The Do’s and Don’ts of Validation Marketing

Validation marketing is a new concept in the marketing world.

It helps you validate a startup idea or product concept.

And, like every other marketing tactic, it is governed by specific rules

Rules that you should know to use it correctly.

In this article, I am going to give you five do’s and five don’ts that you have to keep in mind when it comes to validation marketing.

Ready? Let’s dive right in!

Contents

Do #1: Be Specific With your Product Ideas

Do #2: Ask the Right Questions

Do #3: Adopt a Lean Approach

Do #4: Use Channels That Worked in the Past

Do #5: Set Up a Solid Tracking System

Don’t #1: Take it Slow

Don’t #2: Be Lazy With your Market Research

Don’t #3: Build Anything Without Validating It First

Don’t #4: Spend a Ton of Money on Advertising

Don’t #5: Just Try to Sell

Last Thoughts

Be Specific With your Product Ideas

If you are wondering:

“How to validate a startup idea?”

You have to know that you need to be specific with your product ideas to increase the chances of success.

Market validation is the process of validating a product concept, startup idea or any other business idea.

The validation process requires you to be very specific with your product ideas.

The fine line between a validated product concept is to be clear with your product ideas.

I am not going to reinvent the wheel if I say that you have to schedule a couple of brainstorming, mind mapping and word banking sessions.

Above all remember: the more specific you get, the closer you get to validate your idea.

For example, take a look at this post by the conversational commerce expert Arri Bagah:

Arri Bagah Online Course Validation Validation
Image Source: Arri Bagah on Facebook

Arri is very specific as to what he wants to create —

He is also very specific as to what he needs to validate his idea: get enough people to interact with his post.

Moreover, keep in mind that this process will also allow him to get an idea as to who the people who will take the course — once it’s out — might be.

This new product is going to be free, of course — but you could use the same process to find out who your potential clients and potential buyers may be.

This process will allow you to set the stage for everything that will follow and will give your target audience something to wait for.

So, always be specific with your product ideas.

Ask the Right Questions

Validation marketing is not only about finding your target audience or target market.

It is about finding real people that will answer the right questions or series of interviews —

That will allow you to get all the information you need to proceed.

Keep in mind that this is one of the most critical parts of the validation process.

As CXL states, the key here is to:

“Ask for actionable data — information you can act on.”

Now, there are many ways to ask these questions.

You can send a survey via Email using a tool like Typeform:

Typeform Survey
Image Source: Typeform

Or, make a validation question on LinkedIn:

Validation Question on LinkedIn
Image Source: Ricardo Ghekiere on LinkedIn

By the way, you can download this eBook here.

All these actions have the same purpose.

And, even though the number of people who will respond matters, using the right series of questions is what matters most.

Adopt a Lean Approach

Still wondering how to validate a startup idea or concept?

To validate your product concept, you have to adopt a lean approach.

Here is a quick way to illustrate why.

When he tried to validate his startup idea, Joel Gascoigne, the CEO of Buffer, he followed this simple (and yet powerful) validation process:

  1. He built a 2-page website and prompt his Twitter followers to visit it
  2. Send a personalised message to people who put in their Email
  3. Asked for initial feedback on his idea
  4. Built a third landing page and prompt his Twitter followers once again to visit it
  5. Asked if people would pay for such a product

Here is how the landing page looked like at that time:

Buffer Landing Page
Image Source: LifeHacker

This way — and by adopting a lean approach — he managed to validate his business idea and got an idea of what the business model could be.

Use Channels That Worked in the Past

It is a common marketing strategy to use the same channel that worked well in the past to promote your ideas and product concepts.

What does that mean?

Just for the sake of example, let’s assume that you have validated your new product idea, by posting for it on Reddit:

Patreon Competitor
Image Source: Reddit

Fast forward six months, let’s assume that you’ve built your minimum viable product and now have your first few users.

Since this specific channel helped you the first time, it is a good practice to use it again to validate a new feature or a new idea.

Channels (and assets) you can use to validate your ideas include:

  • Social media (LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter)
  • Quora
  • Email list
  • Messenger list
  • Social Ads
  • Landing pages

The lesson I would like to instil here is this: if something has worked well in the past, feel free to use it again.

Set Up a Solid Tracking System

You know what they say:

“You can’t manage what you measure.”

To find the right audience for your product ideas, you have to set up a proper tracking system.

The validation process is not only about conducting a throughout market research or asking the right series of questions —

It’s also about tracking the results of your validation marketing campaigns and define your strategy based on these results.

You can use tools like:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Hotjar
  • Qualaroo
  • Facebook, LinkedIn or Quora Tracking Pixel

Last but not least, after setting everything up, you’d want to test your tracking system to ensure that there isn’t a broken measurement in any of the steps.

Don’t Take it Slow

As I mentioned in a previous article, one of the nine validation principles is:

Validate (or fail) fast.

This will allow you to move on to the next steps quicker and thus save time and resources.

Your product concept, startup idea or business idea has to be validated fast, and even if you fail to do it, you will earn valuable learnings you can use later on.

One thing that goes unnoticed by the overwhelming majority of startup founders and marketers is that failing is an integral part of the process.

Market validation involves failing and this is why you shouldn’t lose your focus and ultimate goal while being intimidated by some failures.

Also, being focused is important because according to CB Insights, losing focus is one of the twenty reasons why startups fail.

Lose Focus CB Insights
Image Source: CBInsights

So, if you want to validate your product concept, don’t be afraid to fail fast and stay focused on your goal.

Don’t Be Lazy With your Market Research

Being lazy with the market research can put you is a bad situation.

To discover the ideal target audience and target market for your product concept, you have to conduct a throughout market research.

Don’t be lazy with your market research; otherwise, the validation process will not prove you right.

Laziness vs. Awesomeness

The market research is one of the most important parts for every new product — it is essential for existing ones too, especially if you are thinking to roll out a new feature or even pivot.

Here is a list of free tools you can use for your research, before running a validation marketing campaign:

Make sure to check them out, and please, let me know what do you think in the comment section below.

Don’t Build Anything Without Validating It First

It is supremely important that you validate your ideas before you decide to build a minimum viable product.

I am sure that you know Hubspot, a SaaS that has more than 48,000 customers in 100+ countries.

What you may not know, is that Co-founders Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan used to run a blog before they decided to build an actual product.

Hubspot Blog
Image Source: Hubspot

The blog covered topics around inbound marketing and was their way of validating their product.

After noticing that a significant number of people was interested in the topics that the blog covered, Hubspot decided to build a B2B SaaS.

I’ve purposely chosen this example to show you that regardless if you want to build a B2B or B2C product/service, you have to validate the idea first.

Consumer products may not need validation sometimes, but B2B SaaS products always need market validation.

Don’t Spend a Ton of Money on Advertising

Validation marketing is the process of validating an idea.

That doesn’t mean that you have to spend a ton of money on advertising.

There are many advertising platforms available right now:

  • Google Adwords
  • Facebook advertising
  • LinkedIn advertising
  • Quora advertising
  • Reddit advertising

These platforms can help you target a specific audience and find the right audience for your product idea.

Many people get this wrong — they believe that to get the most out of an advertising platform, you need to spend more.

However, this is far from the truth.

You have to test before deciding to raise your advertising budget.

In the beginning, you need to keep it low — after all, you are trying to validate and not to sell or scale your business.

Don’t Just Try to Sell

Regardless if you are in the B2B or B2C space, you should not use validation marketing just to sell.

Don’t get me wrong, during the validation process you can — and probably will — sell.

All I am saying is that this should not be your primary goal.

Imagine what would happen if the first day that David Cancel conceived the idea of Drift would try to sell to people a product, instead of trying to understand what their needs and real problems are.

I guess that this way, he would never manage to grow Drift’s customer base to:

Drift Home Page
Image Source: Drift

So, if you don’t want to come back with the tail behind your legs, don’t try to sell while in the validation process.

Last Thoughts

As I hope it is evident by now, validation marketing is a process that has it’s own do’s and don’ts.

I am sure that by now you know how to validate your startup idea.

Even though there are minor differences across industries and verticals, these rules apply most of the times.

If you have an idea that you’ve managed to validate, you have to pat yourself on the back and then start building your product.

While in the validation process, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and test new things that you believe could work.

Above all, remember: failure is just a part of the process, it doesn’t mean anything.

Good luck!

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

  1. What is Validation Marketing and Why Should You Care
  2. How to Conduct a Product Competitive Analysis (A Step-by-Step Guide)
  3. 19 Must-Know Product Marketing Tools [2019 Edition]

About the Author: Aggelos M

Aggelos M
I have over 8 years experience in Digital and Growth marketing. Currently, running Growth Sandwich, a London based Product Growth Lab. Before turning in Growth Marketing and Product Growth, I had the chance to pass by head marketing and head digital positions in Athens and London, work with numerous tech startups but also build and run companies. In my spare time, I am consulting ambitious startups about their Growth and Business strategy.