When should I validate my startup idea with customers to ensure there is a market or demand for the product before launching it?

I have a product idea for a very specific niche (university students living on campus). When does the product validation take place? before creating a simple business plan and a website? or after having the website and social media running?


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, or they aren't willing to pay the requested price. So you're already one step ahead.
Answer: 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 in your case, I would:
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). On the website, include the price of the product, and enable people to order it (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 - but depends on your budget) validating the idea.
This way, after only spending a very small amount, you will be able to know (if done 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?
d. How much are they willing to pay? (you can check this by having 2 landing pages for payment - each with a different price).
I'm happy to help you with this matter further, as this is a critical stage.
Best of luck!

Answered 5 years ago

as mentioned in previous answers, the sooner you test the product the better, so I would recommend before doing the business plan, launching your website and social media running, as all of these need time and financial investments, which will be lost if the product fails the validation. As you mentioned, that the product is for university students living on campus, you should be able to validate the product easily on the campus. You can do also AB testing if you are deciding between 2 or more product options, to seen which option would be preferred by your niche group.
Wish you good luck,

Answered 5 years ago

I want to stretch your perspective about identifying your market and demand as well as what the possibilities are to validate what your product is. If you are doing something that is newer, innovative or something which has a different niche then it may require different angles before you start testing.

I always look at brands like Nihi Sumba, which built a $5000 per night luxury hotel in a place that had no hotels or tourists in the area and became one of the top hotels in the world. Or, at Google, which built a huge empire when no one was looking for information on the Internet or when people didn't really know how to use the Internet.

Yes, you should see what interest is available and validate your idea with identifying your market and your demand.

I also believe that market analysis can help you to position a product in a unique way and with identifying how you can launch in the market, as well as how to position and build traction, then allow you to test. There are different ways to create demand within your market, but it requires your ability to position your product / service.

So before you send surveys or validate, be clear about your message and what position you are taking in the market. Specifically, look at the following:

1. Trends that are taking place in your industry.
2. Trends and needs with your target market. Make sure you include the psychographics, as this will help you with the messaging and positioning of the brand.
3. Key competitors and how to position in relation to pricing, promotion and placement.
4. Risk Analysis and strategies to lessen the risk.

Once you are clear about what your market needs, your key messaging and how to position in the market, then take the next steps. This way, you are sure you are targeting the possibilities for demand.

This is important because if your message changes, it alters the responses from your target market. They don't just respond to the product, but also to the value you offer, what you stand for and the psychological and emotional pull that is behind what you offer. If you are clear about this, then it will change the outcome of your startup idea and your success.

I can help you identify your targets more and to build your idea development.

Answered 5 years ago

Depending on your idea and implementation complexity, I would suggest to start with a nice and concise presentation of your project. Then, find at least 5 potential customers, who are ready to buy your product even before it's there - make sure that they represent your ideal customer profile. Then work closely with your initial batch to flesh out the true competitive advantages of your new product - this will help you quickly identify what the MVP should be. Then, when you have identified the potential customer profile, you should think of your go-to-market strategy - what would be the best ways to contact your ICPs and how to show them what you have. To summarise, don't spend too much time into website and social media, before you get your first test subjects to work with.

Let's have a call and I will tell you more details about the exact next steps that would help you succeed with your idea.

Answered 5 years ago

Product validation should occur prior to spending anytime on a plan or code - because it currently is just an idea. Ideation is the process of talking to your suspected-market and getting feedback "If this existed, would you use it? If not, what would make it interesting? If so, what others things am I missing?".

I would not spend any money until you have talked to 50 to 100 people in your target market about the idea.

Answered 5 years ago

Straight away.

Since your product is in a very niche market, I would start doing trials, and keep it simple.

When groupon first started they didnt even own the products they would screenshot things from the internet so do the same and keep it simple.

For social media campaigns, I just interviewed a founder who wanted to sell healthy snacks online, and he said they invested 50$ in ads and got clients even before they had the products. He even went out to the supermarket to buy nuts and pack them to send them to clients.

Now they have just raised 1 million and expanding in 3 new countries in Asia.

Best of luck

Answered 5 years ago

If you dont know if there is a demand of your product how come you go for businesses ? So you should go for product validation before business plan. For more advice from me hire me.

Answered 5 years ago

Lots of partially good ideas here but many of them still skip steps or suggest spending money you shouldn't. There is an MIT-based framework outlined in the book Disciplined Entrepreneurship that combines Lean Startup principles with other proven best practices to tell you exactly how to do this without spending much of anything.

It starts with identifying as many markets as you think might be yours based on what your proposed solution is. If you have a solution for teachers, your end users could be high school teachers, elementary teachers, private school, subject-specific teachers, special needs, etc. To the extent that these people will have different needs or will use the product differently, they are different markets. You want to identify all of the markets you can think of, then narrow it down to the 6-12 most promising.

Then, you want to conduct customer interviews with 5-10 people in each of your top markets. Your goal is to find out what their pain points are, what they currently do to solve their issues, whether they have the budget to pay for a solution, the most important needs for a solution, and more. Your goal is to narrow your markets down to one beachhead market that, if you dominated it, could get your startup to break even. That allows you to build a very specific solution meeting the needs of only one narrow set of users and, if successful, prevent startup death. From there, ideally, the next market only requires mild changes or additional features to expand into.

Once you narrow your markets to a beachhead, you would do more interviews and start finding out where these users aggregate online and offline, what solution they need exactly, what features are the most valuable to them, how they describe those features (specific keyword phrases that resonate with them) and so on. By the time you're done, you should know exactly what to build first, how to describe it in a way that the users will respond to, and exactly where to market to them online and offline.

Next you could design a solution using a prototyping tool and conduct interviews to see if people understand the product, whether it's intuitive and so on. By the time you actually start spending any money on developing the actual product, you should all but know that it's exactly what you need.

Hit me up if you want to chat.

Answered 5 years ago

Hi - I see a lot of great responses.

I've started a lot of businesses, currently CEO of a biotech/AI company. My quick answer that is you should do market and customer validation all the time even when your start-up is only a glimmer in your eye. Market feedback is like gold! It can help guide you and help you avoid going down rat holes. The discipline is to listen, learn, act or decide not to act.

As you start committing more time, money, and resources into your venture, market and customer validation becomes all the more important. As your venture develops so will your offering so you can go from a concept to something more tangible for customer to react to.

Set-up a call and we can get more specific if I know a bit more about what you are doing.

Answered 5 years ago

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