Idea validation is essential to predicting your potential likelihood of success on any new business venture.
Whether you’re launching your first product or your 10th, starting a new business or just adding in a new service, getting off on the right foot can save you many headaches down the line.
I’ve been working in digital marketing and advertising for six years and one of the lessons that's taught me is that you can’t skip the testing phase.
Things go better when you have a solid foundation to support your future work. So I wanted to start a new service, but felt that I needed to validate my idea first.
Little more than two months ago, I got invited to help out with a number of strategy, research and positioning tasks for someone at a multinational company you’ve definitely heard of. The company itself shall not be named for NDA-related reasons. What really matters about this first project is that it got me thinking:
If companies at their level still find value in seeking outside help with their marketing docs, surely many other companies will too.
I’ve long been involved in the strategy side of digital marketing, but only for my ongoing clients.
Since most of my clients come on a medium-to-long term engagement, that meant a relatively low volume.
But now, bolstered by the (very) positive feedback I got from that client, I decided I wanted to explore this venue further.
I wanted to know how companies would feel about strategy and positioning as a standalone service.
Before I could find that out though, I had to define exactly what I was going to offer people and what my value proposition would look like, so I asked myself:
What if I covered everything you typically only learn about in a high-end marketing course, but with the added benefit of not just learning, but having this research, positioning and strategy work done for you?
...and because I wanted my first offer to feel like a no brainer, I priced it the way you would price a proper, high-end marketing course. Similar price, exponentially higher value.
To sum up, my offer as I defined it included consulting, research and key elements defining an effective, long-term marketing strategy and positioning plan.
Once I had it fully defined, I went on and sold my first package:
A strategy doc for a successful and established online printing company headquartered in New York City. It included:
The result of that plan was such that we’re still working together today.
Next came a research doc for a travel budgeting app that’s currently in the concept stage.
That included industry research, key takeaways from top (existing) competitors and a breakdown of target audiences, with demographics and other insights collected from those competitors and certain media brands targeting the same niche.
We went on to also create a survey targeting the audience we had defined. The goal with the survey questions was to help them further elaborate on what they’re application’s focus and priorities would be.
So far, so good. That then led to my next project for a different client who was interested in a market positioning and strategy doc. This time it was for a photo editing and design app with an established user base.
Finally, that leads us to today: 4 out of 4 successfully completed projects, each with positive feedback, each from a very different kind of client.
With this validation to support my value proposition, I can now say that I feel confident about moving forward with this new service and opening it up to more people.
Now to conclude this story, here are a few tips to help you with your own idea validation:
The most straightforward (or maybe the fastest) way to validate an idea is to conduct a survey. Surveys are a great way to learn more about your audience and their perception of your idea.
If you want to go down that route, you can get started with a free template from SurveyMonkey, like this one. That’s a template for getting product feedback and it’s got a good list of questions to build off of to define your own.
In this case, I wanted to validate my idea by getting actual sales and hearing the feedback from real customers, because that’s much more reliable than what people will answer in a survey (it’s a lot easier to say, “yea, of course I’d pay for this”, than to actually make that commitment), but that’s not always possible at first.
Case in point: if you’re building an app/ web tool, you can’t get sales data before it’s ready, but you’ll still want to validate your idea before you commit a lot of time and money to build it. This is where surveys can really come in handy.
This is exactly what I started with in my own casel.
Define your target audience, analyze your market and understand what other people are doing, then define a compelling value proposition that puts what makes you different in the spotlight.
When you launch a new product or service, you won’t have the number of testimonials/ reviews or case studies that you do as an established business.
At this stage, it’s a good idea to think about what other incentives you can offer people to convince them to take the leap and trust you to be your first buyers.
In my case, I did have a history of similar work to help me, but this isn’t the case for every business, and even so, it’s not quite the same thing. A special offer with limited availability for your first customers may be just what sweetens the deal enough for them to give you your first yes.