How to validate your idea before building it

So you have a new idea for an app, a product, or a small business that will potentially allow you the freedom to quit your job. You might feel like it’s a daunting and intimidating path that you’re about to take. And it’s true, most people don’t take the risk, because they’re too afraid. So how do you eliminate the risk associated with quitting your job and starting a new business? Well first of all as they say, “Don’t quit your day job.” because you’ll need it while you’re building your new business.

Here’s the transcript from this podcast episode, please excuse any typos!

In today’s episode, I’m going to tell you how you can validate your business idea before building it. So you have a new idea for an app or a product for a small business that will potentially allow you the freedom to quit your jobs. You might feel like it’s a daunting and intimidating path that you’re about to take. And it’s true. Most people don’t take the risk, because they’re too afraid. So how do you eliminate the risk associated with quitting your job and starting a new business? Well, first of all, As the old saying goes, don’t quit your day job, because you’re going to need it while you’re building your new business, I’m going to assume whatever your idea might be that it came out of a need that you found in the market. Because if you aren’t solving a problem, or making your life better with this idea that it might not be a good idea to start a business around it in the first place.

For example, maybe you think strawberry scented kitty litter is a good idea. But Do people really want that? Or are you even a cat expert? Maybe you’re a veterinarian, whatever your idea might be, it’s smart to try and keep it in the realm of an industry, you can be considered an expert. And if not, you better become an expert, or find one to partner with in the right industry so that you’re making the right decisions moving forward. And what I mean by that is, let’s say you’re a bartender, and you think your new mobile app that helps you choose your outfits each day is a good idea. Well, you know how to make a ton of drinks for your customers. But do you know how to put together a good outfit? Does your family come from a fashion background? Or did you go to school for fashion? Or are you just good at slinging drinks. Remember, stick with what you know, if not learning.

Once you find your niche industry and have chosen an idea you can handle you should then perform a thorough search online for other apps or products in the market that are similar to yours. The quickest way to find out if it’s worth pursuing, your idea is to make sure it doesn’t already exist. And if some form of it is already on the market, make sure that yours has a unique value proposition that differentiates it from the others. I can’t tell you how many times people call me or text me and tell me they have the best idea ever. And then I do a search on Google and find that idea already exists. And they’re like, ah, and I’m like, you could have not called me or not texted me if you had just done the search. So do a search, it takes you two seconds. And if you can’t find the idea already out there, maybe your idea is different from the ones that you did find.

Remember how Facebook came in like a wrecking ball and crushed MySpace? Well, if your idea is better than an existing one, it might be worth building that better mousetrap. So the question remains, how do you find out if your idea is better than the others out there? Well, the easiest thing to do by far is to create a survey using a tool like typeform. Calm, it’s free. All you want to do is write five questions about your new idea. Keep it short and simple by using yes or no answers or multiple choice. And sometimes you can leave a section at the end to leave a message or a comment. I always think the best questions have to do with whether or not someone might be interested in using your product or service, how much they might pay for a feature or products, their age range, which products or services they might already use in your industry. And of course you need their email addresses so you can contact them later. Here’s an example.

Let’s say you’re building a new game for mobile phones. The first question could be a yes or no question like, would you play a game that lets you pop balloons with a magic wand where you earn coins and prizes? And you can make it shorter? If you want or change the question to whatever your app is. I’m just giving an example. How much would you be willing to pay to unlock special features that will help you win the game faster? 99 cents $1 99 299 499 or 999. Just most people choose 299 then you know you can monetize your app by adding a feature where they can pay 299 to unlock something. And that’s important to know how much people are willing to pay for your product. Then you can ask what other games are already playing with answers like Angry Birds, Candy Crush Pokemon GO Roblox fortnight and any other games you want to add. This can help with your UX or user experience. For example, if 80% of your survey respondents say Angry Birds, then you might want to include some sort of theme like that game, since they already liked it. Then ask another question about your game that might need a one sentence answer something like what do you look for most in the games you play? Some people might say they like it when it’s easy, or when it’s challenging or when it’s colorful, etc. You want to know what people like about the games they play so that maybe you can see a common pattern with the answers and say, oh, everyone’s saying they want it to be really colorful. Well, then you’re going to make your app really colorful. And of course, your last question should ask for their email address, but the sentence that says something like so that you can contact them when the game launches to get their feedback. You can also add another line that says that there’ll be a bonus of say 100 free coins for taking the survey and that they can use those coins in the game when it launches.

You want to incentivize your users in some way. Once you feel like you wrote the survey properly. Now it’s time to send it to at least 100 of your closest friends and family on Facebook and other social networks to get an initial reading on it, then start sending it to complete strangers online. And you can even hire mechanical turks on Amazon for like 10 cents each if you want some completely unbiased opinions. And if you don’t know what mechanical Turks are, don’t worry, they’re just regular people who are at home and they get paid to take surveys or do other administrative tasks. It’s really cool. And it’s really cheap, and I definitely recommend it. And there’s always the in person approach. You can go to your local universities, buy a few gallons of water, ice paper cones, and hand out our free water ice to each student who fills out your survey, bring a few friends with you to help so that you can hit as many students as possible. And trust me, they will love the free water ice or whatever you decide to hand out pizza soda, whatever you think is best, you can try this anywhere there’s a lot of people walking by, just make sure it’s easy to access your survey wherever you are, whether you have to print them out, or you have them fill it out on an iPad, just make sure you have it accessible. If you really want to make sure your idea is viable, then you could create a landing page or two and pay for some Google or Facebook ads. To find out if people would sign up for your app or buy your product. You can sign up for a free platform like lawn truck comm to do the heavy lifting for you. It focuses on user acquisition. This is also called AB testing when you set up two different landing pages.

One is A and two is B make both different by using a different message graphics and targeting a different market and see which one is more effective. Anything you can do to save time or money is always the right move. Maybe your landing page a targets single moms, and maybe your landing page B targets millennials. And then based on the results, if maybe the millennial one gets more signups then you know that you want to target millennials for your game and not single moms. Either way, you want to get as many people to take your survey as possible, the more the better. I’d say the closer you get to 1000 people the better. But take what you can get obviously, as you grow your user base, you should have conversations with them whenever you can to get feedback. Taking a survey is one thing, but talking about the iterations, you might be thinking about our powerful thing.

Since there are a million ways you can go with your idea. It’ll help you to have actual feedback and suggestions from real consumers who will end up using your app for buying your product. Once you analyze the data from the survey, you’ll be able to make a data driven decision on whether or not the idea is worth pursuing. Or at least you’ll have some answers that you didn’t have before. Now you can build a clickable demo or prototype for your app using free software like justinmind prototyper, I highly recommend it’s drag and drop and pretty easy to use. Once you build it, you can put this demo in front of people, let them try it out. And again, get some feedback. Watch where they click, and half. If they struggle anywhere, it’s pretty easy to get a hang. That’s your UX or your user experience, then you should ask them questions about what they think of the colors, the icons, the text, the graphics, basically your UI or user interface. Now if you’re creating a physical product, maybe a kitchen utensil or a workout device, either way, we live in an age where you can 3d print your products, they used to have to send your designs to China and get them to create an expensive mold for you. And the whole process took forever, it was pretty expensive. It was also kind of complicated. But there are plenty of 3d printing shops near a city where you can have them help you print out a prototype of your product. And you can show it to people and you guessed it, yet feedback. And you see someone holding your prototype and physically you know handling it, you can get a good gauge on whether or not they like it and or what they think of it.

Just remember when it comes to your prototype, you want to build the most basic version of it in order to find out if people like what you’re trying to do. And you want to spend as little time money doing this as possible. If you get this far, it means you got enough feedback to build a minimum viable product, or MVP for short. It’s a great job, you’re halfway there. Building an MVP is the next step up. So if you made a demo of your mobile game, now you want to find a local artist, unless you’re good at graphic design to actually design your app, and then partner up with a programmer to help you code it to life. If you can’t find a CTO or Chief Technical Officer, then you can always hire a development shop to build it. Or you could always learn how to code by using Code Academy and other free courses online. Again, remember, build the most basic version of your game or hack. That’s why it’s called a minimum viable product. You want to keep the features and interface minimal. Don’t add a ton of stuff. Keep it simple, so that you can get feedback quickly. Same goes for your new workout device. Now’s the time to manufacture 100 units and see if anybody at your local gym would actually want to buy this workout device. Or once you build the app, do people actually want to install it and use it. Think of this step as pre selling your business before you truly go to market and start advertising for Once you have a substantial user base of customers, if you are selling a physical product, you might want to consider crowdfunding your product on Indiegogo or Kickstarter. Since you already have a bunch of customers, it should be easier to sell your product because once you launch the campaign, they should be your first customers. No one wants to come to a Kickstarter page that has no pledges. So make sure you tell everyone the day and time you launch so that they can jump in there and pledge their amounts, which really means they’re buying your product and supporting you. Also, be careful for the crowdfunding vultures who are going to approach you and say that for a fee, they’ll help you promote your campaign. More often than not, they charge you 1000s of dollars, and they won’t get you any results. Your best bet is to contact everyone you know, use social media, put out a press release, talk to journalists and bloggers to get everyone to talk about your new product on Kickstarter.

If you’re building an app instead, now would be a great time to set up a website, your social media pages, create a company logo, start a blog, and start submitting your content to search engines to start your SEO, or search engine optimization. When entrepreneurs come to me with a new idea, I noticed one of the things they forget to do, or they don’t know how to do is to create a detailed outline or workflow document explaining exactly what it is the idea ducks, this is useful for you, your team, and anyone you plan to bring on board. The document should have a bullet list for each part of your app or your product. Think of it as a use case for what it would be like for a new user to try your app for your product. take people through the steps so that they know exactly how it works. So that actually using nothing is more annoying than having to explain yourself 74 times when a document would do the job. Use Google Drive. It’s free. And you can share documents with any gmail account. So at this point, you’ve got an early feedback, built a prototype and you even started to sell your product. You should have enough information about your idea and whether or not you want to commit the next few years of your life to it. And once you reach a point where you’re earning the same or more income as your day job from your idea, then you can officially quit your job and start a new chapter in your life as an entrepreneur. Until then, keep testing, getting feedback and selling your product to make sure it’s an idea people

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Jason Sherman