An idea for the next great product can come about in many ways. Maybe you shape and groom your idea during and after hours of market research. Perhaps you have an epiphany out of thin air, and the idea just hits you out of the blue days or weeks after you or someone you know has a problem that needs a solution.
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Regardless of how it came to you, once you have an idea for the next great product chances are you’ll want to move as quickly as possible in order to bring it to market. But when it comes to product validation and development, slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Taking the time to thoroughly validate your product concept before bringing it to market will save you time, money, and stress in the long run.
Today, there are lower barriers to entry into the software market thanks to the falling prices of development tools and the widespread availability of coding talent. This means there is more pressure on you to deliver than ever before, and product validation will result in a product that is much more likely to sell.
“Ideas are cheap. Ideas are easy. Ideas are common. Everybody has ideas. Ideas are highly, highly overvalued. Execution is all that matters.” – Casey Neistat
In some ways, ensuring the success of a new concept can be more difficult than even creating the product itself. In this article we’ll explore the crucial step that falls between idea generation and execution — validation.
Step #1: Identify and Validate the Pain Points that Your Product Will Address
The best ideas and products solve a problem. People buy solutions based on pain points that they are experiencing, or based on their needs, wants, or desires.
Determining what tasks your product performs — whether it be an app, widget, or physical good — won’t help you sell it. More importantly, you must identify, understand, validate, and address the pain points that your idea aims to solve.
To accomplish this, it’s best to start by defining your target market.
Your target market can be as simple and clearcut as a particular industry, or complex enough to include geographic and firmographic data. Regardless of the level of detail, make sure that you have a concrete idea of who your potential customers are.
Next, you’ll have to directly ask your audience questions that will uncover insights that that can inform product development.
The purpose here is to confirm that the pain points you are building your product around are regularly experienced by the people in your target market. While this may sound simple, in reality this step requires a lot of effort. You can email your target audience or distribute surveys, but oftentimes the most effective method of uncovering useful customer insights is by speaking with them directly — whether it be by phone, video conference, or in person.
Below are some examples of questions to include in conversations with your target audience:
- Do you have a problem with XYZ? (Input the problem you think your product will solve.)
- How much does this problem cost you? (Time, money, stress?)
- What other problems take precedence, and are costlier/more painful than this one? (This will be important in Step #2)
- How would having this problem solved improve your work/business/life? (Record this information so you can leverage it in your sales and marketing communications)
There are dozens of good questions that you can ask to receive powerful insight into the life and pain points that your customers actively want to solve for. Put in the time, and make/send a few dozen calls/emails while asking the same questions so that you can recognize patterns in responses. You can even dig deep and develop relationships with where possible. Keep things organized and highlight consistent answers.
Now that you have enough raw data, you should begin to tweak your solution and build it, right? Wrong. At this point you’ll want to confirm your hypothesis that your solution is something that your target market not only needs, but will pay for.
First, you want to boil down and clearly define the problem. Being able to articulate the needs and desires that your market faces will automatically communicate that you have the solution. Carving that out in the early stages of product development will help you build a better solution, and will help you sell more efficiently.
If your idea fits the bill after this process, then you’re in great shape! If not, don’t go back to the drawing board just yet. Instead, move on to Step #2.
Step #2: Scale Your Product’s Strategic Vision Down to the Bare Essentials to Define Your MVP
The first ideation of your product will not be perfect, and that’s fine! It’s best to accept this as a natural stage of product validation.
In this step, you’ll want to optimize your investment by developing the scaled-down version of your product as quickly as you can, maintaining the ultimate goal of pushing out a minimum viable product (MVP).
It’s best to be conservative, and avoid spending unnecessary time and money on features that are yet to be validated by potential users. Instead, the goal of your MVP should be to give a strong impression to prospects, as it should represent a crystal-clear value proposition to them.
Why is this the case? Again, the most effective products solve a problem seamlessly and with natural simplicity. By obtaining a thorough understanding of the problem that your product will be solving, you can update the product concept to make it that much more appealing, thus increasing your likelihood of success.
If your solution can be modified to solve deeply painful issues, then by all means you should change your idea as drastically as necessary.
This is type of flexibility called pivoting, and it can literally save your idea from being scrapped entirely, to bringing it to the hands of your customers.
Below are some great guides that can assist with recognizing the need to pivot during product validation, and then executing:
- How to Validate Your Digital Product
- 12 Step Guide to Pivoting
- 6 Situations That May Require a Pivot
Step #3: Vet Your Idea with Domain Experts and Perform Competitive Research
Speaking to subject matter experts in a relevant field and examining your competition are the best ways to validate your product concept. If you have a niche idea, you could serve as the instigator of a new market.
During this step it’s imperative to share the wireframes of your product with the right technical partner, as they will be able to help with validating the feasibility of the product, putting together a product roadmap, and measuring the product’s market value.
If a market for your product already exists, you should research your competition thoroughly for a few different insights.
- Advertising: Figuring out how well the competing solutions are marketing their product is a great way to further develop your concept. Compare their marketing with your notes from Step #1 and find where they are both lacking, and excelling. Use a tool like Spyfu to help find what your competitors are targeting.
- Their Product: Look at how well your competition delivers the solution and on-boards their customers. Also, examine how effectively the product is put together (the CX, speed, etc.) These insights will be vital when setting your venture apart from the rest of the market and creating more satisfied customers.
- Customer Opinion: That’s right, get back on the horn and talk with your competition’s existing customers. Find out how much they’re paying, the benefits and problems they have, and how well your competition’s product solves that pain point.
Competitive research is a heavy burden if you’re unsure of how to go about it, but the resources below will help:
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting Competitive Analysis
- 8 tools to research your competition from Shopify
By this point, it should be fairly obvious that your idea is worth bringing to market. The next step in the product validation and development process is the most important, and it’s really the only way to fully know that your idea will bring in revenue.
Step #4: Build and Launch Your Product
If you’ve followed steps one through three then you’ve done everything you can up until this point. Now it’s time to perform the most important part of product validation – execution.
Unfortunately, this is also the stage at which your product is most likely to fall flat. In fact, it’s common belief that roughly 80-90% of products will fail, and according to 19 peer-reviewed research studies, the failure rate is 30-49% across all industries, and roughly 39-42% in software & services and technology industries, respectively.
Those who execute win, and oftentimes the faster the better.
Having too many side projects or focuses, lacking the ability to program, cold feet, and a host of other excuses have sent many great ideas into the abyss of regret. Don’t let that happen to you.