4 Ways to Validate your Product Before Wasting Time & Money on Development
You have a revolutionary idea for an app and want to create a thriving business around it, but there’s one thing you need to know before you start: Ideas are just the start.
A lot of unprepared of startups fail, that is why it is crucial to validate your app idea before moving forward with any development. Validating your ideas before development allows you to both mitigate risk, and speed up your time to market.
It is important to flesh out your app’s value proposition, so you can focus on what matters most about your app (80–20 rule), and if it is worth building in the first place. After developing over 200 mobile apps, we have seen many great successes, but we have also seen some failures. The tactics below will significantly increase your chance of success, so you do not waste thousands of dollars on an app that nobody wants.
Talk Directly to Your Target Audience
The first and most important thing you need to do when validating your idea is to reach out to members of your target audience and ask questions! Startup guru, Steve Blank, likes to call this “getting out of the building.” It is important not to rely on just your friends and family for this. They are most likely going to say things to make you feel better, but won’t provide honest feedback. Nobody likes doing it, but startup founders must learn how to converse with complete strangers. These strangers may be the only people that can give you unbiased answers to your questions.
Your primary goal should be testing and validating your value proposition. Here are a few questions you need to answer to do this:
- What does your app do that solves a problem for your potential customers?
- How significant of a problem is this?
- How often is this a problem for your target audience?
- How are they currently solving this problem?
- Is a solution something they would be willing to pay for?
When conducting these interviews, you should not be asking people whether or not they like your app/app idea. Someone saying that they would use your app is very different from someone actually using it. Instead, try to discover how your app idea can help people in their everyday lives. You will know if they want to use your app if they ask something like “Where can I find this?” or “How much does this cost?”
Say you have an app that helps connect babysitters to parents looking for a last minute babysitter. You should be looking for parents to explicitly tells you they cannot find trustworthy individuals to watch their kids within a day’s notice. This insight will tell you whether or not the demand is there for your app.
Many founders are concerned that by spending all of this time doing market research, they are moving too slow, and someone might beat them to market. It may seem like this at first, but in the long run, these interviews will let you move much faster with much less waste. Any startups that “beat you to market” without doing their own customer discovery will be stuck spending significant time and money trying to change their product to fit the market, something you do not have to worry about. You will not have to spend time adding new features your customers are asking for and removing old features that nobody wants because you already knew the right features to include before development.
Conduct Keyword Research
If you are not familiar with SEO and digital advertising, keyword research can seem tough to understand. If you use it right, however, it can be one of the cheapest and quickest ways to validate a demand for your product. If people are searching for your product or searching for a way to solve the problem your product addresses, then you will know you are on the right track.
Similar to market research (above), it is more important that people search for a problem’s solution than search for the actual product itself.
A simple workflow to conduct keyword research could be:
- Search for the problem you are solving in Google. Check out the top pages, and the information they are offering. Scroll down and look at related search terms and see what the top pages for any relevant related terms are discussing. Then write down all search terms that are related to the problem you are solving.
- Go to keyword tool.io and search the problem again. This will give you even more related searches. Keep a close eye on any specific questions people are asking, and write down any relevant search terms you find.
- Go to Google Keyword Planner and see what the volume is on all of those search terms you wrote down. If the cumulative search volume is close or more than 1,000 monthly searches, you know you are onto something.
Ahrefs has a longer 19 step keyword research checklist here.
Create a Promotional Video and Run Facebook Ads
Over 500 million people are watching Facebook videos every day, and the average viewer watches 12 minutes of videos a day. Facebook videos have a 135% greater organic reach compared to photo posts. Needless to say, the attention and engagement you need for a product promotion is there.
Facebook advertising can be a powerful tool for market research because of their audience targeting options. You can target people in specific locations, age ranges, colleges, and interests. If there is an app or product in the same niche as you, you can even target people that are fans of that product on Facebook. Try to be very specific with your audience targeting to decrease the amount you will have to pay for each video engagement.
Here’s a simple formula you can use to create highly targeted Facebook audiences:
- People who like pages of 10 complementary products or apps
- Age range and location of your app’s target audience
- People with closely related interests to your app’s niche
Once your promotional video has run its course, look through the insights and figure out how engaged your audience is. You can do this by analyzing how long people watch your video for, how many people like or share the post, and how many people viewed or liked your Facebook page after watching the video. Many people just scroll through their news feed so factor out any video views that happened for 5 seconds or less, otherwise these people will skew your results.
To go a step further, you can test two or three different videos that offer different features or focus on different value propositions. You can compare engagement levels between different videos to see what your target audience likes best.
Gauge Interest on Crowdfunding/Product Sites
Websites like Producthunt and Kickstarter are great places to raise product/app awareness. Producthunt allows people to post/share and discover new products. You can share your app or even a prototype, and other users can upvote and leave honest feedback. Producthunt is free to use- you just need an invitation to join the community first.
Crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, allow startups to post their product on their site to raise funds and get the brand awareness they need to get their business off the ground. Crowdfunding sites are not limited to just physical products, in fact, Kickstarter has a category specifically for app projects. Beyond raising money, many entrepreneurs are using Kickstarter to validate their product ideas, even if you do not reach your fundraising target if hundreds of people are interested in your app, then you know there is enough interest to move forward with development.
Today there is an infatuation with the idea of being a startup founder. They are seen as people that have risked it all, didn’t listen to all the naysayers, and proved to the world that their idea is worth billions of dollars. In a few cases, this is true; the media popularizes companies that are known as “unicorns” like Facebook or Snapchat. What the media forgets to mention are the tens of thousands of people that tried and failed. They ended up with shattered dreams, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and jobless.
Today the best entrepreneurs and startup experts know that the only way to create a business that doesn’t rely on luck to succeed is to mitigate as much risk as possible before you invest significant resources in your business. Before you spend time and money building a product, it is imperative that you validate that people want what you are creating. This idea was brought mainstream by a very successful entrepreneur Eric Ries. He calls this the lean methodology.
“The big question of our time is not Can it be built? but Should it be built?” — Eric Ries
Dream big, follow your vision, and be passionate, but make sure you are building something people want before you invest significant resources. In the words of Benjamin Franklin “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”