
Video Testimonials Signs of Interest
|easy customer testimonials||11||23||21||590|
|text and video testimonials||0||0||0||50|
|video to build trust||0||0||22||0|
This one would have piqued my interest more than the screenshot ones, but it still seems kinda lacklustre. Would you have considered it a profitable niche?
There's pretty much no enquiries in any of the communities about how to specifically solve a testimonials. Yet there are quite a few tools competing on this front and they all seem to be doing well and growing.
To me, this market seems to be a solved problem, but with room to grow. No one is asking or complaining about it, but lots seem to be looking for it.
Product 3: Twitter growth
- Blackmagic by Tony again
- TweetHunter by Tibo & Tom
- Ilo by Dan Rowden
Twitter growth tools help Twitter users automate and schedule their Twitter usage in order to supercharge their follower growth.
- "enhance twitter"
- "build twitter engagement"
- "schedule tweets"
- "twitter analytics"
- "monetize your twitter"
- "grow your twitter audience"
- "smart twitter analytics"
Twitter Growth Tools Signs of Interest
|build twitter engagement||1||5||2||90|
This one looked like a genuine opportunity. Especially with regards too analytics. Twitter analytics seems to be huge!
There are loads of Twitter tools already(and more coming just over the horizon), but the market seems to have room for all of them.
It seems that finding product ideas in communities is not as easy as a lot of people suggest. People either don't really voice what issues they're having, or I have terrible luck in finding them. Or maybe I'm hanging out in the wrong communities.
What I did discover that gave me hints of potentially profitable product ideas, was tool recommendations.
I have a feeling that hunting for expressions of pain would get you less valuable ideas than just finding products that are frequently recommended(and charge a lot).
You see, most people are lurkers and don't post anything. Maybe it's embarrassing. Maybe they think it's only them having that issue. But they are still out there looking for recommendations and suggestions. And they upvote the hell out of any suggestions that solve problems they face.
So this might be a better way to discover problems to solve - look for what people recommend and then monitor the engagement levels for those recommendations.
Thanks for reading, let me know what you think on Twitter --> @riknieu