Many start ups fail for one reason: they don’t solve a problem. If you have an idea and it doesn’t solve a problem, it probably will not go anywhere for long. Perhaps you might get a run of good fortune as a fad or experience a quick hit in the market place because of novelty, but if you want a serious business you need to solve a problem.

Don’t be discouraged just yet. Problems come in a variety of forms. You might think the pet rock was just a fad, except that the concept behind it still endures. It was a pet rock in the ’70s, a Chia Pet in the ’80s, a little Tamagotchi in the ’90s, and… well, you get the point. The pet rock solved the problem of people wanting a pet but not being able to have an actual living, breathing, barking, pooping pet. They opted for a rock instead and it was a hit!

Your business need to meet a need, that is, solve a problem, in the same way a pet rock solved a problem. Of course, someone already came up with pet rocks so you need a unique solution to a problem. There are copy cat of successful solutions, but they are not lasting business models. They might make money for a short time and perhaps even limp on for a while, but they have a finite amount of growth before they wither and die while the true solution—the market leader—survives and grows.

If you already have a unique solution to a distinct problem, then you have found your niche! Congratulations. If you don’t have a unique solution to a distinct problem, then there is trouble. First, make sure you are solving an actual problem. If not, see if there are changes to can make to your product or you approach that does solve a problem. Second, if your solution is not unique see if you can distinguish yourself in some way. You could change the solution or, more easily, find a way to differentiate yourself. For example, the original pet rock was, well, a rock. You could give yours little plastic eyes, a carrying box, and perhaps a little bed to distinguish yourself (this was actually done and that solution is still available in stores).

Finally, consider additional offerings. Adding value is a great way to increase sales and encourage people to look to you for a solution. One great way to do this is impeccable customer service and support. People respond well to great customer service and it build loyalty and positive reviews. Leverage existing tools in new ways is another method of reaching out to potential customers that otherwise would seek out your competition.

Make sure that you are solving a problem, first and foremost. If your not, then you will get nowhere. Then make sure you are unique. Either your solution or your approach or both need to be unique. Businesses that find their niche and exploit all available opportunities within it do the best.

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