Sometimes a single idea is enough to turn a small business into a global enterprise. Business history is full of entrepreneurs who literally turned their fortunes around on the back of a single market or consumer insight. Everyone and his dog is trying to start a business, but these tricks of the trade will help give any small businessman the edge to take their enterprise from tin cans to Twitter. Let’s take a short walk through a history of the most ingenious business ideas of the 21st Century (and one really important one from before then).
Let’s start with one of the most influential idea in the history of industry, and our only entry pre-millennium: mass production. No matter what ideas you might have about 21st century business and its origins, this single idea defined the century before.
This fundamental insight was made most famous by Henry Ford in the 1910s & 1920s and the assembly line in Ford motors became an icon of American industry. The idea of making identical products at high speeds and low costs redefined how the manufacturing business worked. Not only creating what we would call the modern mass-manufactured product, but inversely boosting small, bespoke businesses that now thrive on creating specially designed, unique single-manufactured products.
The Importance of Customer Service
Interesting fact: A certain online shopping site ran trails-runs of TV adverts across a few towns. After their trial period was over they were struck with a realisation that became the very business idea which drove them to market-domination: their money was better spent providing their customers with great service than it was providing them with adverts. What was the company? Amazon.com. In the age of the internet, no retail business can afford to provide anything less than stellar customer service. Remember, review sites and customer feedback are only one online search away for potential customers, and customers get angry when they’re ignored or their products arrive late or damaged.
Speaking of Amazon, I could write an entire essay on their pioneering use of the customer review. When Amazon chose to put customer-written reviews on their product pages, other companies balked. Competitors were determined that allowing customers free-reign would create only bad press for the companies selling through Amazon and many large and small businesses withdrew their products from sale. Instead, the honesty and transparency of customer-generated reviews helped make Amazon the market leader it is today. Now almost every retail website has customer reviews included. Clever idea that…
With the popularity of social media and recent developments in technology, businesses now have the most powerful marketing database at their fingertips. Aside from facilitating access to one of the widest markets, as well as a whole databank of preferences and ‘likes’, social media allows something that could not have been done before: interaction. Businesses can now interact directly with customers; building relationships, gaining insights and even receiving direct feedback or support for products via. the ‘share’, ‘comment’ or ‘like’ buttons.