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?
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).