Most people think being an entrepreneur means coming up with a unique, innovative idea that disrupts the marketplace.
But this can be a risky way to do business. Inventing an entirely new concept is an exciting prospect, but it’s costly – and that’s before you’ve even determined if there’s a market out there for your service.
So what’s the alternative?
Piggyback business ideas latch onto already-successful market trends and create a whole ecosystem around that idea. Not only is there less risk – because there’s already a customer base – but it’s considerably cheaper.
Essentially, you’re jumping on the back of ideas that are already working to create a complementary product for an established customer base.
What Exactly is Piggybacking?
Service business ideas that piggyback on larger businesses are not a new concept. In the 70s and 80s, plenty of startups focused their offerings around Microsoft, which arguably would never have been as successful without them.
And think about Apple today. Every time a new model comes out, hundreds of businesses pop up selling made-to-fit cases and attachments.
Or take WordPress, a website building platform that has seen thousands of service-based businesses set up around it, like WPEngine, a brand that offers 24/7 WordPress support, or all the design companies that have made millions selling templates made specifically for the platform.
Examples of Piggybacking Service Business Ideas in Action
Guestable jumped on the home-stay bandwagon by creating a service that assists homeowners with short-term rentals on platforms like Airbnb.
The company saw the huge impression Airbnb had on the travel sector, and set up a business that tapped into a specific part of it.
Evernote burst onto the digital note-taking scene with a vengeance, and quickly became a lot of people’s go-to memo tool. Early adopters saw this as a chance to teach others about the many different aspects and benefits of the platform.
As a result, a number of productivity and small business consultants have been brought on board to help companies improve team workflows as a service-based addition to the tool. Some people have even written ebooks about how to use Evernote more effectively.
People have been going crazy for the Paleo diet for the past couple of years. A large number of entrepreneurs saw the endless opportunities that the foodie fad brought with it and started companies that complemented the diet. Some service-based business owners created downloadable meal plans, while others created books and blogs touting all the best Paleo diets.
Why Piggyback Business Ideas Work
These service business ideas work incredibly well because you’re breaking into a market that already has a “warm” audience. For example, WPEngine, a WordPress hosting platform, knew that WordPress had a huge user base, so they knew they wouldn’t be launching into an abyss.
Audience research and validation are huge parts of starting a business, but when you create a piggyback business, someone has already done all the hard work for you; they’ve convinced your potential customers that their product is worth paying attention to.
All you have to do is create a valuable offering around that.
When a new company bursts on the scene and grows as quickly as Airbnb, for example, it leaves plenty of gaps in service where other brands can pick up the slack.
How to Use Google Trends to Figure Out What’s Hot
Google Trends helps you discover what product features your target audience are interested in and what brands are performing well in the industry you’d like to go into.
Discover What People Are Searching For
A big part of starting a piggyback business is making sure your service or product is something the already-established audience want and need.
Start by clicking Explore and choose the categories that apply. You can even set a location here, if you want to market specifically to people in a certain area.
You can then see which search terms are the most popular in this category over a specific period of time. This helps you determine what areas of the industry are performing well, and will act as a good starting point for digging deeper into which brands are on an upward trajectory.
Find Out What Brands are Performing Well
To create successful piggyback business ideas, you have to tag on to a brand that is already doing well. This is why many businesses latch on to high-flyers, like Apple and WordPress.
You can find this information out with Google Trends by entering a product or service in the industry you’d like to venture into to see which ones are the most popular, but you can also compare how different brands are doing in that industry to determine which one you want to piggyback onto.
Things to Think About When Piggybacking
Piggybacking can be a hugely successful and rewarding way to run a business, but there are some things to think about before you dive in.
1. How will you stand out?
The problem with tagging along on the wave of another major brand is you can often fade into the background. Think about all the theme designers creating templates for WordPress. Most of them aren’t memorable because they’re all doing the same thing, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t successful.
Standing out is nice, but it’s not necessary to do well with a piggybacking business. The main thing is to create a product or service that people want.
2. Do you have to become certified?
If you’re planning to piggyback as a consultant or a specialist for a particular product like the consultants at Evernote, you might need to become certified by the brand.
This takes a little time and effort, but it will help boost your authority and get you more business in the long run.
3. Are there copyright considerations?
Because you’re basing your business around another brand, it’s important to give attribution to the idea or brand you’re piggybacking on and check that there aren’t any copyright issues holding you back.
Getting the Right Idea
There’s inspiration everywhere if you look hard enough. Take Fender.Cars, for example. They took the swiping concept from the latest dating apps and applied it to the car industry, piggybacking on a feature rather than a product or service.
At first glance, it’s difficult to see what car shopping and online dating have in common, but founder Adam Sharp realized that the principles were similar: people wanted to quickly swipe through a selection of photos before they made a decision.
If you can’t think of an idea, try hunting for features from other industries that might work well with the brand you’re piggybacking off.
Piggybacking off another business idea is a great way to come up with something you know other people are interested in. If a business is doing well, it’s likely they have a large customer base that are already primed for products in that industry.
By creating something that complements that business idea, whether it’s an add-on service or an additional product, you’re leaving behind the hard work of coming up with a brand new, innovative idea, validating it, and sourcing your own customers – three of the biggest problems new entrepreneurs face.
Tell us — what businesses do you admire and how can you piggyback on their success?
p.s. Check out this list of business ideas for more inspiration!