Let’s imagine: you have created a fantastic product that you invested quite a bit of time and money in, and finally released it on the market. Unfortunately, your innovative idea failed to catch on. And as a result, all your investments never paid off. This can only happen because you had forgotten to validate your idea. In this article, we will explain how to validate product ideas with only minimal investments.
The answer is simple. Validation is designed to give you reasonable certainty your business will have to a sustainable, growing, paying market in a matter of days or weeks, rather than wasting months or years building a final product nobody will pay for. It’s as much a way of thinking, as it is a step-by-step process. The end result validation attempts to achieve is most often meeting a desired number of pre-orders or waiting list subscribers who'd purchase a basic proof of concept of your idea—a minimum viable product that solves the most simple form of the problem you're attempting to address.
Before rushing into developing your project, make some criteria clear and ask these questions to yourself:
What some entrepreneurs fail to understand is that ideas succeed or fail based on “Value”. At the end of the day, customers are buying Value. To provide more value than your competitors, you need to offer something different, better or ideally both. In short, if your idea promises to solve a big enough problem, is able to deliver on that promise, and convinces people to pay for it, it can be turned into a full-fledged digital product.
Just the simple act of writing forces you to consider things you may have previously glossed over. I’m not talking about writing a “business plan.” (For startups, a business plan isn’t the best use of time and will change as soon as you start talking with prospective customers).
We are talking about answering a few key questions that you can go out and test. These are your assumptions and the sooner you can test them, the less risk you will have when launching your product.
You can start with the questions below to guide your thinking. Write down some basic assumptions that you can go out and test:
In the real-world, time and resources are scarce. There isn’t time to agonize over details that, in the end, may not matter.
For that reason, lean market validation helps successful teams get just enough information and data to make decisions. And then they make them. Adhere to the 80% rule — get just enough (valid) information from customer interviews and other sources of data and then make a decision. In the end, you will never get to 100% certainty, and getting close will eat up an inordinate amount of time.
Which brings to the third point: All the writing you do, the discussions (and debating) you have, are assumptions. Teams often take these discussions (and what is in their heads) as fact, when they are simply assumptions that need to be tested.
Think of the scientific method when reviewing ideas — how can they be tested?
Some people debate minor details and waste valuable time rather than making a guess (a temporary decision), and then getting out into the real world to test whether it’s the right idea. It’s important to just make a guess and get started, because your assumptions may turn out to be wrong, and you’ll have spent valuable time (not to mention the toll on team dynamics) debating something that didn’t matter in the first place.
Now that you have chosen a product idea to move forward with, it’s time to validate it.
The first step of the validation process is to build a small and closed group of beta testers, from within your target audience, who can evaluate your product idea, share feedback, and help you identify loopholes in it.
We’re trying to do a couple of things here.
There are several ways to do that.
If you already have an email list, send out an email in which you introduce your product idea and ask people if they’d like to know more about it.
If you don’t have a subscriber base, Facebook is a great place to build the initial feedback group for your product idea. Just head over to Facebook Groups and search for your topic to find relevant groups.
Also, look for groups in other closely related niches where people might be interested in your product idea. For example, people interested in healthy living, physical fitness, motivation, etc. will probably be attracted to your product idea as well. Join at least 10-15 active groups and spend a few days interacting with the other members by responding to their posts and comments.
Once people are familiar with you, share your idea with them and seek advice on you can make it more valuable.
Focus less on features and more on explaining the value proposition for your product. What does that mean? A value proposition is the expected gains that a customer would receive from using your product. Value can be quantitative, such as time saved or additional revenue earned. Measuring this is usually straightforward.
But value can also be qualitative, such as pain relief or lifestyle benefits your product provides. By thoroughly understanding and documenting this qualitative value through customer interviews, you can set your product apart from the competition.
For example, it could be time saved, making more revenue, or maybe some social benefit (like looking good). Whatever it is, these value propositions are directly tied to the problems that you have previously discovered.
There’s a difference between your core product and your overall offer that the clients will pay for.
Confused? Suppose your core product is a video course of 7 to 8 modules. But to increase its perceived value and make it more attractive to the buyers, you must add a few other things.
For example, you could add worksheets, additional reading material, interviews of successful students, a members-only Facebook Group, or even a 30 min consultation call with you. You’ll be surprised how many people buy your product just because you offer something additional along with the core product.
This also makes it easier to launch your product at a higher price point and offer different packages with different pricing to cater to every type of buyer.
This is where the fun starts. Now that you know what your product will be like, you need to create a landing page to tell the world about it and persuade people to buy it from you even before you’ve created it.
At this stage, many marketers go for an email opt-in landing page instead of a product sales page. That’s a big mistake. Remember, your objective is not to grow your subscribers base or build a list of freebie hunters.
You want to validate your product idea and despite all the research and time you’ve spent analyzing your competitors, there’s no better way to validate a product idea than making people pay for it. If you can get 5 to 10 strangers to pay for a product that isn’t even ready yet, you can sell it to thousands of people once it’s ready.
What are you going to say on this landing page? You’ll share your story, tell people what your product is about, and give them its detailed outline.
Plus, you’ll either create an executive summary kind of a document that shares the details of everything you’ll be covering in the product (a 10-15 page document) or a 5 to 7 minute video that tells people exactly what they’re signing up for.
A video is more engaging content type.
During validation tests, it’s important to use the A/B testing features of landing page builders. You’ll uncover valuable insights that can help you in building your MVP and marketing strategy.
Experimenting with your head- and tagline can get you more conversions. Also, a clearer picture of what resonates with your audience. So you have a landing page (with at least 2 variations) up and running.
After your hard work, share your offer to your network. It’s now time to see if your product idea has any value for your prospects.
Before taking it to the outside world, send an email to your inner circle (the people who helped you shape your product idea) and offer them an exclusive price that won’t be available to anyone once the product is public. To close the sale, send them to the landing page you’ve just created.
Send this over to your email list and all the contacts you acquired from Facebook Groups, Quora, Reddit, or any other sources.
If you’ve done everything right so far, you’ll probably get your first sale as a result of this email.
Hopefully, your inner circle gives you enough sales to validate your product idea.
But if it doesn’t (or if you want more validation) you can run a Facebook Ad campaign promoting your product idea and routing people to your sales landing page.
Now everything’s in motion. You ran your whole test. It’s time to analyze the data you gathered.
Based on that you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to put resources in making your product a reality.
Validation is a continuous process for improving your idea and doesn’t stop with the first assumption. Even if you had a real problem and a validated solution for it, there are other aspects that might need to be validated as you develop your idea:
Idea validation is done to minimize the risk of implementing ideas no one wants or isn't willing to pay for. The purpose of idea validation is to make sure your product or business idea has potential and the most critical assumptions regarding your idea are valid. The point is to find the fastest and cheapest way to test your assumptions so that you can decide whether you're going to proceed with the idea or pivot.
If you don’t get the required sales, it means you need to refine your idea and make it more valuable.
Even then, you’d save dozens of hours and thousands of dollars that you would’ve wasted had you launched your product idea without validating it. But if your idea is validated, it’s time to start working on it and turning it into a product that over-delivers in terms of value and amazes your customers.