You have an idea for a new product, and you want to test the waters and see if you might have an idea that could turn into a startup.
Everybody’s doing it, why not you?
You talk to your friends and family and they seem to think you might have something. Now, you could quit your job and sink all of your savings into this new venture. I would suggest maybe checking out a different route. Firstly, I should make it clear that I want you to succeed, I want you to be “the next big thing.” Every startup business should be asking themselves three crucial questions before they jump in...
Does my product solve a real problem?
Talk to the people around you, and by that, I don’t mean your wife or husband, mom or dad. Friends and family love to be supportive. You need constructive criticism. Identify the audience that has the perceived problem. If you are trying to change the way that people workout, then go to your gym and talk to the folks working out there and see if this is a problem for them, too. Try holding a Meetup to gather information, or even a webinar. Google has a low-cost survey option if you want to try something online.
Survey Monkey also offers a service to run surveys, which they call an audience. Once you have established a legitimate problem and a solution, it’s time to move on to the next question...
Will people pay for your solution?
Even if you have solved a real problem, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people are going to pay for the solution. This question is the crux of the issue, what is the value proposition?
A good place to start is economic models that talk about the value of the pain point you are addressing and the cost of your solution. More importantly, does your customer base agree on the value of this solution. Back to the customer you go!
Value verification can come through a few paths, like:
1) Charging for the solution before it is built through a pre-sale.
2) Setting up landing pages with pricing and gauge engagement. If you are interested in trying this route, you must be ready to test—and then test some more.
3) The Freemium model has been used quite successfully and is a great way to test the waters with beta users. Interest can be shown by onboarding a number of individuals using this method, which leads us to our third critical question...
What channel will you use to onboard customers and is it cost-effective?
It’s important to remember that it’s going to cost money to acquire customers, even if you are working from a free model. It’s not something startup founders want to think about often. Acquiring customers is not going to happen organically. That being said, it’s not hopeless, but it is important to focus on the most cost-effective channels to find and attract your customers. Guess what? You have to test the waters through these channels. Options range from social media—such as Facebook and Twitter—to email and word of mouth. Not every channel is going to turn out to be a winner, so take a close look at each channel’s conversion rate, whether it’s the right audience, do they continue to re-engage, do they spread the message about your business, etc. To gain a deeper understanding of your customer, it is critical to understand where your customer is making buying decisions.
If you have questions about any of these concepts, there are amazing resources available to you. Always ask questions, always be prepared to pivot.