Are you building the ‘right product’? Here’s how you know!

09/14/2019 | By Hira Saeed

This post originally appeared on blog.up.co


CB Insights reports that 42% of startups fail because there was no market need. 

This statistic explains the assumptions founders make about their idea, market need and product/market fit.

As Laura Klein mentions in her book UX for Lean Startups:

Now that you’ve picked your specific market, find five people who are in it. If you can’t do this fairly easily, either you’ve picked too small a market, your market is too hard to reach, or you’re just not trying hard enough.

When you are building something new passionately, you make assumptions. A lot of them. Sometimes, these assumptions are about the need for your product in the market, or about the purchasing power of your customer and sometimes even about the production and vendors as well. These assumptions can go wrong when you get your hands dirty and that’s when you realize that you are not going to be in the business very long.

That’s not uncommon.

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Entrepreneurs all over the world build amazing products that work flawlessly but still, nobody buys it. If you ask entrepreneurs who have been through a journey of a failed startup, they will tell you how they miscalculated a lot of things.

What you can learn from it is to know those expected miscalculations at the right time and validate it. So, if you are headed down the wrong path, you know if you have to take a u-turn and pivot.

Let’s learn the core philosophy of idea validation and the ways you can validate it.

What are you validating?

Mainly, the overall idea. But, you validate multiple things throughout. Such as:

  • Customer Need Validation
  • Market Demand and Size Validation
  • Product Validation or Product/Market fit

1. Validating Customer Need or Pain Point

Does the need exist?

Are my customers ready to pay to solve it?

Customer need can only be validated by talking to customers. At this step, you will find out if your idea is solving a ‘real problem’ and if your customers face it just at the intensity of what you assumed.

Many times, the need exists but when you ask someone if they are ready to pay for it, they say No. Why? Because it may not be a really big problem for them.

Customer need validation will also help you find out if your customer is ready to pay extra for convenience and comfort.

For example:

Do customers like the idea of calling a cab at the convenience of their smartphones right at their doorstep? Yes.

Do they prefer to pay extra for it? No.

Do they prefer to pay extra when they get cashback on it? Yes.

This will help you revisit your business model in ways you may not have imagined before.

How do you do it?

Go where your target customers exist, observe their behavior, purchase patterns and talk to them. In the digital world, you can start a discussion on forums, communities and social media to collect their opinions. 

Another way to do it is to do paid research, incentive-based surveys or focus groups to collect opinions and feedback. Ask them open-ended questions about the problem they are facing. Give them a chance to explain the pain point first-hand and how desperately they want it to be fixed.

2. Validating Market Demand and Size

Does the demand exist? 

Is this market profitable enough?

Validating market demand is the first step to know if you are being realistic with the demand projections. If you are building a product for a very small market with very less demand, you may be in trouble.

At this step, you have to collect evidence that assures you that market is big enough with your target customers are ready to pay for your product. During this process, you will have a clear picture of the industry size, your projected profits and as well as areas where you can expand in the future.

Some times, a small market doesn’t mean fewer profits. Your market size may be small but the problem you are solving matters a lot to them.

In contrast, saturated markets with no specific focus should also be tested. If you are doing what everyone is doing, it’s tough to take the market share.

For example, ‘movie lovers’ is too broad; 'senior citizens who love classical movies' is better.

How do you do it?

Market demand can be validated by being out there in the market and gathering relevant data about the industry. 

Here are two interesting ways to do it in the digital world:

  1. Is there any competitor? If yes, go and check their site traffic. For example, if your competitor’s site has more than 1 million visitors, it means the market is big enough for you to attract and the demand is high.
  2. Are people searching for it? Check Google’s searches about the relevant keywords and you will get the estimated number of people worldwide interested in your offering. If the number is big enough, the demand exists.

3. Validating and Iterating the Product

In some cases, the problem exists, customers want to solve it and the market is profitable as well. But, the way you are solving the problem is wrong or difficult to use.

During this process, you continuously ask yourself this question: Does the product I am building solve the problem? If it does, am I doing it the right way?

According to David Britton, CEO of Prodrocket,

“There are two degrees stress-testing your product: the first is offer validation (the ‘what’); the second, prototype validation (the ‘how’ or product UI/UX).  

The offer should test whether your value proposition and key delighters resonate with your target audience. You can do this by pre-selling your product (e.g. B2B pitch deck, a B2C landing page) or pitching a Beta test.

Once your offer is proven, build and validate a codeless prototype. Is the actual product delivering on the value proposition (time-saving, efficiency, joy, etc.)?  Is there too much UX friction that is negating the product’s value? This comes down to raw design execution, which requires deep empathy for user needs and existing alternatives.”

How do you do it?

Create prototypes and show it to your customers. Prototypes are not an actual product but they give a teaser of how your final product is going to be. You can show prototypes to your actual customers and ask them what they think.

Another way to validate your idea through A/B testing digitally. Design two ways your product can work and A/B test to know which one works better is easy to use and has the potential to scale faster.

Another smart way to do is to find out the loopholes in your competitors’ product and evidently yet smartly fill those loopholes in your initial product.

Product validation is a process. You release, learn, change and release again. This iteration cycle continues until you end up with a validated prototype. The same cycle would then have to be done for the end product you are building as well.

Conclusion

Validating your idea is a continual phase. It helps you learn from your industry and customers and allows you to adapt until you find a way to your product/market fit.  At every step of your startup journey, you will learn from your customers, from the industry trends and most importantly from your past mistakes. It doesn’t end.What’s important is to make learning a habit so you take a calculated risk and do not dive all head in. After all, as Eric Ries said, "The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.''


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