Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Trendwatching and Marketing, Part II

3. New Business Ideas are Everywhere
It seems there's no shortage of unfilled needs that could become the core of wildly successful businesses. Here are a few I noticed:

Ralph Stevens turns 100 (See #4, below).

(Photo by Alana Horowitz Friedman)

A. Mail-back kiosks and/or check-this-as-luggage containers at airport security checkpoints: My 13-year-old son brought his oboe on the trip, including a set of four tiny screwdrivers, like the sort for tightening eyeglass frames. TSA confiscated three of the screwdrivers. (I offered to let each of the four of us take one screwdriver, but this was not acceptable.) Apparently there was some rather inconvenient way we could have mailed it to ourselves for $10, but it would cost less to replace them. We could have also sent the whole bag through checked baggage, but the risk of damaging or losing the instrument far outweighed the convenience of keeping the screwdrivers.

There must be thousands of items per day that are confiscated, causing great inconvenience to the owners of the objects, and also a substantial disposal problem for TSA. Someone should come along and contract with the postal service and TSA to set up a self-service mail kiosk at each security checkpoint, with a selection of small padded envelopes and the ability to type an address label and take credit cards. Charge actual postage plus maybe a $3.00 or $4.00 service charge, of which two-thirds would be profit. Someone would need to refill the envelopes and be available for maintenance problems, but the post office would collect the packages for free.

Another possibility: rent small suitcases big enough to go through baggage without being lost or crushed, with drop-off at any airport in the U.S.

B. Travel planning website for fixed dates, open destination: We've been trying to plan a trip for our next vacation, over Christmas week. But we have to try one destination at a time. The truth is, we're not so fussy about where we go. I'd like to be able to select a date range of two or three days on each end and see destinations ranked by fare within broad categories of U.S., Europe, Asia, Africa, Pacific. Then we could quickly narrow it down and click for more information/booking. I checked with two prominent travel experts; neither knew of such a site.

C. Urban compost centers: In my brother-in-law's food-co-oping, Prius-driving, recycling Minneapolis neighborhood, a lot of food scraps end up in the municipal garbage system. If someone could figure out a way to create a business model around composting, while still keeping the disposal a free community service, it wouldn't be hard to generate a significant quantity of waste. I live on farm and my neighbors sell composted cow manure for $5 a bag, but my guess is they sell only a few bags per week. Still, there surely must be people who would pay for high quality compost; it's just a matter of figuring out who has the need, wants to pay, and can generate enough orders to be worthwhile. Garden centers, perhaps? They're already selling fertilizer. Or maybe the garden centers should operate the compost operation.

4. Aging Populations Have Different Needs
My sister-in-law's grandfather, Ralph Stevens, turned 100 while we were out there, and we went to the party along with about 40 of his relatives. I'd never been to a 100th birthday party before, although I did go to my neighbors' 70th wedding anniversary.

When I was a kid in the 1960s and 70s, many people born around the beginning of the 20th century were dying off; if you lived past 70, you were considered old. Yet 76,000 Americans have reached that amazing 100-year milestone--and these are the same generation that appeared to be dying off thirty and forty years ago. What marketing opportunities are presented by people living to be 100? By having four or five generations of the same family alive at once? What does Ralph Stevens, a wheelchair-using blind centenarian who loves to sing and lives in close proximity to a large family, want and need in his life? How would you market to him in his nursing home or through his family?


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