Before we leave the topic of coming up with ideas for a digital product, I want to address the issue of whether your product idea needs to be unique or not. You might be tempted to reject an idea out of hand because someone else somewhere has also done the same thing.
But my simple answer to this question is, it doesn’t really matter. Believe it or not, it is quite possible for multiple competing products to not only exist in the same space, but thrive.
Someone else has written a great book on doorknobs? So what? Doorknob enthusiasts worldwide will be delighted to hear that there is now another book for them to buy!
Someone else has already created an dishwasher stacking training course? Doesn’t matter. All you need is a way to differentiate yourself. There needs to be something about what you are offering that makes it different.
You can differentiate yourself in many ways. Perhaps the most obvious is on price, although it is a risky option to simply try to be the cheapest in a particular space. You may find yourself caught up in a race to the bottom and giving your product away for far too little.
Another option is features (for an app), or topics covered (for a book or training course). What unique feature does your product offer that no competing product does? Beware though of getting caught up in a battle to have the most features. Instead, see if you can find a few things that are unique to you.
But there are a whole host of other ways to differentiate yourself. Maybe your app is the easiest to use, or has the nicest looking user interface. Maybe your doorknob book is far more entertaining than the boring one written by the other guy! Maybe your dishwasher stacking course comes with access to an online community of expert stackers.
Or maybe you can target a very specific subset of customers. Instead of writing yet another book on AngularJS, you could write “AngularJS for Hairdressers”. OK, maybe that’s a bad example! But look for simple ways in which you can make your product stand out from the crowd, and emphasise those in your marketing.
Finally, you may wish this weren’t true, but it is: a crap product with great marketing will outsell a great product with crap marketing. So its possible to compete even with someone whose product is better than yours, if you are shrewd enough with your marketing.
Of course, the flipside of this is unfortunate for people like me who are developers at heart and not experienced at marketing – simply making a great product is not good enough to guarantee sales. You also need to know how to market it. But a good start will be to know what it is that makes your product special. What makes it stand out from the crowd. And emphasise that.