How to Validate Your Product Idea in 28 Days – Part 1 of 4

You’ve got a great idea for a new business, but how do make sure that it’s an idea that’s worth pursuing? And more importantly, how do you figure out as soon as possible if you’re just going to waste your time and money?
You probably know that you’ve got to “get out of the building” and talk to your potential customers. But you’re not sure what the best way to do that is.

In this 4-part series, I’ll show you how to validate your product idea in 28 days.

Week 1: Define & Engage Your Target Customers

In the first 7 days, we’re going to define our target customer and then we’re going to start contacting some of these people.

If you’re anything like me, then the thought of going out and talking to complete strangers about your idea may make you a little nervous (it used to terrify me).

Don’t worry, it’s not that bad and after you’ve completed this 4-part series, you’ll be much better prepared for those conversations.

You have a great idea, but who is it going to help? Who do you believe that you’re solving a problem for? Let’s try to get as clear about that as possible.

It can sometimes feel counter-intuitive to get so specific. Won’t that give us a much smaller potential market to go after? Yes, it will.

But here’s why that’s important.

Firstly, as the saying goes, if you try marketing to everyone, you’ll end up marketing to no one.

Secondly, when you get specific about your customers, you’ll be able to focus and your message will resonate with them i.e. they’ll pay attention to you.

And thirdly, you can always expand your market later. Remember, that Facebook started out as a service just for Harvard students. It worked out for them.

Create a Simple Persona of Your Target Customer

So let’s start by creating a simple persona of your target customer. Now, we’re not going to spend a lot of time on this. We’re not looking to achieve perfection.

We’re looking for a clear description of who your target customer is, so you’ll know exactly who you need to talk to when you ‘get out of the building’.

Let’s say that you have an idea for a diet & nutrition app. And you decide that your target customers for this app will mostly be women.

Now let’s go a couple of levels deeper. For example, you might want to target women who are working moms. And within that group, you want to target women who eat gluten free food.

So as you can see, we’ve gone from ‘women’ as the target customers, to ‘working moms who like to eat gluten free food’. That might not be your perfect customer, but it’s a much better place to start, then just targeting all women.

Next, let’s spend a few minutes answer the following questions:

1) What are your target customer’s top 3 pain points?

2) What are your target customer’s top 3 desired outcomes?

Now, you may not know all the answers. But let’s think of this as your ‘working hypothesis’ i.e. let’s go with what you know (or think you know) and then we’ll validate later.

With this information, you should be able to produce a simple one-page persona of your target customer. And let’s call her “Maggie”, so I don’t have to keep saying ‘target customer’.

Find Out Where Your Target Customers Hang Out

Next we need to determine where Maggie hangs out, both online and in the real world.

The first and probably fastest way to find Maggie will be through your own network. You may not personally know Maggie, but I’d bet someone you know does.

So start by posting a message to your own social network and letting them know that you’re developing a new health & nutrition app and want to get feedback from some working moms who eat gluten free foods. Do they know anyone?

While you’re waiting for responses, start checking out blogs or forums which talk about gluten free diets for women or families. Also, check out any Facebook groups where Maggie might like to hang out. If you find some relevant sites, then make a note of them.

You could also go down to your local Whole Foods Market or a similar health foods store to find Maggie. But I wouldn’t recommend trying to stop a busy working mom who’s trying to get her grocery shopping done for the meal she’s going to cook tonight for the family.

If your target customer was a business, then you have a few other options. Firstly, in some cases, you can just search for their websites and find the relevant person to talk to by going to their ‘about’ page where you can often get their contact information.

If that doesn’t work, then you can try LinkedIn. Use their advanced search feature, to look for people who have a certain role in your target market e.g. director of marketing in education companies.

And you can either contact these people by using LinkedIn’s InMail service (which will cost you a few bucks) or you can use a service like Rapportive to find an email address.

And remember, while you’re looking for where Maggie hangs out, you’re going to come across a ton of useful information i.e. blog posts, comments, forum posts, social media etc. that will give you valuable insights about pain points or desired outcomes. Keep building a list of those insights as you come across them.

How to Reach Out and Request an Interview

OK, so you’ve figured out how to reach Maggie (and hopefully lots of other Maggie’s too).

You can either post a message or send a direct mail explaining that you’re an entrepreneur who’s developing a new health & nutrition app for working moms who eat gluten-free foods. You’re not selling anything — just looking for feedback and advice.

An alternative approach is to simply ask — ‘if you could wave a magic wand and solve your biggest problems around eating gluten-free foods, what would you fix?’. The people that respond will give you some valuable insights and you can follow up with an interview request.

Your goal is to schedule a 20-30 minute interview with at least 5 people for the next week. And you can do this either in-person, on the phone or over Skype.

Keep repeating this process, until you’ve got at least 5 interviews scheduled.

In this first week, we’ve developed a customer persona, to help us to better understand our target customer. And we’ve figured out where they hang out, contacted them and setup interviews. That’s great progress!

Look out for the next post in this series, where we’ll talk about how to plan and conduct effective interviews. Or just signup below to receive the next post directly in your inbox.

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