Experts say that we each think between 50,000–70,000 thoughts every single day. Per hour we have approximately 2,200 different theories, judgments, questions and more that we conjure up in our minds. Interestingly enough, most of these thoughts are repetitive of the day before and the day before that. This is especially true when the thought is an inspiring or provoking idea. Sometimes we have that one idea that your whole day’s — maybe even week’s — thoughts will focus around. If you are looking to test your business idea you will need to do some work to make sure it is worth your time. By following these five steps you will gain assurance whether your idea will be successful or not.
- Research The Competition
So you have come up with something that you think is revolutionary! You very well could have been the first to create this concept, however more often than not someone has already had a very similar thought or interpretation of your idea. What you need to do first is research your idea online thoroughly to figure out three things. First, if the idea has already been created. Second, if there is a market for the product or service you are offering. Finally, if you will be able to compete with the individuals or companies that have already gotten a head start on you.
If you figure out that the competition is very strong, the one thing you should remember is to not get discouraged. You must have the attitude to be the best of the best at what you do and what you want your business to revolve around. For example, in 1992 IBM came out with the first “smartphone” called the Simon Personal Communicator. Though it was the first of it’s kind, Apple has become one of the most successful tech companies in history because of the mastering of the same concept when it released the first iPhone 15 years after Simon. Now, Apple has become the second largest smartphone vendor in the world. From this example, you can see that even when someone has done something first, it does not mean they did it best.
- Get Feedback
At this stage, you will want honest and constructive criticism so that you will know early on if you should dedicate your time to developing this business idea. Find a support system by joining something like a women’s business group or a startup mentorship program. Address the public through surveys to see if a wider range of people think your idea has potential or if they would be willing to buy the product or service. All of these will help you gain further clarity on if the concept will be successful on the market and what your customer demographic focus should be.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if your idea does get onto the market, it is always valuable to receive feedback. There is always room for growth and development. Having an open mind about evolving your business over the changing times and trends will ensure that you will have a lasting customer base.
- Build an MVP
MVP stands for Minimal Viable Product, a term coined for the smallest version of a product or service possible to test the waters for market potential and customer base. The three types of MVP’s are: Concierge, Wizard of Oz and Piecemeal.
A Concierge MVP is a tech-free method of validating your business idea in which you find people willing to test your product or service, analyze their preferences and create a sample based on those desires.
A great example of this strategy is Food On The Table, a company that creates a personalized grocery list from vendors that will save you money from data they collected about the food you enjoy. Originally, the founder found a few testers and wrote down their favorite foods, then manually compiled recipes and sought out the cheapest way to acquire the ingredients.
Wizard of Oz MVP’s are based on the idea of essentially “faking it”. Creating the illusion of having a finished product or service but really still be developing it. Usually is a picture of the “complete” product or service and sharing it with the public then creating it once there is a customer base. By going this route you can get an idea of if people will want to buy it with virtually no risk of losing money.
Zappos co-founder, Nick Swinmurn, wanted to offer an online shoe marketplace, he went to local stores and took pictures of the shoes and posted them on a website to analyze the demand for them. Then he would go back to the store and buy them for the customer. This proved that people are willing to buy a product when the company creates the idea that they have inventory.
A Piecemeal MVP is the simplest to explain of the three. It is a financially smart way to get your idea validated because you use other sources to test your business idea potential for success.
For example, the earliest development of Groupon was run through WordPress, used FileMaker to create PDF’s for coupons and used Apple mail to process delivery and receive specified details for orders. This method keeps you from investing a large amount of time and money into the development of a company platform by using third-party resources to generate customers.
- Build Your Brand
If you are trying to promote your business idea or begin marketing and you do not use social media, it is time to create accounts for Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn (at least) to give yourself a platform to direct traffic to your product or service. Also, you will want to utilize a boosting program such as SocialBloom. SocialBloom is an automation service that helps you gain 200–300+ Instagram followers per week so that you are being seen by more and more people and creates potential customers.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to promoting your business, especially on social media, is that you must stay active with it. Following the creation of an MVP and a page that customers can buy off of, putting in only a small amount of effort to retain those buyers by barely posting or communicating will almost always result in very low revenue. Posting every day is the best way to help your business grow and reach more people. A large number of people all over the world buy online from international companies that they found by searching the product they desire.
A great place to start after making social media accounts for your business is to share it with the women’s business groups or startup mentorship program members that you have joined! Follow them on all platforms and connect with their network or ask them to help you promote! Building your brand requires time and attention so be prepared to dedicate yours to your business once you have tested the market potential for your business.
If you have gone through the process to test your business idea, it has received a really great response and you feel confident in the potential it has, you still have one final thing you should do before committing fully.
- Make An Acquisition Plan
The most important thing about maintaining a successful business and a frequent theme of this article is having a solid customer base. Ask yourself which customers will your product or service be best suited for. Which demographic will this business idea serve the most value to?
For example, smartphones are in high demand for people who have grown up in the age of exponential advancement of technology of the past 20–25 years. However, for a person who is older and didn’t have access to the internet or cell phones when they were growing up, a smartphone will be very difficult to understand and almost impossible to sell to.
Also, decide how you are going to further promote your idea. This is different from Step #4 when you were sharing it to analyze market potential and risk-reward investment. Now you are moving to the stage of choosing which direction you will go with your marketing on a serious level. Now that you have created a solid social media presence through multiple platforms, you will have a great place for customers to be introduced to your brand where they will feel that you are official and a company they want to buy from.
Constantly be active with the content you are sharing with the public. Share relevant articles that will bring more traffic to your website or social media platforms. Also, focus on SEO’s (Search Engine Optimization) in articles that or blog posts you use to promote your business. An SEO is, simply put, words or phrases that optimize your content on a search engine such as Google. Let’s say you are a startup tech company which focuses in delivering an app that offers language learning tools. You can check out Google Analytics (for free) to track the words and phrases that will bring your article farther up in the very common search for “How to Learn A Language Fast”.
Lastly, as a highly recommended suggestion, offer free stuff! You may lose a small amount of money but this will build a connection between your brand and the customer because everybody loves not having to pay for something! Your business will benefit greatly in advertising or just in customer familiarity of your brand if someone is using your product that you offered free of charge. Think of a time when you saw someone using a product or service and they say, “I received a free trial!” A lot of times these people will return to that company because they trust they are being given a fair chance to try the product or service and decide if it is right for them.