Idea Validation

Idea Validation

Will my idea work?

At this point, you’ll have a well-defined idea that you’re probably very eager to start designing and developing, but let’s slow down for a second here. If you’re going to be putting in a lot of time, energy and money into an idea, you’re definitely going to want to make sure it will be worthwhile.

Why do most products fail?

In order to determine if your idea is a success, we must look at the opposite side of the coin. What makes an idea bound for failure? It’s the bleak reality that most apps are unable to get off the ground. In fact one-third of total apps receive engagement that lasts less than a minute (Source). But why do so many fail?

It’s quite simple – Your product doesn’t solve consumers’ problems.

If your product isn’t the right solution, your users will simply use your app once out of curiosity and then never use it again. The aim of your app should be to engage as many loyal users to the service you are offering.
At this point, your ideas surrounding the market are simply guesses. They are untested inferences about the potential of your app, but you’re going to want to work from something much better than assumptions. But where do we start?

Ask your customers

The only way to turn your assumptions into certainty is to actually interview your customers. Here’s where you have the opportunity to gain the most insight into your audience’s needs, so that you can build the perfect product.

The key to getting customer insights is to make sure you think like a scientist, NOT a salesperson.

This is much easier said than done, because you’ve got incredible excitement about your idea. But if you’re pitching the idea to the interviewees, chances are, you’ll just get nods of agreement for the sake of courtesy. This is not an accurate measure of whether your idea is the best solution to the problem you’re wanting to solve.

What am I looking to get out of the interviews?

You’re going to start talking to a lot of people, with lots of different needs and experiences. There needs to be a way to simplify the results you get. The most effective way to do so is to develop personas.

Personas are ‘characters’ that you develop, based on your interviews, that reflect the different types of users that may use your app.

Crafting personas offers a wealth of understanding into the customer base and your target audience. You will only be able to craft the best customer experience journey if you understand them. Personas and scenarios is the ‘secret sauce’ that will define your app. You’ll reap bountiful benefits by taking the time to creating these characters.

Empathy

After you interview your potential user base, creating personas become the true test of how much you have understood your customers. By putting yourself in the shoes of the user, you truly keep the customer front of mind when developing your product.

Focus

It is definitely important that you narrow down on who your users are. Even if your app has the potential to appeal to everyone in the world, focussing your efforts on one target market first, means you can craft a better experience for that market, creating loyalist users. Not only will they utilise your app often, but it will create momentum, by sharing it with their like-minded friends. After you’ve got a market locked-down, you can then look at growing into other markets.

Make better decisions

When you make a decision, if you can’t defend it with your personas’ goals in mind, it’s a sign you should re-evaluate your solution. At every step, the people who are using your app need to be at the forefront of your mind. Since you will develop the personas based on data and research gathered from interviews, they represent real users you can use to defend your decisions.

THE MAN WHO CHASES TWO RABBITS, CATCHES NEITHER. – CONFUCIUS

Who do I interview?

To formally start this interviewing process, you’ll first have to find people to participate. Since you’ll likely only have time to interview a few people, you will have to be selective with who you choose. There will be different places you can pull from to source interviewees depending on your context. Let’s take a look at where you may find potential interviewees.

Who to look for – if I have an existing business?

If you’re an existing business, with an existing customer base, you probably already have a lot of data about them. If you’re lucky, you may have all the data you need without conducting the interviews. Even so, it would be worthwhile to talk face-to-face with these consumers so you get to know your users first-hand.

Who to look for – if I’m just starting out?

As a fresh entrepreneur, it’s likely you won’t have much of a user-base to work with besides the one you have envisioned using your intuition. If you haven’t already, it is worthwhile to research competitors and observe their user base. You should observe the characteristics of people writing, consuming and commenting in the space you are looking to launch.
You can start with interviewing people in your network who fit the description of your target audience. Since you know these people, it’s a very comfortable place to start the idea validation stage.
If you can’t find anyone in your network who fit the mould, use the internet as your network. Look for people who engage with content that aligns with your idea. Reaching out to them might sound daunting, but if you’ve got a solution to a problem they want to solve, they will usually be very forthcoming to assist.
You may wish to conduct the interview:
– In person (over a quick coffee is always nice)
– Over video call
– Through a survey
Tip: SurveyMonkey is a great questionnaire tool, check it out here.

What do I ask?

Like a scientist, it’s time to test your hypothesis. In order to do so, you will need to prepare questions to guide the interviews you conduct. During this preparation, it is good to keep in mind the following:

Keep questions open-ended

Since your research is qualitative, your questions should remain as open-ended as possible. Not only will this ensure you receive a breadth of responses, but you will have more opportunity during the interview to ask additional questions, and direct the interview depending on their responses. It is important to always keep away from tangents, and most importantly stop yourself from asking specific feedback regarding your idea. Below are some questions to get you started.
All these questions centre on the interest of the user. You’re drilling down on the problem that the user is facing and gauging how to best solve the problem they are facing through your mobile app solution.

Encourage storytelling

The most valuable insight you can receive from doing this exercise is the development of empathy with your users. The most effective way to put yourself in their shoes is by listening to real-life experiences. Let your interviewees talk about their experiences. You will be able to observe emotional responses from these recounts and then pinpoint particular problems you should focus on during the development of your app.

What do I do after interviews?

To ensure that you are getting the most from your interview analysis, you must be conscious of confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is your natural inclination to look for evidence that validates your pre-conceived beliefs and perceptions.

Again, keeping a scientist-like point of view will subside the influence of confirmation bias. An evenhanded consideration of all evidence will only improve your product, so let’s see how we can go about doing so.

Find Patterns to Narrow Down Personas

After collecting the data, you will need to start organising it in a way that makes sense. Qualitative data is harder to analyse compared to quantitative data, but the principle is still the same – find patterns and cluster similarities.
As you comb through the results, you are bound to notice that similar experiences have been recounted. Mark these similarities as you analyse, and eventually you’ll find that there are interviewees whose correlation is greater than others. Cluster these interviewees together as “one character”, and you’ve got yourself a persona. We will need to a do a little work on these to formalise your personas, which we will cover in the next section.
On the off-chance that you have not been able to find any meaningful connections between
interviewees, there is a possibility that you either have too broad of a target market or have not collected enough data. This is not to say you need to go back to square one since it is completely dependent on your own situation.
If you feel like your results are representative enough of the user base, you may want to proceed. However, you must be certain that you have narrowed down your customer segment since the investment forward is hefty and your audience is your number one focus.

Characterising Personas

Now that you have clustered the similar traits, here’s where you put your empathy to the test. Characterising your interviewees involves creating an imaginary user who encapsulates a segment of your target audience.
In order to solidify these characters, you should develop a persona report that can act as a reference. You will need to be very specific with the details and you can find a whole bunch of templates on the internet that can be filled out.

Do you have a good product?

Here’s where you can finally take a look back at your initial ideas and see how you can improve it to craft a better experience for users. It is time to ask:

Does your product actually solve customers’ problem?

Take a look at the personas you have crafted and ask:

Have I identified the right

Does my solution directly alleviate
problem?

the problem?

If this exercise has challenged your preconceptions, it’s definitely a good thing. It’s likely that your solution is not the perfect one for your users’ problem, but knowing this early means that you’ll be able to iterate on your first concepts to build the best app possible, without the huge time investment.

66% of successful startups, drastically change their first plan. Source

IT’S GOOD TO LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES. IT’S BETTER TO LEARN FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S MISTAKES. – WARREN BUFFETT

Who am I up against?

In your lean canvas, you would have identified some alternatives that exist for the problem you identified. Now it’s time to do a more thorough competitor analysis that will allow you to further improve your product. It will also allow you to identify the weight of risk associated with your venture. Pinpointing these risks from the outset means that you know where to work first.
You may be inclined to believe that having competitors is an obstacle. But there is a lot to be learned from the competition. In fact, having no competitors is undesirable. If you have no competitors, you’ll be the lone soldier who has to make the mistakes and navigate the space by yourself. This is a very expensive and draining road. Even if you can’t think of any direct competitors, try and find competitors who address a subset of the problem or a similar problem.

Investigate who the competitors are

To begin, you will need to identify who is actually competing in your space. As recommended, the lean canvas is definitely a sound starting place for competitor analysis.
To broaden your search, you should consider an exercise in writing down a list of search
keywords you would use to find your app on a search engine. After compiling this list, put yourself into the shoes of the consumer and note down the search results that emerge from entering those keywords.
As part of your research, you should also take note of community discussion and customer
reviews. As always, users’ thoughts and opinions should be considered, especially in identifying where you can help disgruntled consumers by making your app better.

Analyse the market

As you find your competition, you should take note of a few things:
The obvious place to start is to ask why they compete with your product. It might be that they solve the exact problem you do. But, if they solve a subset of the problems you have identified in your canvas, note this down. The more focused the reason they compete with you, the better.
It is also important to identify the strengths of your competitors. Try and identify what their unique value proposition is. What would draw you in as a consumer? It is tempting to mould your idea to directly copy something that a competitor is doing, but this is a dangerous trap. Copying eventually leads to a loss of interest. Differentiating your product from the competition as a unique solution is important. Instead of directly copying, emulate. You should ask why the things they do work and take away those lessons.
The next question to ask is where the gaps in their business may be. If you compete in the same space, it’s likely you are solving the same or similar problems. Our goal here is to see where you can bring more value to customers. Ask yourself – how can I create a product for these customers that is a better solution?

What do I do with this competitor analysis? Iterate.

You’ve reached the end of another stage with lots of information. Hopefully, you have come back to a lot of insight into the market you want to enter. This should allow you to improve your solution to further serve this market.

What are Investors Looking for?

Although it would be nice to think that money is not required in this process, you will need some money to get the ball rolling. It’s time to start finding investors and pitching to them. Venture capital firms, angel networks and incubators are some places you may want to look to find investors, but what will make you stand out? Below are a few things investors look for when evaluating your product potential.

Market Engagement

You will need to prove to investors that there is a market out there who are interested in your app. The interviews you have done will provide a good case for this. It definitely helps that these people are not simply family and friends, but real consumers.
It must be noted that quality, not quantity is valued here. If you have few users, but a higher rate of retention, that is a much better indicator of long-term success. Investors care much more about the engagement user have with your app.

Money Matters

The primary interest of investors is to receive a sizeable return on investment. You need to know the ins and outs of your business’ financial information, down to the cent. Your revenue model and cost structure should be refined and detailed.
This proves that you are thoroughly prepared and have the technical skills to run your business.

What’s Your Unfair Advantage?

Investors are meeting with a myriad of eager entrepreneurs, so you’ll need to prove that you stand out in the crowd. Ask yourself again, “What do I have that is not easily copied or bought?” Make sure you highlight this when you are pitching.

Work Ethic and Drive

You may think you are simply pitching your app to an investor, but you are actually selling yourself as well.
Good investors understand that ideas come and go, but they are really entering a longer-term investment.

WE SHOULD INVEST IN PEOPLE NOT IDEAS. A GOOD IDEA IS OFTEN DESTROYED BY BAD PEOPLE AND GOOD PEOPLE CAN ALWAYS MAKE A BAD IDEA BETTER. – SIMON SINEK

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