Building the right product isn’t cheap, but building the wrong one will drain your wallet with no hope of a refill. There are steps you can take, however, to validate your product assumptions and identify core features before you shell out the big bucks.
Don’t be afraid to talk about your idea.
A startup is 1 percent idea and 99 percent execution. Most people don’t have the heart or the initiative to build a company. If you refuse to discuss your product, you’ll miss out on valuable feedback. Talk about your ideas with as many potential users as possible and as often as possible— they’ll tell you if they might use it and, if not, what would have to change in order to win them over.
Put the NDA aside and start getting honest feedback. You’ll learn a ton.
Solicit early sign ups
Put up a simple website where people can “be the first to hear” when you launch or “sign up for early access” to your product. You’ll be able to test messaging, see what resonates, and then iterate from there. When you have questions to ask or hypotheses that need validation, you can use this virtual focus group to collect crucial data.
Early sign ups are a great hack for gauging interest and polling features or messaging. But that’s not the best part: If you do this well, you’ll have a long list of potential customers ready for you when you’re ready to launch.
Sell it before it exists.
If you’re planning to sell your product, test the waters by doing presales. Someone may tell you that they like your product and plan to buy it when available, but you’ll never know for sure until you run their credit card. The best way to test whether someone will buy something is to sell it to them— especially if it doesn’t exist yet. That’s how you find your “early adopters.”
Ideally you’ll be able to fund product development out of presale revenues alone. That’s what Param and I did when we launched the 2016 Election Game; because of presales we were able to fund the development, production, and distribution of 4,000+ card games with an initial investment of just $68.
Build an MVP
Before investing your limited time and hard-earned dollars in building an imperfect product, see if you can find tools that let you build an MVP (or “minimal viable product”) that enables you to test core features. You’ll gather a lot of helpful data that way.
We’ve built Hatch to allow entrepreneurs and innovators to build and test their software products without overspending, and then make changes as they learn from users. When it comes to physical products, you could consider building a prototype for early testing.
The biggest takeaway? Stop thinking and start doing. There’s only so much you’ll be able to predict about your users. Start talking to people about your idea, testing whether they’ll sign up or pay, and building an early version that you can use to capture valuable user data— your wallet will thank you.