August 11, 2017

Ask IH: What methods, tools etc. do you use to validate your business ideas?


Do you even validate your ideas or start implementing right away?

What does your process of validation look like?

How do you generate leads? (landing/coming soon pages, emails, etc.)

How do you make the final decision whether the idea is worth implementing?

  1. 7

    Forget about methods and tools, especially business "ideas."

    Start with a better perspective for "validation," which in my opinion is falsifying the business model and validating a business problem, not validating "the idea."

    Your groundbreaking idea will end up getting adjusted in response to your customers' needs and problems anyway. And if there is no need, there shouldn't be a solution in the first place.

    However straightforward it might seem, this concept is quite difficult for most to adopt. That's why most technical folks end up with their product not delivered to appropriate customers.

    So how do you detect a real problem?

    Before getting into customer research, look for competition. If there are already similar, working solutions, or better yet, people are hacking together ugly workarounds, that validates your problem.

    If you are making a calculator, do people already do it by pen and paper? That's your competition.

    Back to the customer research.

    The hardest yet most rewarding approach is interviewing, yes, preferably face to face.

    If you can manage to ask open-ended questions that are not biased towards your solution, if you can manage to listen by letting your interviewee do the 90% of talking, you'll discover amazing insights, novel use cases, along with the discovery that although your "idea" might not be "that" bright as you thought, there is (or not) something in the problem.

    Another approach is observation. It seems plausible to observe your prospective customers in the context of your offering if you are doing physical products. But I think that applies to digital products as well.

    If you are making a CRM-inspired app for managing friends, can you observe that people are already gathering together IFTTT or Zapier recipes tied to Google Sheets to solve that problem? Are there already half-baked repositories at GitHub that address the same problem?

    Next, surveying.

    Again, do not ask questions that are directed towards verifying your idea, do not ask about the features you'll implement, but rather look for opportunities to falsify or validate your idea and the problem domain in your questioning.

    The problem with surveying is that people often do not do it for free. Offer something in return. Even if you have nothing, you might offer them statistics on how they compare to other respondents in a certain scale.

    To summarize, start with the problem, not the solution.

  2. 4

    Hi! I'm no expert, but I'm progressing as a developer in the product marketing jungle.

    In the past I would naively start implementing right away, and "see what happens". (most time, nobody cared => I was frustrated)

    Now, I'm experimenting with some guidelines from Sean McCabe ("focus on just 1 thing"), Justin Jackson ("build things to turn people into super-heroes"), Poornima Vijayashanker ("listen and watch clients at each stage") and Clifford Oravec ("talk to 200 potential clients before building anything").

    For each new project:

    1. I open a Trello card in which I take regular notes as comments (research, ideas, hypothesis, resources, milestones, wins & fails...)

    2. I define a value proposition, publish it as a simple landing page, show it to relevant people (e.g. users of a previous product of mine), and gather email addresses of people who are interested.

    3. I contact interested people to ask them about their problems, and how I can help them. I try to be as empathetic and generous as I can.

    4. I build a MVP, then send it to interested people, for testing and initial feedback. (repeat this step until launch)

    But, since I make products that I want for myself anyway, I give a lot of freedom to myself in that process.

    While progressively learning and adopting these guidelines, I've learned a few lessons:

    • you have to enjoy helping and discussing with your users. if you don't, pick a better topic/domain, or better target audience. and make sure you're really interested in learning from them, not only pushing things to them.

    • users exaggerate on surveys, because they want to make you happy, but it's often deceiving in the end. ask simple and open questions. focus discussion on problems and experience, rather than on your ideas or features.

    • people love to help if you cut the bullshit (e.g. "feel free to...") and tell them exactly what you would like them to do or to provide. (i.e. "feedback" is a terribly vague word. ask them for proofreading, surprises, missed expectations during testing, testimonials... and explain WHY you need this, and WHAT you're going to do with this.)

    Hope this helps!

  3. 3


    The biggest biz I ever owned was validated with Adwords in one day without overthinking it (but I believe luck and timing played a major part so not sure how much you can take out of this method),

    this is exactly what I did:


    I was in need of money so I decided to search for micro niches and ideas that already worked instead of trying to invent something new, at the time I was using fiverr a lot to get logos designed and some copy.

    I started noticing a lot of people were offering whiteboard videos for $5-10 but I remembered seeing those videos sold for $5000-10000 elsewhere on professional videographer sites.

    Obviously the $5000 videos were of much better quality and effective than the $10 fiverr but what I took from that was that there was a huge market and also later learned that no one offering videos for something in the middle while maintaining the quality ($1500-$2000 per video)

    started researching more on adwords and google tools to see if I could do marketing for it and get 2 clients a month at $1500 each would make me enough money sine I planned on hiring full time employees and artists from Pakistan and the Phillipines to do the work so the math would work


    1. Created a wordpress site that looked decent and worked on the copy and portfolio/showcase of the service (asked for examples of work from the artists I interviewed on odesk).

    2)Added a phone number from tollfreeforwarding dot com

    3)Created a simple adwords campaign targeting the most obvious keywords in the industry (whiteboard video in my case) and gave myself a $500 budget, if fails it fails.

    In the first day I got 2 sales for a total of $3000, I ended up selling that business 2.5 years later and was making 5 figures net every month and also created videos for GE, Pepsi, Google, and turns out no one had a company only specific for whiteboard animations....all companies were targeting all animated videos but we were super niche which made us "the experts" on that area...if big companies wanted whiteboard videos we were the experts...

    the company is still running and doing well for the new owners

    I think a major luck and timing (whiteboard videos were just getting started at that time in 2014) played a major part in the validation

    I think adwords or facebook ads are great for validation but can get pricey, if for example 10 ideas don't work and you spent $500 on ads on each then you spent $5000 and start to lose confidence if any idea might work...

  4. 1
    1. Landing page with Unbounce.

    2. Drive paid traffic.

    3. Make sure I can consistently spend $x in order to get y signups.

    4. Repeat until y>=20

    Simple as that!