How do I validate my startup idea?
This is a question that I get very often by young and ambitious founders.
Validation marketing is a new concept in the marketing world.
It describes the validation process of a startup idea, product concept or minimum viable product —
This process can help us make data-driven decisions on whether or not we should move forward with an idea or product.
And, like any other marketing concept, it is guided by certain principles.
In this article, we are going to present the 9 principles of validation marketing.
Ready? Let’s dive right in.
Principle 1: Make a List of Product Ideas
This is the first principle of validation marketing.
Now, you may be wondering:
How is making a list of startup ideas or product concepts difficult?
It is if you don’t follow a particular process. Here are the steps you should follow:
- Mind mapping
- Word banking
Most people don’t pay attention to their brainstorming sessions, but there is real science behind that.
After brainstorming startup ideas with your colleagues or partners, you should use mind mapping to organise your thoughts and ideas.
Many SaaS are offering ready-to-use templates for your mind mapping sessions.
Last but not certainly not least, word banking will help you come up with words and themes that are highly relevant to your startup idea or product concept.
You can, later on, use these words to adjust your positioning statement and value proposition.
Principle 2: Conduct a Thorough Market Research
Validation marketing is about validating a startup idea or product concept.
The problem is that most of the times these ideas are based on assumptions.
Now, conducting a thorough market research is not going to answer the question:
“How to validate a startup idea?”
Conducting a thorough market research though, will allow you to aggregate useful data and make well-informed decisions that could (and most of the times will) affect your initial assumption.
Only after you’ve finished with your research, you can start testing your assumption.
One thing that goes unnoticed by the overwhelming majority of marketers and founders is that most of their assumptions have already been tested by someone else —
You have to try to find the results of these tests and see how you can use them to construct your validation process better.
Don’t forget that sometimes reverse engineering can save you a lot of time and resources.
Put simply, if someone out there has already tested your assumption — or something similar within your niche — you’d want to take a look at the results and use them to increase the likelihood of validating your product idea.
Principle 3: Be Specific with your Target Audience
Believe it or not, most startup founders or marketers are not sure as to what is their target audience.
This explains why many SaaS startups and established businesses have broad targeting.
The truth is that to find the right audience you have to experiment.
And, validation marketing can help you find the right audience for your product idea.
What we mean by “being specific”, is that you should have a clear view as to what your customer avatars are.
This principle is essential, and it will help you define other critical elements, such as the channels you are going to use or your positioning statement and value statement.
For example, look how specific we are as to what our ideal customer is:
I want to be uber clear about it, this principle by its own is not going to help you validate your startup idea —
It is essential though and it will help you define other critical elements, such as the channels you are going to use or your positioning statement and value statement.
Principle 4: Plan (and Document) the Validation Process
Imagine what it would be like running a validation marketing campaign and in the end having no data to examine whatsoever.
The simple truth is that most marketers and founders pay little to no attention to documentation.
Make no mistake though, keeping track of everything is crucial for the success of your validation marketing campaign.
Here are a few tools you can use for your validation marketing campaign:
- Google Sheets – to document the whole validation process,
- MockFlow – to design mockups for your landing pages and other assets,
- Emblem – to develop a brand identity (and stay lean) in less than 5 minutes,
- Typeform – to design aesthetically appealing questionnaires as a way to collect data.
Take some time to plan and document the whole validation process — it will help you paint a clear picture of what was the outcome of your campaign.
Principle 5: Choose your Traction Channels Wisely
Surprisingly enough, most people do this the wrong way.
Probably because they didn’t have the time to think seriously about what their target audience or target market is.
Still wondering how to validate your startup idea and what channels can you use to do it? Here are a few:
Above all, keep in mind that you have to use the ones that make sense for your target audience.
Last but certainly not least, you have to define what the validation marketing indicators will be.
Think smart here, don’t need to exaggerate — use the ones that make sense for the channels you’ve chosen to use in your campaign.
Some validation marketing indicators may be:
- Drive social media engagement and validation (likes, shares, comments or messages),
- Get people to join an Email list,
- Get people to fill in a questionnaire (by asking the right questions),
- Populate your tracking pixel for retargeting purposes,
- Get people to sign up for a free trial,
- Get people to choose between different copy or graph variations for a specific product concept or startup idea.
Principle 6: Define the Value Proposition & Positioning Statement
Defining the value proposition and positioning statement is a critical part of every market validation process.
Needless to say that based on the results, your positioning statement and value proposition will probably change.
But, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to be specific and clear as to what your startup idea or product idea is all about.
Here is an example of a great value proposition by Airtable:
Here are 6 tools you can use to level-up the copy of your value and positioning statement:
- Grammarly – to check your copy for grammar and spelling mistakes
- Tone Analyzer – to analyse the sentiment and tone of your copy before starting the validation process,
- Email Subject Line Tester – to test the subject lines of your Emails in case you include Emails in the validation process,
- Really Good Emails – to get copy (and design) ideas from successful companies,
- Facebook Ad Examples – to get ideas on your online Ads copy (online library by AdEspresso),
- Loremizer Chrome Extension – to preview your landing pages without your copy, so that you can focus on their aesthetic part.
Principle 7: Validate (or Fail) Fast
One of the most common excuses for not failing fast enough is the lack of data.
But, as Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos puts it:
“Most decisions should be made with somewhere around 70% of the information you wish you had. If you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably slow.”
Not only that, but they recognise fast failures as a critical ingredient to their success.
Thus, it is vital that:
- You embrace failure as part of the process
- You are ready to fail fast so that you can validate fast
Validation marketing is a learning process — a process that gives you all the answers you need to take important decisions.
No one wants to fail; it’s a universal human trait.
But, from the moment you acknowledge failure as an integral part of a validation marketing campaign, you will feel more confident with the whole validation process.
Principle 8: Analyze Results & Build Something Great
I am not going to reinvent the wheel saying that to increase the chances of success, you have to build a stellar minimum viable product.
Having a great startup idea or business idea (most of the times) is not enough — even validating that idea is not enough.
As MOZ Founder and ex-CEO Rand Fishkin say:
“To expect your initial users to perceive an MVP as an MVP is unrealistic.”
When your early adopters test your new product, they expect an amazing first experience.
This is why you should give them a solid first impression.
Thus, after testing your assumption, you have to build something relevant to your target audience’s wants, that will help them overcome a problem or pain point.
Principle 9: Define your Business Goals, Brand & Marketing Strategy
After you’ve successfully validated your startup idea, you have to define:
- Your business goals and overall objectives
- Your brand strategy
- Your marketing strategy
At that point, I need to gently explain that product-market fit comes after the validation process and that growth comes after product-market fit.
Thus, your business goals and overall strategy have to aim at finding product-market fit.
Design a Product Roadmap that will guide you throughout the tough process of finding product-market fit —
At the same time, define the core elements of your strategy by using the insights and data of your validation marketing campaign.
Think of your validation marketing campaign as your starting point and try to understand how the outcome of it can help you define your goals and overall strategy.
“The reason why we are not listening to our customers is that we can’t balance our ego, versus being humble about the process.”
It seems that most Founders and CEOs can’t put their ego aside and build something that real people will be willing to pay for.
It is of paramount importance that after the validation process, we have clearly defined and documented what our target market’s needs and problems are.
Answering that question separates successful startups from failed ones.
Market validation is a process of understanding — understanding the “what” behind our prospective customers’ wants.
The better the data we collected throughout the validation process by asking the right questions, the closer we will get to building something great.
These 9 principles will point you in the right direction — follow them, and the validation process will get much easier than you think.