The Building Block Method: A Simple Approach To Create Business Ideas

Let’s perform a short thought experiment: You have an interesting business idea. And you’ve been thinking about this idea for a long time – at work, at the kitchen table, and in your shower. At some point, you have enough of all that wishing and dreaming. You feel that itch to go for it. Finally, you decide to put your idea into action.

So far, so good. Like any smart entrepreneur, you decide to do some initial market research. You open your favorite search engine and type in your business idea – And then, there’s the awakening:

Your Idea Already Exists

At least once, and in some variations, maybe even 10 times. No matter whether we talk about books, social networks, apps, or youtube-cat videos.

But how come most business ideas already exist? The reasons for this idea redundancy are easily found:

  1. Creation is easy nowadays: There are blog platforms which can be used by anyone, video cameras on every cell phone, and app builders for non-programmers. Any average human with a small amount of drive can build something valuable in a relatively short time period.
  2. Human existence is limited: We all live similar lives, and consequently, we face the same problems. That is especially the case in today’s globalized world, where differences between countries and cultures disappear steadily. One look at the current iTunes app store says enough: 13 of the Top 20 apps  are centered around social media, images, and games (stand: 21.07.2018)

Okay, so let’s assume your business idea already exists. What’s the solution?

Sure, you still could go for it and compete with current providers. You could build a better solution. You could build an easier product, create a superior design or focus on a broader niche. There are enough examples where this approach has worked perfectly. After all, there have been social networks before Facebook, and Amazon hasn’t been the first online bookstore.

Why Building Block Ideas Work

Don’t get it wrong, creating new stuff can work. As long as you are passionate about it, you can win.

But at the same time, this approach is limited. Especially if one takes into account that 9 of 10 products fail. People don’t want your product, they want to solve their problems.

However, what if I told you that there’s an easier and more reliable approach to create business ideas?

I call it the building block method. Business ideas, which are based on the building block method, will be called building block ideas. You will find out in a minute why I choose these names.

This method is based on one important premise:

There are already enough product & services

There is more than enough stuff out there to be productive, smart, fit, beautiful, and organized. No, matter whether we talk about books, information products, services, software, or tips & tricks.

But this sheer amount of products and services leads to a totally new generation of problems:

  • How do I find the right product according to my needs?
  • Can I trust this information source?
  • How can I connect these two apps?
  • How do current cell phones differ in terms of features?
  • In which order shall I apply these fitness tips to lose 20 pounds?
  • Which online course helps me the most to learn this new programming language?

The building block method acknowledges the fact that customers already suffer from information overload, oversupply, and complexity. So instead of flooding markets with new products and services, it takes on a different perspective – How to connect existing things?

With this method, you look at current products and services as building blocks. And then you ask yourself: How can I combine these building blocks to build new solutions?

Examples Of Building Block Ideas

Building block ideas are not new. Products and services which are based on this approach do already exist. And they are getting more and more important in a world full of overabundance and information overload. Let’s look at current examples:

Problem 1 – There are too many images on the web
Solution: Pinterest is an online sharing platform for images. It solves the problem of visual content curation by enabling users to group images across the web into visual boards. This provides an easy way to save, share and discover images in one single place. Users can share anything on Pinterest – recipes, fashion styles, inspirational quotes or blog articles. Besides that, Pinterest is a great tool for online marketing.

Problem 2 – I can’t connect my web apps
Solution: Zapier is a software-platform which connects your web apps to automate daily tasks. Zapier is based on the building block method because it literally connects the data of your apps. One simple automation could be: If I get an email in Gmail, upload it on Dropbox, and inform me about this on Slack. The cool thing about Zapier is that it’s very easy to build your own automation tasks. You don’t need programming skills. If you want to get inspired, have a look at these great examples.

Problem 3 – It’s impossible to find the right website builder for my needs
Solution: SitebuilderReport is a website which helps you to find the right website builder according to your needs. Every website builder is presented with all its features, strengths, weaknesses and target market. The business idea may be easy but solves the painful problem of choosing between hundreds of website builders. SitebuilderReport makes money by affiliate commissions.

How To Design Your Own Building Block Ideas

The question that arises is this: How to come up with this kind of ideas?

Building block ideas are no magic. On the contrary, they’re easier to find than typical run-of-the-mill-products because you know what you are looking for.

Apply these three steps to reverse engineer your own building block ideas:

1) Select A Market

First, you have to pick a market. This will be the environment in which you will be applying the building block method. As an example, we’ll choose WordPress as a market.

2) Identify the Building Blocks

Now it’s time to analyze your chosen market. First, we scan for building blocks.

If you played Lego as a child, you know that Lego bricks have different shapes, forms, and colors. Within the context of the business world, the Lego bricks (building blocks) represent the different types of solutions (products, services, technologies, …) within a market.

So what are the building blocks of the WordPress market? With the help of Google, Fiverr and Quora, my search efforts lead to these results:

  • Themes: Astra, Ocean WP, Avada, Hestia
  • Plugins: Jetpack, Askimet, Yoast SEO, Total Cache
  • Information provider: wpbeginner.com, chrislema.com, wparena.com
  • Courses: udemy.com, lynda.com, teamtreehouse.com
  • CRMs: MailChimp, Salesforce, AWeber, ConvertKit
  • Hosting provider: Bluehost, Siteground, WPEngine, Dreamhost
  • Consulting gigs: customization, migration, sales funnel, malware removal, Google analytics
  • Niches: E-Commerce, Communities, Landing Pages, Restaurants, Startups

3) Build New Solutions

Now it’s time to come up with new solutions. How to go about it?

Pick at least two random building blocks, either building block types (Themes, Plugins, …) or actual blocks (Astra, Ocean WP, Jetpack, … ).

Now you try to connect these two blocks by applying connection-patterns. To achieve this, think in terms of integration, processes, curation, platforms, comparison, and search. All these structures are in some way “building bridges“.

Here are some examples:

1) Connect “Consulting gigs” and “Restaurants” by applying the search pattern:

One imaginable solution could be a search engine which lists WordPress consulting gigs for restaurants. In other words, Fiverr for restaurants. These could include themes, sales funnels or Google Analytics methods which are tailored to the needs of restaurants.

2) Connect “Bluehost”, “Siteground”, and “WP-Engine” by applying the comparison pattern:

This one is obvious. You could create an information product which compares WordPress hosting provider in regard to performance, reliability, and customer support. Of course, this kind of solutions already exist. But try to niche this idea down. What about comparing WordPress hosting provider in regard to the needs of small startups?

3) Connect “Plugins” and “CRMs” by applying the integration pattern: 

One existing solution is the successful WordPress plugin WP Fusion. It integrates dozens of WordPress plugins with leading CRMs,  and marketing automation platforms.

Apparently, the presented examples are raw and have to be refined. This could be achieved through market research and validation techniques. Another way to refine your idea could be the application of the Meatgrinder concept of Tyler Tringas. It’s a practical way to eliminate bad ideas in a matter of minutes.

Bottom Line

As you have probably noticed in these examples, there are endless opportunities to create building block ideas: Even the connections of the presented WordPress-blocks offer the potential for 100s of business ideas.

Another advantage of building block ideas is the fact that they are built on existing structures. Structures which have already been proven by real markets. Thus, you decrease the chance of building a useless product. If somebody needs Product A and needs Product B, there’s a huge chance he needs the integration of these two products.

The more time passes, the more stuff gets created. This is why the building block method gets more and more valuable. There is no need to anticipate products. The foundation to build great things already exists.  So in that sense, don’t be a pioneer. Be boring instead. Connect things, and win effortlessly.