I am a great advocate of testing your idea in the market if possible prior to launch. [Tweet this] The benefits of doing this are that you get a lot of information that will help you build a strong business, such as:
- You get more information about your target market – who they are and what they want.
- You may get some sales!!
- You can refine your business model before things are really fixed and its hard to change.
Here are some ideas to help you do that:
- Create a website using a free service such as WordPress, Weebly or Wix. (Don’t ask me why they all start with ‘W’!) Once your business is up and going, you will want to go with a website solution that gives you more flexibility and control but for testing your idea, these will do fine.
- Create an online survey to collect feedback from potential customers. Surveymonkey has a free version and also a cheap paid version with more functionality. It’s pretty easy to use. There are other free services also.
- Use eBay to test selling products. I know someone who tested a very specialised niche information product and successfully sold it on eBay before it was even created. (After that of course, he had to create it quickly!) The benefit was that he proved there was a demand for it.
- I got the first Ready Set Startup course off the ground by emailing my contacts and by posting a note in my Facebook status – followed by writing like mad to deliver it. Again, I did the large task of creating the product after I had done the easier task that proved there was some demand – and I spent nothing on marketing!
- Direct mail to potential customers can also be an option for some businesses. This may not be free but can work quite well and be done fairly cheaply, especially if you have a service type business based in a particular area. For example, a mobile hairdresser I know started her business by creating and printing some flyers on her home computer and dropping them in letterboxes near where she lived.
- Going to speak to people at an industry association can also be valuable. I tested an idea once by going to speak to a group of 30 accountants about a proposed service for them at one of their monthly professional development meetings. They were happy to hear what I was proposing and to give me feedback. The people who work at Industry Associations can also be a valuable source of feedback.
The idea is to test whether people will actually buy your product or service. The most accurate way to test this is of course to ask them to hand over cash! This will ensure you get their honest opinion.
What other techniques have you used to test your business ideas that have been successful?