You’re walking the dog or standing in the shower and you have a brainwave of an idea for a new product, course or a new business idea. You get very excited by this and sit down and start fleshing it out and then put it into action.
After many weeks and late nights of work you’re finally ready to launch. You’re very excited to get your product or business out there so you launch with a big fanfare but sadly to little response.
When we think we know what our audience wants, when we are absolutely certain our idea is a sure-fire winner, when we believe we know best for our clients WE HAVE TO FIRST VALIDATE OUR IDEA.
Now I am guilty as the next person for enacting this scenario. About six years ago when I decided to create my first online course, I did absolutely no validation because I was so sure that people wanted to know how to start their own business. I even came up with a snappy salesy title of How to start your own business & gain financial freedom within 6-months. And guess what – it flopped. Undeterred and without learning any lessons, I moved onto my next sure fire million pound making idea (!) which was all about selling. I was absolutely sure that everybody wants to know my secret sauce for selling so I created my next course “Step by step guide for generating new sales for your business” and guess what, another flop!
How many times was I going to repeat this before I learnt my lesson - which is, we may think we know what our audience wants but unless we go and validate and test our ideas first, we are doomed to a cycle of repeated failure. And this applies to an online course, a business idea, new product or service, and particularly at the moment, any ideas for pivoting your business.
So let’s backtrack somewhat and rewind to that ‘in the shower’ ah-ha moment. What should you do next?
Coming up with ideas
First of all, we need to take a more scientific, methodical approach to coming up with ideas rather than relying on those ‘in the shower’ moments. Now of course those ah ha moments can be the inspiration for an idea, but you then need to go and research if the data supports the idea or not.
An obvious first approach would be to Google your idea – does it already exist? (if yes, then good because that tells you there is probably demand for it). If yes, then is your idea a different variant or is there room for you too? If no, then what is similar or are you creating something that no one wants and hence, no one has tried to create it before?
You can also use your own data to work out what ideas might fly. Look at the Analytics data of your website – what content has really resonated with your audience? How about your email marketing? What emails got the most ‘opens’ and ‘likes’?
This are all clues or breadcrumbs that will lead you in the right direction.
Now we have established that our idea has some merit, before we dive head long in turning it into a course or product , we need to do some validation and this validation process will tell us two things: Firstly, it will help us validate if our idea is a goer or not and help us refine the idea and secondly, as part of the validation, we want to presale to at least some of our audience before we even start writing one word or line of code of the product/course.
Now the validation process is designed to give you reasonable certainty that your idea will have a sustainable, growing, paying audience rather than wasting months building a final product or course that nobody will pay for! The end result of the validation process is confirmation that your idea is viable. This is confirmed by achieving a desired number of pre-orders or waiting list of customers.
Validation isn’t a guarantee of success and it most certainly isn’t easy. It’s not as simple as putting up a waiting list and hoping people miraculously discover your offering & fork over their hard-earned money for something that doesn’t exist yet (trust me I tried that too!).
Validation is designed to give you your first paying customers and foundation for future growth.
Think of it this way : if you follow the validation process and it turns out that no one is interested in your business idea, product or course, then consider how much time, money and heartache you’re going to save yourself by establishing this at the early stages before you’ve invested too much energy into your idea.
So now hopefully you agree with me that you should slow down to speed up and validate your ideas first let me outline a little bit about the process.
You need a mailing list of at least 200 active contacts before you can start doing this validation so if you don’t have a list of that size I suggest before you embark on any kind of product development you focus on building that list of followers (download my free guide on building your mailing list). Alternatively, if you decide to validate via one-to-one calls you’ll need at least 60 people to talk to.
From your research you need to write a short (1-3 pages max) description of your business, product or course idea. Next you need to create a short survey (I use Google Forms for this) to send out to your audience (or to ask over the phone). In this short survey, one question you will ask is ‘do you want to buy this product/service/course?’
The next task is to create the emails you will send out to your audience – the first asking your reader to read the short description and complete the survey, and the others to follow-up and chase those who didn’t respond to the first emails.
Using your email list (or phone contacts), divide your list into 3 x groups of 50 (or 20 for phone calls). Send out your email to group 1 and a few days later chase any update haven’t responded. Use the feedback from this group to refine your messaging and then rinse and repeat to group 2. Refine your messaging once again and send to group 3.
Of those who responded, if 10% indicated their interest to buy then you have validated your idea and you can move into fully fleshing out and developing the idea, and focusing on your sales and marketing strategy, knowing that it is something that your audience is interested in.
I know this can feel a little tedious and a laborious process, and one that impedes your excitement to getting your idea launched but trust me if you follow this process you will come out the other side confident that your audience likes and wants your idea rather than assuming you know that they need it.
Right now this is particularly important because we need to be selling painkillers not vitamins to our audience and this validation process will ensure that you have identified the pain points that your product, service or course can solve for your ideal target customers.
27-page Step-By-Step Guide - How to Identify & Validate Your Idea
If you are interested in a step-step guide on exactly how to do what I outlined in this blog, including the exact emails and survey templates, then grab a copy of my 27-page step-by-step guide on selecting and validating your idea BEFORE you go to market.