Steps for Validating Your Product Idea Cheap and Fast
Product idea validation is an essential step entrepreneurs must take before spending their time and money on a new product. While the process seems obvious, it can still be a bit of a mystery to entrepreneurs.
This guide will help you understand what product validation is all about and why it’s such an important part of launching a business. We’ll help you validate your product idea cheap and fast by focusing on the three essential steps: researching your market, sharing your idea, and selling your idea to others.
WHAT’S PRODUCT IDEA VALIDATION?
Product validation is essentially a process of using different procedures in order to check if a product meets customer requirements and fulfills its intended purpose. Product validation figures out whether the product will be something customers are looking to use. It validates the specifications of the product against customer needs. For product ideas, the process typically involves testing the product’s commercial success without necessarily building or deploying it on a large-scale.
Product validation essentially involves three crucial validation processes.
Feasibility testing should answer the question ‘Can the product be built?’ If your product requires a lot of technical or technological expertise, it’s important to place feasibility testing at the core of the validation process.
Cost calculations are an important element of product feasibility. While you might be able to build the product from a technical point of view, the production cost might be too high to sell it in the market.
Usability testing should answer the question ‘Can people figure out how to use the product?’ Depending on the complexity of the product, this can be crucial for success. If people aren’t able to understand how the product is used, they are most likely not going to love it.
For usability testing to succeed, you’ll often need to have a product prototype at hand. It can be a simulated experience as well; the key is to ensure the use of the product feels as authentic to the user as possible.
With desirability testing, you’ll be answering the question ‘Is the product something people want to use?’ In other terms, you are evaluating the market for your product.
For desirability testing, you don’t necessarily need an already manufactured product, although it can sometimes help with the process. The key is to research how the product can solve existing problems potential users might have and whether there is large enough market for the product.
WHY PRODUCT VALIDATION IS IMPORTANT?
When your business wants to launch a new product, you are essentially doing so based on the assumption people will love it and want it. You’re even assuming the product will work exactly as planned.
Naturally, these assumptions can turn out to be wrong. The aim of product validation is to limit the risk of making wrong assumptions. As the above three testing processes showed, you are ensuring the product can be built, it will be easy to use and that customers want to use it.
Limiting the risk means your business will:
- Save money – you won’t try things that aren’t cost effective or spend money building a product, which is bound to fail.
- Save time – you don’t end up focusing on unimportant aspects or talk to consumers that aren’t interested.
- Keep your business going – your product development won’t create a product no one wants.
Furthermore, you’ll refine the product ideas you have without rushing into creating and launching a product. During product validation, you’ll receive direct feedback from potential users and you’ll be able to understand which features work and which don’t. This brings you on a more cost-effective route to solving the issues the product has to guarantee it is something customers will love.
For example, you might not have thought about a certain user interface feature in your new app. During product validation, several customers might point this out, which allows you to include the feature in the launched product.
Overall, product validation involves reaching out to the market. Sharing your ideas with potential buyers can help create a buzz around the product. It can help you gather support and give you a boost of confidence knowing there are people liking the product.
STEPS FOR VALIDATING YOUR PRODUCT IDEA
Step 1: Research your market
The first step you should take in order to validate your product idea deals with the potential market for your product. The following section will help you conduct desirability testing and partly touch on feasibility testing as well.
Get an overview of the market
First, you should look into the potential market space. This helps you not only to understand the number of people that would want to use the product, but also whether the market is large enough to justify the costs of creating the product.
When you are examining the market, find an answer to the following questions:
- What is the market size? Firstly, you need to analyze the size of the market. Think whether your product would fall into an existing market or whether you’d be looking to create a completely new market for the product. If so, what is your estimation for the market size?
You also need to ensure the market is large enough to cover the costs of your product. You might be able to sell the product, but can you sell it to enough people?
Industry reports can be a great help in validating the market size.
- Who are the major players? You’ll need to compete with other businesses and knowing who they are is crucial. Are you fighting in a fragmented market or does a company have a majority control?
Use tools such as Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner and SimilarWeb to find out more about your competitors.
- What are the market entry barriers? Does the product require certain certifications in order to be launched? Are there any regulations limiting how the product is build? You should also consider any possible technical complications on your way.
Furthermore, you also want to consider funding at this point. What does it take to attract funding, which can help you launch the product? What are the pain points investors might have?
- Will it be easy to find suppliers? If you need suppliers to help launch your product, what does the market offer? Remember to consider foreign suppliers as well, but don’t assume going abroad will necessarily be cheaper.
- What sets your product apart? Naturally, you need to establish your product’s uniqueness. This is especially important in a crowded marketplace, as you need to analytically think why your customers might choose your product over the competitors’.
Remember simply answering ‘Because it’s better’ doesn’t mean anything to a consumer. You need to be able to highlight the exact reasons for your product’s superiority.
- Can a competitor replace your product? Finally, you should also think about your product’s chances of survival. The world is full of corporations, which have more resources to develop products and launch them on a mass-scale. What is stopping some of these corporations from doing so when it comes to your product?
It’s not enough to create a viable and great product; you should also know how to stop others from copying you.
Understand potential demand and the mindset of a potential customer
You then need to dig deeper into the mindset of the customer. You don’t simply want to know there’s demand for the product you are making; you must understand why the demand exists.
Examine who the potential clients would be? Do you have a large-scale customer base with different people interested in the product or are you operating in a niche industry? For example, if your product is a retail product, such as a food item, you will have a larger audience to scout for and you want to ensure you consider the right marketing tactics later. On the other hand, you might be operating in a niche sector, such as the arms industry, which means the customer-base is much smaller.
While you are researching the customer-base, you must consider the purchasing power they have available. For instance, if you are creating a food product, you must consider the price of your product and how this sits with the customers. Are you priced on the high-end and thus won’t be able to attract middle-class consumers?
Map out the competition for an attractive market
Once you’ve found a desirable market space for your product, you should take a closer look at the competition. Understanding the competition will be helpful in two different ways:
- First, it’ll help you figure out if a company has already done what you are trying to create. If companies are producing similar products, think carefully whether there’s room for one more player? Could you present the product better? How?
If the market seems too small, consider developing your idea further. Perhaps you could tweak the product or consider a different idea altogether.
Remember to research past attempts on the market. Has another business tried your idea before and failed? Understanding past failures can ensure you don’t repeat those mistakes.
- The second benefit deals with learning from your competitors. Companies already operating on the market would have gained insight into the market and product development. Try to analyze their business strategies and product development cycle to gain information on the best practices.
This will be a great boost for your product’s feasibility testing. How have competitors solved feasibility issues? Again, research the flops and learn from those experiences.
Examine the current market trends
During step one, you should also examine the current market trends. Yesterday’s successful companies might be suffering in today’s market. Understanding the reasons behind it can help you stay ahead.
More importantly, where is consumer mood heading? Could you introduce a product that is innovative and responds to customer needs bubbling under the surface? Use Google Trends data to find out about current trends and pay close attention to social media chatter.
Overall, remember you don’t always need to invent a completely new product in order to succeed. Google wasn’t the world’s first search engine, but it managed to launch a product, which appealed to customers over the other alternatives already out there.
Step 2: Validate your problem by sharing your idea
The second step towards product validation is about sharing your idea with others. The focus is on usability testing and feasibility testing. But the following points will also help you with determining the desirability of your product further.
Share your initial product idea
Entrepreneurs are passionate about ideas. Unfortunately, quite a few lack the conviction of taking these ideas further. We humans are quite adept at talking ourselves out of an idea, claiming ‘no one would like it’.
Whether or not all of your ideas turn into reality, talking about them to others is an important part of the process. It is important because:
- It can help refine the target market more, as you build up your value proposition.
- It helps refine the product idea, as you’ll learn about the product desirability and feasibility.
- It helps you create a buzz around the product well before it launches.
Create an effective experiment
You need to have a hypothesis for your product. This hypothesis could be something like: People are not interested in baking as it’s difficult. My product will make baking a cake easier and achievable in 15 minutes.
The key is to design your product around this hypothesis. Collect feedback online with the hypothesis in mind both online and offline. In the online world, you could create a simple landing page for the product idea and analyze visitor traffic in different ways. For example:
- Analyse the visitors to the site and how long they spend time on the website.
- Measure your social media impact.
- Allow people to sign up for further information.
Drive relevant traffic to your website with marketing tools, such as Google Adwords or Facebook Ads. Social media is another great tool for directing traffic to a website and creating the initial buzz around the product.
Note that insufficient traffic on the website will generally point out two elements:
- Your product doesn’t create enough interest in the market
- Your marketing strategy isn’t efficient
Furthermore, offline feedback can be received by organizing interviews with potential customers. You can do so on the street, in supermarkets (other retail venues where your product might be sold) and different trade and retail shows.
Whether you are asking for feedback online or offline, always ask for contact details of the person as well. This can help you create an initial list of customers, which you can use for selling the product after it’s ready to be launched.
You can also share your ideas through your existing networks. If you don’t have any yet in the industry, connect with industry experts. You can find them via LinkedIn and social media sites. Creating your own consulting network, without paying a fortune, can be done. You just need to guarantee experts feel appreciated and be willing to help them in the future.
Build a minimum viable product (MVP)
Finally, depending on the product, you definitely want to consider building a MVP. The good news is that it isn’t as difficult anymore, thanks to technological advances such as 3D-printers. These can create realistic prototypes, which help you understand the feasibility of the product and give potential customers a more realistic view of the product.
The crucial point to remember is to forget about making the perfect prototype. A MVP is not the actual end-product, so don’t try to force it into one. You want to receive feedback on the raw looks and the difficulties of manufacturing the product.
Step 3: Selling the idea, not the actual product
Finally, you should consider validating your product idea by selling your idea to the potential market, and indeed, investors. This is mainly focused on testing the desirability of your product.
The key to selling the idea lies in understanding that you don’t need the product in order to sell the idea. In fact, if you are able to excite people with an idea rather than product, you have surely validated your product idea.
The genius aspect of selling an idea is that you’ll end up saving quite a bit of money. In fact, you can generate enough money to kick-start your idea, before having to look for funding to create the product.
How do you get people to buy into an idea rather than the finished product? You should definitely have done the previous two steps to understand your market and have a solid understanding of the feasibility of your product. You need to be able to paint a picture to people about the uses of your product and the benefits of the product.
For selling the idea, you could either create a website for the product or use different crowd funding platforms. Either of these requires the same points: a wholesome description of the product and its benefits, together with certain guarantees of when to expect the product.
Before you add a price tag to your product, you can even research what people might be willing to pay for the product. Present your idea and ask the customer to define what he or she would pay for the product. This can be an important part of feasibility testing, as you’ll be able to match what the product costs with what people would pay. It ensures you don’t end up pricing your product out of the market or end up with a product with horrible profit margins.
Product idea validation is an important step before a product launch. Considering that nearly 90% of startups fail, successful product validation can be the one element preventing your business from falling into this group. Of course, the high failure rate also tells us product validation isn’t easy. But the above steps have hopefully provided you with tools to get started. It’s important to direct your focus on ensuring you find the market for your product, test the feasibility and desirability of it, and find your audience without spending a fortune.