Would you like to be able to quickly come up with new product ideas? Or train your brain to constantly scan for opportunities?

According to company growth expert Roderic Michelson, from Aralex Consulting, it is easy to do this – if you ask the right questions and give yourself the space the time to answer them.

Roderic recommends eight areas of questioning that you can ask yourself and your team. These will enable you to generate new product ideas - quickly. Take time to ask yourself each question. Don’t jump ahead. Do one at a time – and give yourself some space to let the answers flow. Jot down them down on a large sheet of paper, ideally as a mind map, so that your creativity can jump around and is not restricted. Write down even the “daft” ideas – you never know what they will generate. By the time you have answered even one of the seven questions you will have a page full of new product ideas.

1) Neglected Niches

In any industry there will be several niches that for some reason have been unattractive to bigger players or perhaps aren’t served at all. This could be because the niche has become financially unattractive for the larger players or because the product/service required falls outside their standard way of operation. How can you serve these customers at a profit? What product or service do they need?

For example a British insurance company recently launched a Young Drivers programme targeted at the 17-25 age range. This is traditionally shunned by large insurers due to the perceived higher risk. Drivers are charged based on their actual driving skills, keeping costs low for them and also lowering risk for the insurer.

2) Baby Boomer Profits

It’s widely known that the so-called Baby Boom generation is the largest in history. As the first wave of boomers approach retirement, this populous generation has also hit the peak of its earning power and assets. What can you sell them?

Change brings opportunity and changes in demographics are noticeable years before they become market reality. What changes do you notice? What will be the impact? How can you profit from these?

For example the cosmetic surgery industry is riding the aging boomers wave and is growing tremendously, as are indulgence specialists like London’s boutique chocolatiers.

3) Policy Changes

A change in government policy can create a new market overnight. For example; solar technology is still expensive but due to government subsidies in Germany many homes have solar panels. This in turn supports the local solar cell industry – Germany is now ranked within the top three in the world.

Look out for new opportunities by watching and deciphering the news. Ask yourself: How would this government decision help me make money?

4) A New Approach

Is it possible to deliver the same product/service but in a different way that is more convenient and saves time? Can you bring your product to where your customers are instead of them coming to you?

For example; ever since recorded history gold coins and bars have been sold by gold dealers. In 2009 a company developed a gold bars vending machine. Several have been installed at busy airports. And they accept all major credit cards.

5) Look At The Calendar

What are the significant holidays through the year? Can you capitalise on them with a special offer? Can you come up with a special limited edition of your product, tied to the holiday?

For example; a Swedish brewery came up with a Christmas version of their popular cider which was spiced with cinnamon and vanilla and could be consumed both cold and warmed up as mulled wine.

What about other significant events like a Football World Cup or Olympics or athletics championships?

6) Crisis-Driven Affordability

Have you looked at some product but refrained from buying because of its price? There are millions of people like you in every conceivable industry. Is there a way to come up with a product at an affordable price now that consumers are feeling the pressure of the economic downturn? Which variables of the existing products can be changed to provide even more value but at a lower price point? Note, I am not advocating going down the price-sensitive mass market. It’s impossible to win this game. Create a mid-market product instead.

For example an American company came up with a lower priced cosmetics line, made it available only online and added expert advice based on the visitor’s profile, plus an online community area for customer interaction.

7) Look For Problems And Needs

There is a plethora of information available to us today – use it to find out what your customers need and what problems they are struggling with.

A recent example of discovering and addressing a need is a company selling university textbooks by the chapter! If you think back to your student days, did you ever read a full textbook? Even the professors based their courses around the most relevant chapters, didn’t they?

Services like Google News will serve you snippets of news based around keywords. A trip to your local library where you can access paid electronic archiving services will allow you to scan your selected handful of publications. What are the unsolved problems in your industry? What can you do about it?

8) Learn From The Mistakes Of Others

Study product flops. More often than not there were clever, professional people behind the product launch. They worked diligently; they looked at different scenarios, the market and customers. Where did it go wrong? Was it distribution, the way the product was positioned, pricing or the angle of the promotion effort? Can you improve on that?

For example Harley-Davidson is one of the best-managed brands in the world. But a few years ago the company launched perfumes. They were spectacularly unsuccessful but the company and other marketers around the world learned a lot about brand associations, positioning and brand extensions

Finally Roderic says; “Remember this is a time of opportunity; the current financial situation, massive technological innovation, social and demographic changes – all of these present openings for new products and services, and in turn the chance to make bigger profits. Don’t miss out on the opportunities – make use of them. Just developing one new product could change your business forever.”

Author's Bio: 

Roderic Michelson is a growth expert for Aralex Consulting Ltd. He is author of “The Recession-Fighting Guide” and publishes the Business Growth Blog. See: www.aralex.co.uk.

Chantal Cooke is an award winning journalist and founder of PASSION for the PLANET radio. You can access 100’s business growth articles and podcasts at http://www.passionforfreshideas.com