Sunday, December 22, 2013

How to Validate Your Product Idea

The default answer is yes.  Ask anyone about your idea - that's what most will say. Yes is free.  Yes may even earn them some brownie points.  Yes is easy.  Yes is worthless and not to be trusted.

No is expensive.  It risks insulting someone’s life’s work and ruining a relationship.  Very few will invest a No in you when they can cash in a Yes.

So, how do you figure out if your idea is a good one - and worth building?  These are the three steps we use at Contastic to make users invest with us – this is the real meaningful yes:

Emails (Attention) 

The first step to validating any venture is the landing page.  Mock it up to look exactly like it will after you product is launched.  However instead of a payment form you’ll have a signup form for people to ‘pay’ with their emails.  This is giving you permission to message them about you product.  It signals that they have a problem and your product at least looks like their solution.  Also, when you do launch, you’ll have a set of beta users ready to go. Shoot for 100 – it’s a nice round number that generally extends beyond your close circle of friends.  This is an investment of their attention.

Users (Time)

After gathering an email list of interested users create a quick and dirty prototype. This should be the bare minimum where it is useful to users.  Note that this does not at all mean easy to use, polished, or pretty.  As soon as it can add value in anyway to your users – launch it to your list.  Then, watch to see if people use it regularly.  You can learn a ton about how people are using it, and their regular engagement will be a sign that you’ve hit the mark.  They are now investing their time.

Customer (Cash)

Cash is king – and in this exercise it’s no different.  There is nothing harder than getting a customer to open up their wallet and part with some hard earned cash.  Use the existing landing page from step 1 and convert the email collection to a payment form.  Now that you’ll getting some dollars in the door – congratulations – your idea is now validated!

To be sure, this is not where the validation ends, the Customer Development Process leverages a similarly progressive framework to validate all areas of your business form acquisition to retention.  If you have any other tips and tricks for validating your product ideas let me know in the comments below.

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