“The ability to learn from real data is why the 7 Day Startup works. You wipe assumptions off the table.” – Dan Norris
Episode #183 of Startups For the Rest of Us was one of my favorite podcasts of the year. On it, Dan Norris said some important things. For example– you actually can launch a business in 7 Days. Or that just because you have a great startup idea doesn’t mean it’s a great startup idea for you.
There was a moment in the interview that has stuck with me. It’s recounted by Rob Walling in the preface to Dan’s book (emphasis mine):
I … was incredulous at the thought of getting an idea out the door in 7 days. My email marketing startup, Drip, was as minimally viable as you can imagine, and it still took months to launch.
Dan’s response …?
“I think it’s worth considering whether or not Drip is a good idea for a first time entrepreneur who’s bootstrapping. [I have a] list of criteria for good ideas and one of them is the ability to build and test quickly.
Drip might be a good idea for a 3rd or 4th time entrepreneur, but it may not be a good idea for a first time entrepreneur because it might be too hard and too competitive to build something like that.”
Yes, ideas + execution. But it counts who’s doing the executing.
Generally, business books and online training courses decode successful game plans after the fact. They rarely consider game plan / founder match. What works for Reid Hoffman might not work for you.
Pre-selling and landing page validation are two “lean” strategies that Dan takes aim at in his book, and I’m glad he did it. These are useful strategies, but particularly so for entrepreneurs with previous business experience.
It’s a catch 22— is validation a strategy that reliably leads to success, or do successful people reliably use validation?
Um. Can I really build anything useful in 7 days?
When I’ve brought up the idea in conversation, people have responded with you can’t build something important in 7 days! Or, I can’t build ‘what I want to build’ in 7 days!
That might very well be true. The business or product you had in mind probably won’t jibe with Dan’s approach, that’s why it has value.
It’s not an approach that focuses on building great products (although it doesn’t mean you can’t). It’s really an attitude about entrepreneurship— a know-how better learned by ‘launching in 7 days’ than by ‘validating your product.’
Most of the business idea suggestions below are marketing services, and look more like offers more than fully fledged businesses. That’s no accident. If you are looking to start your first business, marketing services is a great place to start (you can serve other businesses and learn about marketing).
Seth Godin, in the brilliant Start Up School stresses that new entrepreneurs are in a laudable position– they can design their businesses exactly how they want. He implores us: “You are the architect.” If we are bound to be architects, The 7 Day Startup suggests that we ‘pitch a tent,’ and have some fun by the campfire while you draw up your plans. You have plenty of time to gather the resources to build your Falling Water.
If you are short on 7 Day style ideas, here’s some to spark your thinking.
1. “Lifecycle Email Monkey.” These are the emails that you receive as part of a product trial, or being a member of a product or service. Setting them up can be a pain but they’re extremely profitable. Why not set customers up on your system, tweak the approach monthly (they get to participate in the best practices you are developing), and send a monthly report.
2. “SEO Sweeper.” This blog has 400+ posts. What if somebody jumped into my analytics, gave me a quick survey on my best visitors, and re-framed old posts to gain more traffic. Why not take one big action every month and report on the results?
3. “Newsletter Nanny.” There are many things that entrepreneurs value that they understand to be valuable but have a difficult time investing in. Big time bloggers often understand the value of mailing lists, but they generally don’t invest into them. Why? Because they are big time bloggers. They blog!
4. “Product Video Vixen.” You could develop a basic format that people buy into. Maybe these are 1-2 minutes and share the story in a unique format. You could do them online only (with assets you request from them) for 2K or do them in person for an extra fee + travel.
5. “Recurring Rex.” Rex helps you reduce churn. One done-for-you high impact activity for your recurring subscription that makes you your money back right away. Man you know how time intensive this stuff is to implement? (You might want to focus on one platform at the beginning). Which brings me to a great one…
6. “Membership Maven.” You know what every single membership site owner in the world has? A pain in their technological ass. Most of us are using something out of the box that has a ton of workarounds, or have patched together 15 different tech solutions. Why not put together a stack of solutions (mix and match?) that work and that your team supports? Offer install, hosting, and maintenance packages monthly, and charge huge fees (5 figures) for stress free 100% secure migrations to your platform.
7. Product Feed Perry. This is a good racket (I’m thinking here of Google product feeds or other paid advertising products), but most people don’t stay in it that long. Perhaps it’s because knowing how to market products online is often more difficult than developing your own product (you can launch one in 7 days right?). Getting attention and buyers for something is harder than figuring out what “something” is. So most people that start out with this type of client work get sick of their clients and burn through it relatively quickly. That also means that there is always an immediate opportunity to step up and situate yourself as a paid advertising consultant (with productized services of course).
8. “Writer Ghost.” This one would require a lot of work and some relationship building. For the amount of input required, you’d need to get yourself to the point where you could charge pretty high rates. You could also focus on more technical industries where you interview the founders, do some research, and turn that content into authority blog posts every week. I know people pay for this type of thing because I have friends that make many thousands of dollars a month writing these posts for others. .
9. “Facebook Fiend Campaigns.” You know what sucks? Setting up and managing Facebook ad campaigns. Rob Walling said he’d pay for it on stage at #DCBKK. That’s where you come in. Why can’t you create and manage one new campaign a month for me? Mark Manson said that Facebook has the potential to bring me 10’s of thousands of visitors, but all it does for me is bring me photos of my cousins kids. Help!
10. “Digital Workshop.” Why not create a shop that allows you to select from a menu the style and type of artifact you’d like to purchase. Any kind of ‘artifact.’ Slideshares. Podcasts. Illustrations. Ben Krueger makes a nice living editing podcasts for people. Make a rock solid process behind the scenes that allows you to get a decent profit margin on your efforts. Speaking of digital artifacts, I paid money for this graphic:
Pretty cool eh?
TMBA style bonus. Don’t like any of the ideas above? Well, I’ve got options for you. (First, consider the outside possibility that you like business ideas, but not entrepreneurship). Why not just sell all your stuff and move to a quiet spot in the world? It’s not so much a business idea as a lifestyle choice, but I just love that’s it’s possible. Forget everyone who says it’s “not ambitious enough.” You are young! Even if you are old, you are young at heart! You don’t have to “win the world.’ Caesar died too! Why not hang around and enjoy it? Not enough people do it and it could be you. Read my articles on making a living by writing blogs. If I were starting again I would save up a few bucks and jump on an airplane. I would eat rice and fish heads and see what I could cook up. Even if it didn’t work out, I’d like the spot I was in. A few thousand in the bank, back up against the wall, and a host of new entrepreneurial connections and ideas.
Or what about something having to do with Amazon? That ecosystem is evolving so fast I’m sure you could test tons of interesting products.
Also, here’s 101 Monetizable Blog Ideas.
Got any business ideas you want to throw out into the open, or services you think you’d pay for? Let us know!
PS, read Dan’s book!