Test Your Business Idea

I recently shared an idea with friends over lunch and they immediately spotted a big hole in my super smart theory. It doesn’t mean I won’t pursue the idea. It does mean that as I move forward, my strategy will be better and I will avoid some open manholes because the early draft of my idea was scrutinized by others.

Most business startups do not succeed. You’ve heard this before but probably dismissed because, well, in your own mind it doesn’t apply to you. Maybe yes, maybe no. It is valuable to study why small businesses fail. You can study the carcasses of others to avoid a similar fate.

But what if there was a way to tip the scales in your favor? What if you could avoid spending a ton of time, energy, and money only to see your business become a statistic? Well, you can.

Getting out of your own head is crucial to minimizing your failed attempts. Putting your precious business idea to the test will help you do that. There are many different ways to do this. Some of them will take only a few minutes to try. Do you have the patience to do some testing first? I hope so. Hubris has been the downfall of many would-be business owners who were ‘too smart’ to test their ideas!

Business Basics

  • Create something people want
  • Prove that enough people want it
  • Prove that you can reach those people
  • Prove that your message is effective

For some of you, a negative rule carries more weight than the positive version. For you I will restate the same basic principles above but in reverse language and reverse order. Here they are in the voice of your prospect:

  • I won’t care if you don’t speak to my issues
  • I won’t hear if you miss my channel
  • I won’t matter unless you find many of me
  • I won’t buy unless I really want it

The following list, digested from over a dozen of the best sources, summarizes how you can test your idea before betting the farm on it.

Testing Your Idea

Method Description
Wait Give your idea time to percolate in your mind. If you stew on it for a few weeks and still believe that the world needs it, start testing.
Find similar products You want to find competitors for two reasons: You want to know that there is a legit target market and that those people will spend money.
Attack yourself This is a variation on the differentiation exercise. Imagine a competitor enters the market to compete with you. How would they take ground from you? Would they be similar or different?
Test with Facebook Facebook’s Ad manager can tell you how big of a target market you have for a certain topic in a specific geography.
Invite scrutiny Do you want to succeed or do you want to be right (in your own head, anyway)? Hubris can take down the best minds. You must love winning more than you love your new idea. If it can survive the analysis of other bright minds, you may have a winner.
Engage a mentor or critic Get honest, been-there and done-that feedback from someone in the industry you’re targeting. Their blunt critique might hurt but it could save you much time, money, and heartache.
Enlist a focus group Your friends and family will probably not give you objective feedback. Gather people who are potential customers and ask them to be blunt.
Buy Google Adwords Build a sign-up page and then run some Adwords tests. A small investment yields big results by proving that people want your stuff.
Check Amazon Best Sellers Is there a category for your product? Is there healthy competition?
Check Google Trends See the trend of others who are looking for your product concept.
Test on Craigslist If you make your offer on CL and get sufficient interest, you may be on the right track.
Read Negative Reviews Look at reviews for similar services and read the lowest ratings. You may spot problems in your own thinking ahead of time.
Write about it If you write up your idea in a blog post, people will give you feedback. Some of it will be helpful.
Use Crowdfunding Sites like KickStarter and IndieGoGo allow entrepreneurs to raise funds and build a relationship with buyers. If your campaign goes bust, you have problems that need to be solved.
Build the MVP Minimum Viable Product – the simplest version of the product that you can actually sell. Technically this is not a pre-launch test, but shipping a minimal product can saves you money and allows you to get real-world feedback so that (if you’re listening) your product can become successful.
Want more step-by-step wisdom on this topic? Pat Flynn’s new book Will it Fly? is a must-read. Let the master of SmartPassiveIncome show you how it’s done.

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