"If your startup failed the first time around, it's because you didn't solve a high-totem pole problem that a large audience is trying to solve"
Launching and starting a business is by not means an easy task.
Studies have proven that 90% of startups fail. That's pretty alarming.
The truth is anyone can launch a business, but not everyone can successfully validate and launch a business.
Trust me. I've been there on multiple occasions by successfully launch and selling an appointment booking app.
There is nothing worse than launching a business that no one wants....
a mistake I've made many times over and likely you've made as well.
If you're focusing primarily on how smart your startup idea is then you're doing it all wrong.
To launch a successful startup you must focus on problems.... not just any problem but problems that people are trying to solve
If your house is on fire.... what do you need most? Water... think in terms of tose types of problems.
So how do you ensure you're launching a business that people are virtually begging you to create?
How do you ensure that you're not in the 90% of startups that fail?
It's pretty simple: talk to customers before you waste time building or coding anything!
Talking to customers accomplishes a few key goals: confirms the problem you're solving is real and people really need your solution.
And if done right you have just increased your chances of ensuring you're not in the 90% of failing startups.
So let's take a look at how to validate your ideas. Here are 3 tips you can use immediately to validate your startup ideas (or problems).
1 - Having Real Conversations
The fastest way to learn if the problem you're solving is real is to talk to customers.
Not coding, any fancy analytics dashboards, but simply focus on talking to people, the right people.
If you're looking for an easy way out by doing surveys, then you can forget that as well.
One of the biggest mistakes I've made and continuously see from entrepreneurs is avoiding talking to people (their early customers).
It's your job as the entrepreneur to hustle, find where your customers are and validate the problems they are facing.
And that starts with setting up face-to-face or phone meetings.
You may be asking, "who should I talk to?" First question I asked during this journey you're on now.
In fact it kept me paralyzed doing nothing for a long time but we're not going to allow that to happen to you.
Here is how you find prospects or your early cusotmers:
Start with your immediate contacts
This includes your friends, family or co-workers.
Many will tell you not to talk to them first but if you're new to the idea validation process they they are a great place to start.
Talking to someone about your ideas is way better than no one at all.
Don't worry about what to say or how to track these conversations because I have a couple of FREE tools to guide you.
There's nothing better than getting warm introductions to break the ice of seemingly awkward conversations.
Use your immediate contact list to introduce you to people they know to expand your list of early customers.
Really important.... when getting referrals always make it easy for your immediate contacts to refer people to you.
Don't make them struggle what to say. Just as awkward as it is for you it's awkward for them as well referring people to you.
Below is a script that I use to get referrals using email:
Feel free to use and change this exact script to fit the idea you're trying to validate.
Text message works well, but email is more effective using this script.
Conversations with strangers
Striking up a conversation with someone you don't know is a great strategy.
Really important.... don't come off like a creep or a weirdo.
Talking with strangers does take some courage and a little skill which I will show you below.
I was at the grocery store and noticed a young lady had some exotic nail colors so I asked, "if you don't mind me asking, do you get your nails done at the salon?"
She replied, "yes I do". I asked, "how do you test different colors"
She said, "oh it's a pain, I either put the bottle up to my hand or paint different colors on my nails then wipe them off."
I said, "oh man, that sounds like a lot"
Another important note when talking to strangers....
Make sure they aren't busy. If you try to validate your idea and they are in a mad dash.... it's a sure way to get shut down quickly.
It's highly unlikely you'll get the validate your idea on the initial contact.
The most important thing is set an appointment. During this phase you will be talking a many people (approximately 20-30 initially).
It's important to have a system to keep all of your conversations organized.
Nothing worse than forgetting who you talked to, when you talked to them or forgetting an appointment.
Quick way to lose credibility.
I use a simple excel template to organize all of my conversations:
Feel free to use another tool like Google Sheets or another CRM tool if you like.
The key is to use something that will help you establish discipline and keep you organized.
2 - Make an Impression Virally
If you're working a 9-to-5 and trying to validate a business idea, then going person-to-person for interviews can be challenging.
Trust me I've been there.
Technology has given us the ability to reach people virally by putting together a landing page.
Although this can get a little advanced, but once you'll get over the learning curve you can crank out a landing page in minutes.
For those that don't know what a landing page is...
A landing page is generally a one-page website that allows you to reach people with a URL, and collect their name or email address.
Why is that effective for validating your startup idea?
Here are the benefits:
- You can build a page.
- Put some images or a message about your idea
- share it virtually anywhere (social media, forums, etc)
- Collect hundreds or thousands of names & emails in minutes
Below are a couple of non-technical landing page options:
1 - Strikingly: This is my go-to platform to set up most of my landing pages to validate my ideas. It has both a free and paid option.
2 - Kickofflabs: Another great tool, but a little more advanced than Strikingly. In most cases you will not need this much functionality but worth a try.
Instead of hiring an expensive designer try these do-it-yourself options:
3 - Snapp.io: Awesome platform that I love using to create amazing logos and other designs for my landing pages. Both FREE and paid plans
4 - Canva.com: Another great platform that I love using to create images and logos. Both FREE and paid plan. Currently using the FREE plan.
I will not dive too deep into copywriting in this post, but just know that it's very important.
When a user visits your page, it's critical they know the intent of your page.
This starts with the center of the landing page must have a message that clearly states why this is useful to them.
Below is a high-level summary to follow from
At a basic level, your site visitors should know 2 things immediately:
1 - why they are there
2 - and what you need them to do next
Below is an example of a landing page that I've created with a clear message
Using a landing page all by itself doesn't do you any good.
Simply collecting names and email addresses doesn't help you determine how big a problem is for a user.
Earlier I mentioned surveys along will not help you....
But combining a landing page with a survey is the ultimate tool to use for idea validation.
Here are the steps below to put this into action:
- Create a landing page
- Then create a survey with some validation questions to fit your idea
- Add the link to your survey in the thank you page of your landing page
- Once a user enters their name and email address
- The thank you page will appear with a link to the survey
- A user will be prompted to answer the questions you put together.
Surveys are really useful to validate your ideas when you use 0pen-ended questions.
Simply asking yes or no questions will never get you any closer to validating your ideas.
Asking the following questions will bring you quality results:
- "What's the hardest part about doing your job currently"
- "What's the biggest pain your face with doing your job"
- "How are you overcoming this pain currently"
- "What would be the ideal solution for you using software"
Don't worry about writing these down, I have a script template for you to download and use.
These are money questions that will help you get the most useful information out of your survey (these are great face-to-face questions as well)
There are a couple of survey tools you can use that are FREE:
I personally like using Typeform as it gives you a little bit more functionality and user-friendly for your users.
Below is a sample form that I put together in 3 minutes:
Using the landing page + survey combination is a great supplement to setting of meetings one-by-one.
When done right this is a very effective method to reaching a large amount of people and getting some very useful data to validate your idea.
3 - "Meet Up" & Connect
Meetup.com is a great place to network and meet potential customers to help you validate your business idea.
The national national networking site has surpassed well over 25 million users world-wide.
While Meetup.com is traditionally thought of as a great place to meet like professionals.
It's also a awesome place to meet your early customers to validate your startup or business idea.
Let's say you want to attend groups for runners in your local area.
Your goal is to help runners run longer distance without their knees hurting sooner.
With a quick search you will instantly see running group within miles of you:
Here are a few key tips to make your experience successful:
1 - Leave the business cards at home
Yes... that's right leave your business cards at home.
We are accustom to handing out business cards at every first chance we get.
Instead come with a focus of learning about others in the group.
Keep the open-ended questions in mind that we discussed earlier.
As you start to have conversations the time will come when you can insert them into your conversation.
2 - Relax... don't be in a rush to get people into a validation discussion
Meetup.com is more of a long-term approach not a quick hit mentality.
If you're joining a running group, then you better be in the mode to well..... run with the group more than just once.
The quickest way to lose respect and credibility is to show up once, hand out business cards, then start calling people.
Easy way to lose respect within the group.
Just like watering a garden, take your time and build "real" relationships with everyone in the group.
3 - Get off on the right foot with the organizer.
One way I like to build instant credibility is reach out to the organizer and send a personal note.
It may feel like handing the school teacher an apple, but it's a great approach to instantly get introduced to the group.
Take the time to craft a good email and send it to the organizer... see an example below
Dear Organizer -
I'm new to the Charlotte, NC Runners group and really excited for the upcoming meetup this Wednesday.
I've never joined a running group before so naturally I'm not exactly sure what to expect. In either case I would love to see how you feel I should best assert myself into the group?
Looking forward to meeting you personally and getting introduced to the group.
The last sentence is key... I stated that I'm looking forward to meeting them personally and getting introduced
This sets them up to introduce me personally to everyone in the group.
Remember if you don't ask you don't get what you want.
Once you've settled in, now it's time to revert back to the first tip we discussed with setting up your meetings.
Launching a successful startup begins with validating problems that people are truly trying to solve.
Your customers are out there but how to get their attention and how do you get the information you need from them?
Getting out of your comfort zone and getting started can be frustrating.
So its key to find what works for your get start validating.
And that means get out talking to customers.
At a minimum start by taking action with the tips that you have just learned.
Set a goal that you're going to set up 5 meetings this week, then increase that goal each week.
Get comfortable using the email referral script, find the words that best suits your liking.
Next test out different open-ended questions and adjust them based on the responses you're getting.
Remember, it's critical that you use discipline and be organized throughout this process.
Make use of the tools and templates that I've provided you and you will be fine.
Entrepreneurship is all about finding success utilizing the assets that you have available to you.
What are some of your best idea validation strategies that you're using currently?