I have an idea that I believe will benefit two target markets (don't we all). I have tried reaching out to one of the markets (food truck owners) online (email & Facebook): 4 in total so far. None of them responded. Is it because there's something wrong with my message to them? How do you get to the right people to validate your ideas? Do you try all sorts of methods before you finally give up? Is the lack of replies an indication that my idea won't work, am I executing my outreach the wrong way or do I just need to try to reach more people?
The art of the "cold pitch" is definitely something that needs to be worked on, and doesn't come naturally to everyone.
A couple of quick tips:
1. 4 is not a big enough target group, you've got to cast a bigger net. Try pitching 20, and aim to get 3-5 responses.
2. When sending a cold email, really think about what you are offering them. Whilst you'll get the odd good egg that simply wants to help - you can't expect entrepreneurs and small biz owners to take time out of their day to answer your questions. To counter, why not tell them you're conducting research in the space, and would be happy to send the finds/reports back to them in a nice format, which could in turn help their business.
3. Don't give up, keep hustling. Try changing around the emails slightly, track which emails convert into responses, and fine tune from there.
Good luck and feel free to book a call if you want to chat more.
Hi, I'm not sure if you're aware of this but Facebook has a spam filter built into it. If you sent 4 emails to people that you don't know, they most likely ended up in that folder (which most people don't know about and never check). So most likely no one ever saw your message!
Also, 4 emails is also far too small a number to judge anything from. But more importantly, validation of your idea is usually an interactive exercise, and not something that you want to leave to an email.
If I were you, I would go out to the next and nearest food truck rally, and hang out there. Most food trucks are run by the owners, and there are always lulls in the day when they are not doing anything. That's when you should introduce yourself, say something very complimentary about their food, and then ask them if they have the problem that your idea solves. If they do, then, that gives you the opening to talk about your product/service. What you'll most likely find is that shall not only get feedback space on if your idea is good or not, but also refinements that will make it better.
And don't ask just a few… Make it your project to hit at least 80% of them there. After that you will have a better idea of what are your idea will work or not.
I think you're doing all the right things, and you're learning exactly what you set out to do. Unfortunately, the data is not telling you what you wanted to hear.
Keep in mind that running customer development experiments, it's ok to hope that your thesis is validated, the point of the experiment is to learn and iterate. If you just go looking for "proof" you'll find a "smoking gun" out of anything, but if you stay dispassionate, you'll find something worth pursuing.
Granted, 4 is a statistically insignificant sample-set but what you're learning is that food truck operators are busy operating their business and are going to be hard signing-up for any kind of service or app.
Your messaging might be wrong too, but based on some experience in this space, I think what you're finding out is your idea might just not be able to find traction here.
Look to your other market, experiment, be open-minded to the results and keep trying.
I'm happy to talk to you in a brief call to help you setup your experiments with a bit more clarity and talk about how you can do outreach to get a more meaningful sample/response rate.
I'd suggest polishing your in-person pitch and hitting venues where food trucks gather. These events happen weekly in major US cities. You should go one week to observe the customer lining up patterns and then pick an appropriate time the next week (maybe when the food trucks are wrapping up for the day) to approach the food trucks with your pitch.
Here's just one example of what I mean
Lots of great guidance so far. Here's what I will add/reinforce:
1) There's no substitute for talking to folks in-person. Their eyes dilate when they talk about what matters to them. You need to be there to see it happen.
2) When you're first talking to people, make sure you focus on them, not on your product. Understand their problems first before you even try to tell them about what you think might solve them.
3) Numbers are your friend. Talk to as many people as possible. Be methodical about it, test hypotheses systematically (see Steve Blank's stuff on this) and avoid leading questions.
4) Make sure you close every interview with an open-ended question like "What's the question I should have asked you, but didn't?"
5) As for finding ways to talk to people, personal connections are gold. Be shameless in asking friends through Facebook, Twitter and email for introductions to people that you want to talk to. Everyone wants to help a friend or a friend of a friend. No one wants to be pitched. Be clear and concise and clearly listening and always ask interviewees "Who else should I speak with to understand this problem?" If any person you talk to doesn't give you at least one new name and hopefully a handful, you messed something up (target market, interview style, interview length, or they felt it was a pitch).
Cold cold calling is stupid and takes forever. Either set up dummy site or info and share it then ask for feedback. Quickest way (that my son did to great success) setup in a coffee shop and put an ad on Craig's list and offer to pay $10 for anyone who will come by and see your demo and give feedback. In one day and hundred dollars you will have your answer more than you can believe.
One of the best ways to get some much-needed feedback is with a beautifully designed survey (because something that looks good is going to be better than random Facebook messages). It also shows you're committed to the idea and professional. You could send the survey link to business pros on LinkedIn (normally has high engagement), through email or even your personal social media pages.
An easy-to-use survey option is Fieldboom: http://www.fieldboom.com. Their site also gives tips on getting feedback and how to build a small business (once you really get started).
Hope that helps!
First of all, the fact that you are talking about market validation is great. I've seen so many startups invest time and money, only to find that no ones wants/needs their product, or that they only want a certain aspect of it (whilst the startup spent money developing a whole bunch of other features), or that they aren't willing to pay the requested price. So you're already one step ahead.
Also, the sooner you validate your product, the better! That said, the version you are validating needs to be representative of the end product, or else the validation isn't reliable.
So, how should you validate it? The best way, is to see whether people are willing to pay for your product/service.
This is how you find that out:
1. create a business model canvas (which is what all startups should start with before creating a business plan),
2. Setup a Wix or Wordpress website (this can be done for free / very low costs) or if your venture is a mobile app, you can create a responsive wordpress website that looks and feels like an app. On the website, include the price of the product/service, and enable people to order it (yes, even if it doesn't exist!). I am happy to explain how this can be done even though you don't yet have the final product and by still being fair to the people who click the "buy/order" button.
3. Spend a small amount (say $100 - depending on your budget) validating the idea (promoting the product/service that you listed in the previous stage).
This way, after only spending a very small amount, you will be able to know (if you did it right):
a. Do people like your product.
b. Do people want/need your product (not the same as 'a').
c. Are people willing to pay for your product? (this being the most important stage)
d. How much are they willing to pay? (you can check this by having 2-3 landing pages with different prices on each).
2 last important points:
a) in order to rule out external factors like an unattractive landing page or advertising campaign, and assuming you have the time, create multiple landing pages / advertising campaigns, with different designs.
b) during the above process, don't forget to check how much it costs you to get each user/customer to click the "buy" button. If for example each click on your promotion/advertisement costs you $2, and only every 10 people who click go on to the "buy" page, that means each sale is costing you $20. Then check what your average profit per sale is, and then you'll know if your service/product is worth pursuing (obviously there are additional factors like return customers, referrals etc, but you will get a good estimated/validation of the idea/business).
I'm happy to help you with this, as this is a critical stage - which if done right can save you a lot of time and money. Before the call, and in order to make the best of your time, please send me more information about your product/service and the content of your email.
Best of luck!