“Would you pay for something like this if it works and how much would you be willing to pay?”
So you’ve got a killer new idea and you’re excited about it. Now what? Get to work right? Well, not so fast. Feel free to ride your surge of excited energy to flesh out the idea in depth. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to validate your idea. Meaning, ensure that your idea is a good one and could actually work.
Here are some ways you can validate your ideas:
A. Do you have this problem?
This is an easy one. Does your idea solve a problem that you yourself have? If not, then why are you interested? Maybe your girlfriend has the problem or someone close to you. If your close friends don’t have this problem and you don’t have this problem, then look for another idea.
The founder of DropBox came up with the idea because he left his USB drive when he was going to a presentation. “If only I could take my files with me everywhere…"
Good ole Zuckerberg wanted to stalk cute girls. So he created Facebook. Why not?
Jeff Bezos want to be able to buy stuff online. So he started Amazon.
The founders of AirBnB rented out their spare room to pay for their startup costs. Then the real idea hit them, why don’t we help other people do this?
B. Does your pitch resonate consistently with people?
When you share your idea with someone and they get it and start adding on to it, then you’re onto something. When a stranger (who’s in your target market) takes your idea and begins to own it by giving you valuable feedback, that’s a good sign. If they look at you and could care less, you need to rethink what you’re up to.
C. Get a demo and show me don’t tell me.
If you tell someone about your idea, often they’ll tell you it’s a great idea. If they don’t understand what you’re talking about, this is a subconcious defense mechanism. It’s a million times better to show them what you’re talking about with a demo, prototype, rough wireframe, or napkin sketch, than it is to tell them the most beautiful plan.
D. Do people share your early stage idea?
Can you get a 100 likes on Facebook? Or a few testimonials about what your product has done for them? Or a “Yes I’d be willing to pay for this” letter?
Scott Ayres, the founder of Devotify says “I have Early Adopters contracts drafted where if you’re willing to sign a letter and commit to pay for my product (that’s not built yet), then I’ll give you a discount when it is built."
E. If you have an online idea, throw a splash page up and see what demand is with $100 worth of Google Ads.
F. Ask complete strangers (who don’t care about you or your feelings) to sign up and PAY before it’s ready. This goes hand in hand with the share factor. The key here is strangers. Don’t ask your mom or grandmother if they’ll pay. Of course they will. They think you’re the smartest man on earth.
G. Run the numbers.
How much cash flow do you need to breakeven up front? Is it 10 recurring customers per month? Do you need to sign on 2 new accounts a week? How much seed capital do you need? We’ve found if you don’t nail down your financial needs, then you can’t ask for it and it’s rare that you come close to progressing past that milestone because you never defined it.
H. Leave the office, see how real users use (note: this often takes months of work). If you have a restaurant loyalty app, then you should be sitting in restaurants running customer user design tests.
- How does a customer use this app?
- How does the restaurant owner interact with it?
- What can we design better so it’s more seamlessly understood?
- What features can we do away with at this point in order to focus in on what our clients really want and need?
I. Crackhead Customers
Who wants this right now? And who wants this so much that they'll use it even when it's a crappy v1.0 made by a two-person startup they've never heard of? If you can't answer that, the idea is probably bad.
You want to develop Crackhead Customers. People who have you have what you’re selling. And they have to have it RIGHT NOW. Can’t live without it. Need it so bad that they’ll knock your door down for the stuff. Those are the rabid customers you want to go after when validating your idea. Urgent, immediate users who will pay.
J. Don’t suck face
The point of validating your idea is to know if it will work or not. If not, don’t worry, that’s actually a great thing that you were able to validate that up front and early on. It’s no big deal if you need to abandon an idea—don’t let that process hinder you or drag you through the mud for too long. And while we’re on this point, don’t suck face. Don’t suck up to people with money, to investors, to partners, to crappy customers. Just make it a point not to suck up, suck down, don’t suck. Making a “Hey this isn’t going to work” decision is an admirable thing and you should be proud of yourself. Enough said. No sucking up or trying to paint a picture that just doesn’t exist. Be up front, be honest, and move on.
When you suck face, you end up working with suck ups. And that sucks. Don’t let your ego get in the way.
(photo via gosheshe)