5 Actionable Ways to Generate Product Ideas

5 Actionable Ways to Generate Product Ideas

Stuck? You won’t be for much longer. Here are 5 incredibly actionable tactics you can use right now to generate ideas for your next hardware (physical product, eCommerce, widget) business. The best part is, all 5 steps can be completed within the next 43 minutes. Let’s go.


Say “what’s up?” to your customers and start a conversation. Why do the hard work yourself, when your customers already know exactly what your next business or product should be? Ask questions and see what they are happy or unhappy about with your current hardware. Don’t have customers yet? Talk to your friends. Talk to strangers online or in person.

You may think you know what customers want, but you’ll often be proven wrong. Don’t conjecture, just ask them what they want and give it to them.

In a study named Voice-of-Customer Methods: What is the Best Source of New Product Ideas? by Robert G. Cooper and Angelika Dreher, which appeared first in Marketing Management Magazine, the authors concluded:

“If you are not employing VoC (refers to talking to customers) to generate new product ideas, then you are missing some major innovation opportunities…The best performing businesses are reaping the benefits of using VoC to generate new product ideas to feed their development funnel.”

ACTION: Email or call 3 of your customers and ask them the question, “what are you struggling with right now?” or “how can I make your life easier?”

BONUS: To better understand who your ideal customers are, check out Neil Patel’s tips. Some questions Neil recommends include:

  • What company do you work for?
  • How would you describe our product to a friend?
  • What ultimately convinced you to buy this product?
  • Which features were the most important?
  • What did you hope to accomplish by using this product?


What problems do you encounter on a daily basis? By focusing on your own frustrations and inefficiencies, you can identify real problems that others will likely have as well. The best part is, since you’ve experienced it, you’ll already have a good idea who the ideal customer is and how to speak to them. This makes marketing so much easier.

For example, let’s look at Minaal.

minaal example for maker mogul - mark zhang

At a glance, you might think: not another backpack. But Jimmy and Doug of Minaal created the product based on their own frustrations as frequent business travelers. They found inefficiencies in traveling bags for location-independent entrepreneurs who also want to look professional. So, they made the product to scratch their own itch, and it resonated with the community.

Andy Boynton, co-author of The Idea Hunter says,

“Start with your own experience. Ask yourself, what bugs me? What could be easier? More fun? More convenient? Your own frustrations will guide you to real problems that can drive a new business idea.”

And Paul Graham of Y Combinator,

“The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It’s to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself.”

ACTION: Write down every single instance in the past week when you got frustrated about something, or invariably said “sh!t.” Can you do anything to resolve those frustrations?


You used to have to travel across the country, sit at grimy bars, and eavesdrop on people to find out what’s going on. Now, social media channels like Twitter have gotten everyone to happily share their every want and need. Twitter is serving up awesome business ideas and products for entrepreneurs that are willing to act.

It’s almost too easy.

Search on Twitter for key terms related to your industry or area of interest. You can use Hootsuite to make things easier and monitor multiple searches.

Based on Internet Live Stats:

“Every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter, which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year.”

You’re bound to find your product idea somewhere in this wealth of information.

Mark Schaefer, author of The Tao of Twitter sums it up nicely:

“Its (Twitter’s) real-time feed fuels the best free market research available anywhere.”

ACTION: Go to Twitter and set up 3 searches. Pay attention to what people are complaining about, and see if you can provide a solution.


Dan Andrew of TropicalMBA says: Rip, Pivot, and Jam. Essentially, find what’s already working, make it better, and sell it. Why come up with new ideas if you can borrow concepts from existing successful products?

Let’s take a look at some examples.

The Coolest Cooler

coolest cooler for maker mogul - mark zhang
Ryan Grepper’s Coolest Cooler is currently the most funded project in Kickstarter history, at a whopping $13,000,000. He employed the concept perfectly.

Rip – Coolers have been around forever and there is a proven demand and market.

Pivot – Ryan made the product better by adding accessories such as a blender, lights, bigger wheels, and speakers to the cooler.

Jam – Raised $13,000,000 on Kickstarter.

Another example.


buttter up for maker mogul - mark zhang
This one is even simpler.

Rip – Take the old and boring butter knife that everyone needs.

Pivot – Make it slightly better with some holes for easier butter spreading.

Jam – Raised $360,000 on Kickstarter.

ACTION: Go to Amazon’s Best Seller list and identify 3 products that you are interested in. How can you improve on them?


Living the entrepreneurial life can be stressful, filled with setbacks and uncertainties. We often get so caught up in the daily process of running the business we lose perspective and the creativity is drained from us.

The benefits of having sex are countless.

ACTION: Go have sex


Did you complete all 5 steps? Report back and let me know the results in the comments below.

Do you have a friend who’s stuck, and can’t figure out which hardware business or product to launch next? Share this article and help a friend!