It happened! That spark! An epiphany!
You got a brilliant app idea. Or maybe a new concept for a SaaS platform.
As developers, our instincts say to start coding right away and bring this idea to life!
But hang on. Before diving into development, it's crucial to validate the idea first.
Just because you can build something doesn't mean you should. Validating an idea reduces risk, saves time and money, and ensures you're addressing a real market need that someone is willing to pay to solve.
How can I validate an idea? Good question.
Who is going to use or buy your product? Get ultra-clear on your target demographics. Consider factors like:
- Age, gender, location
- Income level, education
- Values, interests, pain points
Research similar products and analyze their target markets. Figure out how your idea differs and who would find value in those differences.
Ignore this step at your own peril. What other solutions currently exist? How do they meet (or fail to meet) your target users' needs?
Make a list of direct and indirect competitors. Study their offerings closely to understand positioning and identify potential gaps/opportunities.
If you are going to try to sell to customers in the niche, how credible do you think you'll sound if they ask you about these competitors and you don't know anything about them?
Create simple surveys using Google Forms, Typeform, or SurveyMonkey. Reach out to people in your target market and gauge interest in your idea.
Ask about their needs, what they dislike about current solutions, and if they see value in your proposed offering.
The questions don't need to be complicated. If there's interest, it'll quickly become apparent.
Surveys provide breadth of feedback, but interviews offer depth. Have phone calls with your ideal users. Dig deeper into their needs and hear reactions to your idea.
Pay attention to subtle cues like tone and energy levels. If they seem genuinely excited, you're onto something!
Early on, these interviews might be something that happen naturally when you are trying to solve a problem for a customer. Yes, before you've built your product and while you're learning about the market, you'll very likely have opportunities to solve real customer needs -- and they'll pay you for the privilege.
This is part of the idea of doing things that don't scale.
Determine the bare minimum set of critical features needed for an MVP. Avoid getting bogged down by bells and whistles at this stage.
Your MVP should showcase the core value proposition and resonate with early adopters.
I read a story about an org that delivered on the core value proposition but also added links to every feature they could think of to the UI in the app. None of the additional features were implemented. The links led to individual feature surveys asking those already paying customers what the feature would do for them and how it would impact the value of the product. Brilliant!
Set up a simple landing page explaining your product and allowing for signups. Use concise, emotional copy focused on user benefits.
Promote the page through social media, communities, and target emails. Have a form to collect emails and gauge conversion rates.
You're only interested in determining market demand for the idea. See solid conversion rates? Great! You've got your targeting down. Low conversion rates? It might mean your targeting is off (as opposed to just a poor idea -- though that could be it, too).
Consider pre-selling through a crowdfunding campaign or by offering discounted early access. This tests if people are willing to pay for your idea.
Just be transparent if the product is still in development. Manage expectations appropriately.
The goal of idea validation is not to guarantee success, but to minimize assumptions. By testing key hypotheses, you gain confidence to move forward or quickly pivot if needed.
Approaching development informed rather than blindly optimistic will save much heartache down the road. Do the work on the front end to validate demand, understand the market, and clarify the MVP.
Once you've checked those boxes, you'll know much better how to fit the need.
Then (and finally 😅) sling some code!