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Ideas to Reality is an article series where I take a look at easy tools entrepreneurs can use to get their projects up-and-running. In the previous post, I highlighted a bunch of free tools that can help you build a product prototype.
“There’s no marketplace for ideas,” Trevor Owens, entrepreneur and founder of the popular customer validation board Javelin says. So until your product is out there, you’ll never know its real worth.
Luckily, with the help of some effective tools, product validation is made super easy today. This means you can refine your business model or new product, or pivot, by decreasing risk and increasing reward. Without actually creating a product, spending too much money or energy, you can test the waters before taking the plunge.
Do your market research
Before even approaching your customers, take a look at Google Trends and Facebook Ads. You can search keywords to check which ones are the most popular. While this method is somewhat limited, you can use it to make crucial trade-offs in your product’s direction.
For instance, let’s say you’re looking to launch a new app for your site. In this case, you can choose your country demographic and find out whether iOS, Android or Blackberry is the most popular.
From the customer’s point of view, there’s often nothing more annoying than someone cold-calling them, approaching them on the street, or receiving pop-ups on the web. The key is either incentivising or leveraging the platforms available at your fingertips.
Post some ads
Whether it be a post on classifieds like Gumtree or an ad on Facebook or Google. This is probably one of the simplest ways of validating your product online.
To add onto your research, you can further use Google AdWords and monitor the click-through rates of people searching for specific keywords (your potential target market). You pay per click so if your idea ends up falling flat on its face, at least you won’t be forced to cough up that much money.
Similarly, Facebook Ads help you track your clicks, engagement, likes and conversations. Depending on your preference or the type of demographic you had in mind, LinkedIn and Twitter are also useful.
Test a landing page
Here’s where things get really interesting. There are a bunch of cool tools that help you make your site and get it out there as quickly as possible. Each has its unique pros and cons but the general idea is that you easily create a product page for your idea, prospective product to which the tool helps funnel respondents to by using things like Google AdWords or other marketing software.
These tools are probably your best bet at testing the market though with most of them you’ll have to put down a monthly fee. If you’re in the business of constantly testing out new, innovative products, these would be perfect for you.
The same team behind the Javelin created Quick MVP. The online tool claims to help you test your product idea within five minutes. The process is made up of two steps: quickly create a landing page for your idea (no HTML, CSS skills required), after which you target your audience leveraging Google Ads.
Similar to Quick MVP, Unbounce lets you setup a landing page without the need to code. What’s neat about this site is that you can easily add other marketing tools like MailChimp, Salesforce, AWeber, Constant Contact to help scale, promote your product.
Unbounce also includes A/B testing so you can optimise your website User Experience. The service will put you back starting from US$50 to US$200 per month. It does have a 30-day free trial though.
Validat.io has a more hands-on expereince. The system guides you through a step-by-step process of explaining which problem you’re solving, gets feedback from online consumer panels, and then sends you a feedback report.
Validat.io will put you back either US$20 for a random sample of 20 respondents or US$200 for 100 US respondents.
Unlike the ones mentioned above, Javelin is a wall poster board which can be printed (or used as a Google Spreadsheet) for as little as US$4. The system is designed to give you visualise the market validation process where you’re encouraged to pivot, alter your problem/solution hypothesis again and again, until it’s bust or a win.
So far the keys to help validate your product have been either doing research or paying money. You can also use product as an incentive to attract people. And what better way to incentivise than giving people exclusivity to your product, and let people vote with their wallets instead of clicks?
Launch a crowdfunding campaign
In this case, crowdfunding is an excellent tool to help validate your product. See our tips on running a successful campaign and test out your product. In this case, see Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Dragon Innovation or South Africa’s Thundafund.
Two crucial factors of success in running a crowdfunding campaign lie in your ability to convince people they need your product, and target marketing. This also means that you’ll have to have a prototype at the very least, with the promise to scale. It would thus be smart to first test your market with the other methods mentioned above, before committing to a single product.
If you’re lucky, you just might end up in a potato salad scenario.
Image by Chung Ho Leung via Flickr.