Entrepreneurs are meant to identify problems faced by people, think up potential solutions, and proceed to build a product. But, more often than not, they fail to think about an integral part of building a business, that is, customer validation.

As an entrepreneur, your instincts might drive you to focus and work on what’s within your control. Developing and building a product from the ground-up is an important job that demands attention. But, we must implore you to not get caught up in the passion for building a product so much that you lose sight of the target customer’s needs.

In this article, we’ll help you understand why you must validate your startup idea before getting into building a product. We’ll also guide you through the steps you need to take to validate your startup idea.

So, let’s get into it!

Why should you validate your Startup idea before building a product?

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The importance of customer validation and startup validation is often trifled by entrepreneurs. They’re so focused on developing and launching the MVP, that nothing seems more important than that! They dream about it and prioritize it as an end that they have to reach. But, seldom do they stop to consider whether the potential customers need the product or are willing to pay for it or not.

The trickiest part about building a product is knowing what to build, to begin with. Customer validation exercises can be awkward, uncomfortable, and time-consuming. But, neglecting this important process can be disastrous. It is a sad reality that most startups fail, and out of those, most fail because their solution doesn’t solve a real problem face by customers.

Start the customer and idea validation process by researching and making efforts to become an expert in your field. You must not guess or assume you know what your potential customers want. You have to start by assuming that you don’t know anything and work your way to gain a deep understanding.

How can you gain this knowledge and understanding of your customers’ wants and desires? You can interview thought-leaders in your niche. Read up on everything you can find on the topic, making sure to include all the authoritative voices. Study all the relevant market researches you can find on the internet. Discuss with your peers and ask for their feedback on your theories. Think about and prepare for all the questions you might get from potential investors about the problem you’re trying to address. Pay close attention to the advice of those who have failed before you. Keep your mind open at all times, even to the possibility that your original hunch was wrong.

Steps to Validate your Startup Idea – Customer & Idea Validation

1. Examine and Use your Competitor’s Products

Use your competitors’ products diligently to the extent that it’s possible. Find out what works for the products and what doesn’t. Understand and examine every feature, and single-out every shortcoming. Create an exhaustive list of all your direct and indirect competitors. Understand the current market and gain experience by using every solution available. Prepare a detailed draft of all that’s missing in the competitors’ solutions. Use your personal experiences with their products to make sure that it covers all bases.

2. Test the waters

You must get in the trenches and understand the nitty-gritty of how the business works.
If you’re researching an e-commerce business idea, then buy and sell a bunch of items on eBay or Amazon.

Are you researching a ride-sharing concept? Drive for a cab aggregator company for a few weeks!

If you’re researching a new food delivery business, deliver food for other businesses and order food from them as well to understand how everything works.

The underlying point is that you must test the waters before setting sail and risking the safety of your entire ship! Know what the business exactly entails before you dive into it head-first.

3. Engage with Potential Customers

You must talk to as many potential customers as you can. You can run casual focus groups that try to understand the way customers think about the problem. If you’re doing so, then make sure to have a solid focus group script and finish it in under an hour. Thank everyone who helped you with gift cards or any equivalent token of appreciation. Focus groups can really help point out perspectives about the problem that you hadn’t taken into consideration yet.

4. Custom Market Research

Now that you have engaged with potential customers, you must have an idea of the questions you can ask from a large audience to validate your insights. You can consider deploying a statistically significant web survey to 400-600 respondents. The goal of this web survey is to confirm the theories that you’ve developed in qualitative discussions.

Your survey should focus on the nitty-gritty of the problem. Avoid asking leading questions about potential solution hypotheses. It’s not sensible or productive to ask customers about their impressions of a hypothetical solution that doesn’t exist.

5. Prototype and Feedback

We think that by this time, with all the customer research, you should have started to uncover a hint at potential solutions. If that’s the case then you must spend your energy in developing a prototype and testing it informally with users. Make use of mockups, templates, and shortcuts as much as you can. The goal is not to come up with a perfect, usable technology or product but only to get early feedback on many solution hypotheses. Always remember to discard the bad ideas quickly.

If your prototype seems promising, assemble a group of 10 beta users that are willing to try your prototype and provide feedback. Communicate with them on a regular basis. Listen to their requests. Make changes and adjustments for them as per their demands.
Your aim is to get them to the point where they can’t live without the prototype or feel like they need it in their lives, as an actual product.

Talk to your beta users. Thank them. Reward them. Learn from them. Make adjustments and changes for them. And, whatever you do, don’t tell them that they’re wrong if they don’t agree with your original product hypothesis. If you really want to learn from customers, you must swallow your pride and be open-minded.

Final Words

The most important skill that you can have as an early-stage startup is the ability to learn as quickly as you can. What does learning quickly imply? It implies being open to feedback, collecting data at all times, and getting rid of bad ideas quickly. You must not get stuck with your original hypothesis and believe that the market will come around to your way of thinking. Take a thorough look at your data, because the data does not lie. If the customer feedback and insights are inspiring you to build a solution then you’re most likely ready to think about building.

We hope that this article helped you understand the process of customer validation of a startup idea. If you’ve got any questions, you can let us know in the comments below or write to us and we’ll get back to you at the earliest.