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Validation of business ideas: how to quickly understand if the market needs your product

Introduction

Validation of an idea is a process by which the interest of the target audience in your product and the prospects for developing your business with this product are determined.

Validation involves directly checking if there is a demand for your product through interviews with people from your target audience. Most importantly, the idea must be validated before you have made a large investment of time and money in your product and moved on to the active development phase.

As practice shows, even completely inexperienced startups can release a product that the public immediately takes with a bang.

And all because the idea was tested before launch. This allowed us to correct mistakes and understand what is important for the target audience. 

Here are some basic guidelines for validating a business idea that will help you determine if your product meets the needs of your target audience.

Simple communication with real people and the right questions will help you find out if your product / service really solves the problem, who your potential customers are and if they are at all.

Describe in detail the product concept

The concept of a product is not a business plan, which for startups is, in fact, a waste of time, because it will begin to change as soon as you communicate with your first potential client.

We are talking about answers to several key questions that should be immediately verified in practice. 

Essentially, a product concept is a set of your ideas about product features and hypotheses about their importance. And the sooner you check them out, the less risk you will face during the launch phase.

The very process of a detailed description of the idea will make you think about really important things that were previously ignored for some reason.

Here are a few key points on which your product concept should be built:

Who is your customer?

If you answered “all,” be prepared for difficulties. Because “everything” means “nobody.” Be sure to specify and specify. For example, if you have a B2B business, and your potential customers are other companies, immediately determine which companies it is. Car dealers, pharmacies and tailoring ateliers? Or other startups with an annual turnover of $ 5 million in financial technology?

Determine exactly what characteristics your ideal customer has.

What problems does your product solve?

A lot of startups make the same common mistake – they initially think only about their product in terms of its advantages, new technologies and innovative features. And then they are sincerely surprised at the “sudden” difficulties with business development.

In order not to encounter this, immediately identify the problems that your product solves. If your product does not solve any problem, then the market does not need it. Identify the problem and make sure that your target audience also considers this a problem and, most importantly, really thinks that this problem is worth solving.

How does your product solve these problems?

Having described the problem of the client and making sure that it is necessary to solve this problem, we can proceed to how exactly your product can solve it. Think about how solving a problem affects people’s quality of life.

How exactly can your product make your customers’ lives better? Perhaps they have more opportunities to make money, does your product optimize specific processes, or does your customers improve their appearance?

What are the main characteristics of the product?

Describe the features of your product and make sure that customers can benefit from them. What end-user value does each of the features of your product carry? But do not try to make as many useful features in your product as possible.

I highly recommend concentrating on creating an MVP (Minimally Viable Product) with limited functionality. A few reasonable “profits” for the client – this is quite sufficient argumentation for the purchase, and even more so for high-quality feedback. 

Build your UVP (unique value proposition)

Pay less attention to the features of your product, and more to explaining its value to the consumer.

What does it mean?

A value proposition is the expected benefit that a customer will receive from using your product.

For example, your product may have a number of features that have certain benefits for the user. 

What benefits can a user get from using your product?

This can be time saving, increasing income, optimizing processes or certain social benefits – a more attractive appearance. It all depends on the nature of your product.

Be that as it may, these value propositions are directly related to the problems that you discovered earlier. Therefore, make sure that you have formed them and can convey it in a simple form to the person from whom you expect to receive feedback.

Most of what you describe is just your guesses.

All your ideas are your assumptions. Many startup teams naively believe that all internal debate and the personal opinion of each of the team members can grow into an indisputable fact. Whereas, in fact, all these are just extensive hypotheses that still need to be verified in the real world.

Always look for a way to test even the smallest ideas in the real world.

I often watch teams spend a lot of precious time discussing small details instead of speculating, making a temporary decision, and testing its viability. Then they go “into the field” in order to test their ideas on real people. And it often turns out that time was wasted – the assumptions turned out to be false, and the arguments were in vain, because the experiment showed a completely different picture.

Verify your assumptions in practice

Once you have decided on some basic points and recorded them, go out to people and ask. So you check how relevant your assumptions are to your target audience.

Market validation is always based on interviews with potential buyers of your product. You can also conduct a survey among experts (the same analysts in your industry, employees, consultants, etc.)

If it’s hard for you to reach representatives of your target audience for a personal conversation, you can always use Internet technologies and do an experiment using forums, communities or just landing and online advertising.

Start with your personal environment and social networks.

The main difficulty for startup teams is the problem of finding respondents to participate in a survey or experiment.

My advice is to use social networks. Browse your list of friends and determine which one can be part of your target audience. 

Create a list of people whose opinions could be useful to you. Schedule a meeting or call in order to review your idea and ask a few questions about its relevance and need. 

However, this method has its drawback. People you know are already initially located towards you and, accordingly, your creation.

And this is a small but undeserved bias in your direction.

But I, nevertheless, believe that it is better to have at least some opinion about your idea at the start than a complete lack of understanding of what people think about your idea and how they can respond if such a product is available on the market.

Build Your Interview Responsibly

Speaking of the interview, I do not mean a superficial fluent conversation, or (even worse) a dry poll.

Of course, it’s better to start with a list of questions prepared in advance, but do not be afraid to deviate from it as you learn more information from a person.

Tell the main aspects of your vision of the future product and let the respondent give their opinion on your idea. Even if the answers initially go against your plan, you can always hear ideas that you missed when writing the interview script. 

If you approach the conversation correctly, demonstrate dedication, sincere interest and curiosity, you will get really valuable information.

Ask why often

You can ask questions like “What” and “How” for a long time …

But “Why” is by  far the most important question you can ask a potential customer.

If a person says that he likes something or vice versa, ask why. If he says that he is using something or doing certain things with a certain frequency, find out why. If he wants to quickly buy your product, ask the question “Why.”

This type of question will help you get closer to the true needs of the client. Because it is important for you not only to know about the preferences of the client, but what exactly forms these preferences and what motives are behind his decisions.

Unfortunately, “Why” is rarely used. The reason for this was the leveling of the significance of this fundamental question – people often automatically answer and they are also automatically trusted.

This leads to the fact that you miss the opportunity to understand the true motivation of the client and predict his future actions.

Look for those who are willing to pay

Just because your idea is pleasant does not mean that you are ready to pay for it.

Unfortunately, the validation of a product idea is a very subjective thing. And there is no single answer to your assumptions and cannot be.

As a rule, flattering reviews about your product during validation interviews are just a manifestation of friendliness. Therefore, be careful – these answers should not become for you the ultimate truth.

When someone enthusiastically tells you “it sounds great” or “this is an interesting idea”, your first reaction should be the question “Why?”. Understand that the fact that someone liked your idea is not yet a guarantee that they will pay for this idea. Your task is to minimize this effect of false positive acceptance of your idea.

It is foolish to think that you validated ideas and you can start active development only because several people said “if it were, I would definitely buy it.” 

The full validation of the idea becomes a fact, if after such words you offer to pay right now and get the product when it is ready, and the person agrees. 

If a person took money from a wallet and handed it to you, maybe you found something. Now you have a chance to learn more about this person and understand the motives for his decision. 

Act

Whatever business area you are in, you are most likely limited in both time and resources. Therefore, it makes no sense to drown in the details, which in the end may not have any meaning at all.

Validating an idea helps startup teams get the information they need to make decisions and get started. This method really works.

But do not hang on the stage of validation of an idea for too long. You only need to identify 70-80% of the problems and form a common understanding of the needs of the market. In the end, you can’t get absolute confidence a priori, and the pursuit of the mythical 100% will only take away so valuable time and resources from you.

Otherwise, your desire to make a good idea validation quickly turns into procrastination, when you just continue to postpone the implementation of your idea, explaining it with the need to “be a little more confident in the prospects of the idea.”

Bonus: How to validate an idea in one evening

Carefully follow the description of the concept of your future product and go to the nearest coffee shop. 

Sit down at a table in a conspicuous place and put a sign next to you with the inscription “I will offer you coffee in 10 minutes of your time. PS It’s important for me to know what you think about my idea. ”

In 2-3 hours you will be able to chat with at least 5 people. Tell them about your idea and try to identify all the motives and reasons that I talked about earlier.

Why do they like or dislike your idea? Would such a product help them cope better with the solution of various problems or not? Are they willing to pay for such a decision?

A coffee shop test is a great and inexpensive way to chat with strangers and to find out from people outside your circle of friends what they think about your idea. 

5-10 high-quality answers will help you identify patterns in people’s answers and help build an understanding of the prospects of your idea.

And as soon as you get some good insights, don’t procrastinate – go to action! 

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