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Validating an idea is making sure it is viable business wise. Meaning, does you idea have a chance to succeed and make money?
Whenever you think of a business, product or service you’d like to make into a business you should validate that idea. Validating your business idea can help you save money and time in the end by making sure there is a market for that idea.
Why do you have to validate your idea?
It simply makes sense. Building a business can take a lot of resources. Not only monetary but man hours you will have to put in yourself to make that business succeed. Validating your product or service will make sure you know how risky it is to pursue that particular path.
Most of us, myself included, love thinking up ideas and immediately start building that site and buying logos and setting brand colors, without stopping and checking first if our idea is viable.
How to validate an idea
Write down the concepts of your business idea
Sit down with a Google Doc and write down what your product or service is, who is your target customer (who you will sell to) and what problems you are trying to solve.
Try to define these things as accurately as possible, because that will help you get clear on what you want to achieve.
Study the market
Are there similar products to yours? How big is the competition? What are they selling and how are they selling it?
Chances are, if your idea is a good one, there will be someone else selling it as well. Learn from them – without copying – and see how viable this idea is. Are they really making money from this?
Do some keyword research
This one can be tricky but you can use tools like Google Trends or Ahrefs (another option is Ubersuggest) to see what the demand is. How many searches a month for your specific keyword? If it’s too low it might be that there is no demand for your product or service.
Conduct interviews with target customers
Once you have a target customer, you need to find where they are usually at (Facebook groups, forums, communities, etc) and then start your outreach. You’ll have to start approaching people and end up with at least 10-20 people to interview. Most of these interviews are done through Zoom or Skype and it’s ideal if you can record them. That means that you have to ask for permission from the potential customer.
Email interviews can also be done, where you send the questions and they email you the answers, but there’s no guarantee of when they will get back to you. So the best thing is to get them on a call.
Test your idea
Once you’ve gathered from your interviews that there is a valid interest, you can move on to doing Pilot/Beta versions of a product or course. These will generally be priced at a steep discount because what you want is to find out if the customers will actually pay money from it.
For courses, a lot of people actually pre-sell to see if they get the minimum number of participants they need for the course to be viable. If they do not get them, they refund the other customers and don’t even have to build the course in the first place. But that is your preference.
Struggles you will face when validating your idea
Falling in love with your idea
This is the biggest hurdle. You’ve been daydreaming of this business idea for months, maybe even years and finding out it really isn’t viable can be heartbreaking. You will be faced with going with your heart against going with the numbers. If it’s a hobby only or a passion project you might not mind that it won’t be successful. But if you need to make a profit from this idea you will have to let it go or push it aside for when your business is profiting from another more viable idea.
Wanting to sell to everyone
This is one of the first things experts will tell you when you are figuring out your target customer. If you sell to everyone you are selling to no one. You need to nail down that customer avatar and stick to your guns. If you are selling to pet owners, that might be too broad. You could niche it down to single men (bachelors) who are dog owners. This will help you when you are looking to find out where they hang out.
I did a quick Google search and found that “69 million households in the United States owned at least one dog according to a 2021/22 pet owners survey” . That means that pet owners is too broad a term.
If you figure out you yourself are pretty much your target you can start with that. Listing out what you like, what your fears are and what you need to solve. Eventually you can study more on creating customer avatars and craft something that better suits your business.
Not solving a specific problem
Make sure that your product/service/idea is solving a specific problem for your target customer, otherwise you’ll have a hard time selling it.
It’s a lot of fun to make up a product and have dreams of how wonderful it is and how everyone will want to buy it, but unless you are addressing one of the pain points of your customer, you won’t be successful.
Pain point examples are: Busy moms that need help organizing their time (digital planner), business owners that have a problem selling their product (marketing strategy or spreadsheet to track their marketing efforts), new entrepreneurs that don’t know how to build their website (course on creating their first WordPress site).
So make sure your product or service is solving a problem.
Shying away from customer interviews
This is the one that always gets me. First I have no clue where to find these customers! They recommend Facebook groups but the rules are so strict you might step on a few toes or even get banned if you write a post asking for help. Sometimes you reach out to the admins of the group but some groups even forbid approaching the admins.
What I have done is write a post about a pain point related to my product. For example, I wanted to do a course on WordPress for Virtual Assistants so I asked what they did when asked to do WordPress design work. To my surprise most of them said they’d just outsource it. So that course never got made.
When people comment then you’ll ask them if they’d mind a call to talk more about the subject. Then you go ahead and make the calls.
Sounds easy when I write it,but for me it was very scary and I did only about 3-4 interviews.
Don’t let these fears get the better of you. These 20 people you interview could be the ones that validate your course or product by buying it.
I know I make it sound simple in this article, but idea validation is difficult but really important to your future success. Putting in a few hours of work beforehand can make the difference between succeeding and failing.