I think you should take all your money.
Throw it in a dumpster.
And light it on fire…
Wait, that sounds stupid, right?
Ya, thought so.
But that’s what some people do when they’re working on their business ideas.
Hundreds of hours wasted. Thousands of dollars down the drain.
All this could be avoided with a little extra work upfront.
I’m talking about VALIDATION.
Not the validation I so deeply seek from you guys.
Don’t judge me…
I’m talking about validating your business idea.
Making sure it’s good before spending all your time and money on it.
But how do you know if you’re onto something big or just wasting your time?
Validation is simple.
It’s just making sure people like your idea. And they’re willing to pay for it.
But simple doesn’t always mean easy.
So let’s break this down into specifics.
The steps involved in validating your idea
[Step 1] What problem are you solving?
Let’s do a quick experiment.
Which seems more urgent?
Taking a vitamin when you’re healthy? Or a painkiller when you’re in pain?
I’ve forgotten to take my vitamins before. But if I got hit by car today…
You can bet I’d be asking for some painkillers.
Same rule applies to business.
Customers would rather buy something that solves their problems than something that’s nice to have.
So what problem does your idea solve?
Take five minutes and write down as many ideas as you can.
If you still can’t think of any.
Skip to here. I talk about creating an idea that you KNOW will work.
If you thought of an important problem, it’s time to learn about your customers.
[Step 2] Who’s experiencing your problem?
Knowing the problem is half the battle.
The other half is figuring out who needs that problem solved the most (Otherwise known as your target market).
At Ignite, we knew our Power Stacks were solving an important problem.
They give you stronger focus, clearer thinking, and increased motivation. Great if you have too much work, and not enough time to do it.
But we were stuck.
That’s a problem everyone experiences. How do you decide who your product is for?
I’ll walk you through the steps we took…
Write down all the different groups of people that could use your product.
What occupations do they have? (Teacher, Lawyer, Doctor)
Did they go through any big life changes? (Married, Lives alone, In school, Has kids)
What’s their age range? (Mid 20s, Late 40s, 60s)
Their income level? (Middle class, Well off, Eating Ramen at college)
If there’s more than one group, great! This gives us options.
At the end you might have something like:
- Doctors in their 40s, working in a high income area.
- College students studying art, with at least one well off parent.
- Bankers living in a city, who care about fitness.
For each group, ask yourself two questions.
Can this person afford to pay for my product or service?
And is this person willing to pay?
It would be great to let everyone enjoy your product for free. But a business can’t run if it’s not making money.
So if no is the answer to either question, move to the next group on your list.
Once you’re done, take a step back.
If you have any groups left, great. Skip to step 3.
If not, repeat step 2 and come up with more.
If nothing comes to mind or you’re starting to question your idea…
Chances are, this business idea isn’t a good one.
But would you rather find out now or after six months of hard work?
This is the whole point of validation.
You eliminate bad ideas early so you can spend time on the good ones.
Now you can come up with another idea.
But this time.
Instead of brainstorming business ideas right away. Start with your target market first.
What’s a market you know well?
What’s a group of people you understand and relate to?
Think of problems they experience.
That being said.
It doesn’t matter how you decide on a business idea.
If you’re solving a problem and there are people who want to pay for that.
You’re good to go and ready for step 3!
[Step 3] How to read your customer’s mind
Know who your customers are and you can find them.
Understand how they think and you can get them to buy.
Let me explain.
Say you have a project that takes three weeks to finish.
If all of a sudden, you only had three days… That would be a problem, right?
But if I asked you to tell me about the problem, there’s more than one way to describe it.
“I have too much work.”
“I don’t have enough time.”
“My team isn’t large enough to finish this in three days.”
If I could fix the problem of “too few team members”. You’d be busy dealing with the problem of “too much work” and wouldn’t care.
Figure out how your customers word their problems.
When you understand how they think about problems and can help them, they’ll jump at the chance to buy your solution.
Here’s how to get an inside look into your customers’ minds:
Search for keywords, phrases, and similar questions:
With Quora, try searching different keywords, plus an occupation. A bunch of related questions pop up. Click on ones that are relevant.
When looking at these questions, write down the different words and phrases your customers are using.
And another thing you can do with Quora.
Search different ways to phrase your problem:
If any existing questions pop up, that’s a good sign.
This mean your problem is a real one and people are actively looking for solutions.
These same searches can and should be done with Google too.
Hangout with customers online:
While searching for keywords and phrases, you’ll probably come across different blogs and forums.
Take some time to look through these. Do the writers use any special wording or slang with their audience?
In comments and discussions, do any phrases continually pop up? Look for patterns and write them down.
Reddit is also a great tool for spending time with your audience.
Search for terms related to your customer. Any word following r/ is a different subreddit (r/entrepreneur, r/business, etc).
Look into these different subreddits. They’re full of great questions, answers, and comments related to your customer.
You’ll start to see how they speak and what’s important to them.
Take a peek at their library:
If I’m researching entrepreneurs.
I’d go on Amazon and search for terms like “entrepreneur books” or “small business books”.
What pops up? What common topics appear in these books?
Next, find books with a lot of reviews. Looking at the three and four star reviews will show you what people liked, and what important info was missing.
And if your business idea is a product, search for reviews of similar products. See what customers complain about and answer them with solutions.
Go straight to the source:
One of the quickest ways to understand your market is to get out there and talk to them.
You can message people online or talk to them in person.
If you’re messaging them online, look on Facebook and Reddit for groups related to your topic. You can find a bunch of relevant people there.
And when talking to people, remember one thing.
Avoid saying things like, “You probably don’t have much time for your work, right?”. Instead say, “What are some of the biggest challenges you face at work?”.
The first is leading them in a direction. The second is letting them take the lead so you can see what’s important to them.
That was a lot of work!
But now, you should have enough info to build your product.
The last step before your first sale 😉.
[Step 4] Building a product people want to buy
This part is where most people mess up.
You don’t want to spend time creating a product that no one wants.
So to save time, you can get feedback BEFORE building your product.
A landing page is a one page website that highlights the key details of your offer.
Andddd, it lets you collect your customer’s contact info so you can reach out to them later.
All of them have free trials you can use.
Then if you want more landing pages in the future, you can get a paid account. And if not, you can cancel without spending a dime.
However you decide to build out your landing page is entirely up to you. The important part is to.
Address your customer’s problem in their own words.
Explain how your product or service solves that problem.
And collect their contact info so they can hear more about your offer.
This should be easy with all the information you gathered in step 4.
Get traffic on your landing page
Now you’ll want to get potential customers to view your landing page.
A few ways to do this:
Reach out to your network – You can message people you know, tell them about your offer, and ask if they know anyone who might be interested.
If they do, send them to your landing page.
Search relevent hashtags – On Instagram and Twitter, you can search hashtags related to your offer.
You’ll see all the people who recently shared posts on the topic.
You can tweet at or private message them with details about your offer, and ask if they want more info.
Just make sure it’s someone who might actually want your product or service.
As long as you’re friendly, genuine, and not too pushy, there’s nothing wrong with telling people about something that can make their lives better.
Run ads to your page – If you don’t mind spending a little money, running ads to your landing page can be the quickest way to get a bunch of traffic.
Google, Facebook, and Instagram all have great options for targeting specific groups with your ads.
If people go to your landing page and share their contact info, they’re interested and want to learn more!
And now that you know people want your product, it’s safe to spend the time building it.
Creating your product
Building your first product is easy. Most people just overthink it.
You don’t need a perfect product that hits national news your first day.
Instead. Focus on creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP for short).
An MVP has enough key features that your customers will use it. But no more than that.
The sooner customers see your product, the sooner you get feedback.
And since people won’t be afraid to criticize something you spent a weekend on, the feedback will be more honest.
But enough talk. Let’s get to it.
If you’re building an app or website:
What most people do – Hire a developer, spend months building out “the perfect” app, have a huge launch party, anddddd
NO ONE BUYS!
What you’ll do – Create a quick prototype of your website or app. This can be as simple as using pen and paper. Or you can use Balsamiq to build a prototype on your computer.
Next, find out what customers like and don’t like about your prototype. Then make changes. (This will be a lot easier now than changing code later on.)
If you’re building a physical product:
What most people do – Look for large scale manufacturers. Try to make deals with suppliers and wholesalers. Plan out the logistics of shipping and storing 1,000 units.
What you’ll do – Build out the first version yourself.
If it’s a tee shirt. Take your design, find a heat press, and make one to five tee shirts.
If it’s a poster business. Get your design, go to Staples, and print a few posters.
Think to yourself, “what’s the quickest and cheapest way I can create and test my product?”
Noah Kagan has a lot of great content on the topic.
If you’re offering a service:
What most people do – Spend time building out a complex website. Then run a bunch of ads for the site and hope people will contact them.
What you’ll do – Start small and local. You can literally go on Craigslist and post whatever you’re offering.
Or talk to friends and see if they know anyone who can use your service.
Now it’s time for the final step…
[Step 5] Let’s get some sales
If at least three people buy your product, you’ve officially validated your idea.
So let’s start selling.
You can find potential customers in your network or repeat the steps you used earlier to get traffic.
When you find someone who’s a potential customer, talk to them and learn about their problems.
If they experience the problem you’re solving, explain how your solution can help.
If they seem interested, ask them to buy.
You don’t have to price your product extremely high. But it should be priced high enough that someone has to genuinely want your offer to buy it.
And sorry to say, but you can’t ask if they WOULD buy. You have to actually go for the sale.
Actions speak louder than words. And people will tell you all about how they’ll do something until it’s time to actually do it.
If someone says no, that’s completely fine.
Ask them why, and use that feedback to improve your offer and better understand your customer.
After talking to people and collecting enough feedback, you’ll have made some sales or improved your offer to the point where people want to buy.
And now that we’ve reached your first sale.
You’ve officially validated your product, and your business is a go!
You just took a HUGE step in growing your business. Take some time and celebrate.
And when you’re ready to get back to work.
Just repeat the process.
Go for sales → Get feedback → Improve your offer → Repeat.
If you found this helpful, take five seconds and share it with one friend starting their own business.
They’ll thank you for it.
And for more high quality, to the point content, check out some other articles on the Ignite Blog.