Entrepreneurship…it’s a big deal nowadays.
It seems like everyone’s got a plan to start their own business, giving rise to the…Wantrepreneur!
But all enthusiasm and no grounding nor testing your new business idea could leave you with empty results–and an emptier wallet.
Still, nothing should ever get between you and your business dreams, so today, we’re going to discuss ways to field test your startup idea without wasting thousands of hours–or dollars.
Not only will get you gain valuable info on whether you should start your own business, but you can also add this field data to your business plan making it more realistic and powerfully persuading for investors and bankers.
1 – Tell Others About Your New Business Idea
I know the feeling: you’ve thought of an ingenious new business idea–and you’re absolutely reluctant to let the big secret out.
As much as you could use the feedback, the thought of someone else stealing your stroke of genius is too painful to even consider.
And so you keep it all to yourself–attaining a patent, trademark, website domain, logo, and all the other startup essentials–only to find that your idea flops hard.
Believe it or not, even if you’ve got the best idea in the world, most other people will not act on it. So sharing it is safe. If you want to explore Legalzoom trademark reviews for your business name, use this promo code for 10% off!
The amount of work, dedication, willpower, and commitment it takes to even begin to get a business idea actualized is enough to deter most others.
Furthermore, feedback is absolutely essential. You’re not Nostradamus. We can also use constructive criticism to reveal blind spots in our thinking which can make or break an idea.
PRO TIP: never underestimate the value of an honest opinion. Sometimes, friends and family may hesitate to give you the hard truths you need in order to refine your business idea.
Next time you’re at a cafe or waiting at an airport, and you’ve gove $10 or $20 on you, politely ask a strange if they’ll exchange their honest opinion for some quick cash.
You’d be surprised just how brutally honest–yet constructive–the advice will be.
Check out my in-depth post on how to protect your business idea from getting stolen – without a patent
2- Test Run A Short Ad Campaign
This is another unique way to gauge the value of your product.
We’ve all heard of Google’s ads delivery service–you’ve definitely seen their ads before.
By running a simple, short, and inexpensive (probably free) campaign, you can direct potential clients to a simple landing page where they can order (or preorder) your product.
All you need is a very basic website so customers can leave orders and maybe a few, simple images of the product. The rest is simply a matter of running an ad on Facebook or through Google’s AdWords.
In fact, Google usually provides free credit to run your first ad through its service, which is a great way to nab some initial sales.
In return, you’ll get invaluable insights into the value proposition of your service or product as well as consumer interest.
If a $50 ad credit yields no sales or, at the least, website traffic, then maybe your product could use a different twist.
3- Visit Trade Shows with Your New Products
Few places give you a firmer finger on the pulse of an industry than tradeshows.
They are real live people and you can talk to them face to face, and offer real-time feedback in one of the most intimate ways possible. Seeing potential clients’ eyes light up with interest–or watching them repel away in repulsion–are great ways to understand the market.
Trade shows are happening everywhere across the country every week and nearly every industry has got one.
Next time there’s a trade show in your area, see if you can reserve a booth and set up camp.
I’ve personally had great experiences at trade shows. Once I exhibited my new product ideas, only in prototype forms, to gauge buyer interest and see if I got any orders. If I got orders, then I was planning on producing the items. Funny the products I thought would be the most profitable were not – but others did well. I glad I conducted this “live test” first and saved lots of money and time.
4- Ask Successful Entrepreneurs
You may have one in your family, friend circle, social network, or professional contacts–wherever they are, make sure you get feedback from a successful entrepreneur. Use your government provided, often free or low-cost, entrepreneur resources at SCORE, the education division of the SBA – Small Business Administration.
There’s nothing like insider advice. Someone with experience and talent–especially if it’s in the niche you’re targeting–is truly invaluable and can make or break your ambitions–in a good way.
Again, you need to field test your idea before it goes out to market–and before you’re out $10,000.
Pitching your idea to a fellow entrepreneur (ideally not a direct competitor to you) can truly help you flesh out the details and come to a clearer understanding of your business’ potential.
You also might be surprised how willing another businessman or woman is to spill the beans on the latest and greatest trade secrets–after all, it’s what entrepreneurs do for a living and a loving–it’s a hobby!
As ingenious as you think your new idea is, you might be surprised to learn it already exists out there somewhere.
But Don’t Panic: instead of using this as an excuse to give up, use it as an opportunity to remold your product or service into a more nuanced or niche form.
The reason for this is that you may be able to spot certain shortcomings or blind spots in your competitors. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel–but adding rubber tires can dramatically improve the basic concept.
Indeed, it is not at all uncommon that old industries and businesses become stale and complacent over time.
This leaves themselves vulnerable to newcomers as customers become fed up with poor service and begin craving a great marketplace alternative.
That’s where you come in: you’ve found competitors selling a similar product or service, and you’ve refined yours to capitalize on their shortcomings.
6 – Ask a Test Focus Group
Focus groups are a small number of people, chosen from your target customer audience, gathered to review your products and give their input and opinions. It is essential that you fill the group with YOUR target customers, in age, gender, demographic and buying motivation to get valuable input. No sense in showing baby products to single men or shaving products to new mothers!
This sampling of consumers strives to simulate the marketplace’s reaction to your offerings. Similarly, you could conduct surveys and interviews to gather this critical independent information. Major brands use focus groups a lot when considering new product introductions.
7 – Conduct Market Research on Your Business
Before you invest time and money in your new company, research the market to determine your likelihood of success. Professional research is divided into two phases; primary to study sales potential and competitive arena and secondary to analyze existing data from industry reports and government databases.
Don’t be intimidated by research, because in fact, it is often the simplest way for entrepreneurs to learn about market trends and sales opportunities. Learn more about market research for your new business ideas.
8- Crowdfunding for Testing Information
Crowdfunding is not only a funding source but also a goldmine of market data and consumer preferences. At crowdfunding sites, you can get honest buyer reactions to your products and also advice from other aspiring entrepreneurs. Hey who knows, you might even meet a partner or investor.
9 -Social Media Groups
Your target market is just a few clicks away in online groups.
Join forums and social media groups on Facebook, and ask them about your intended offerings.
You can also read their posts to learn about their problems and desires, all of which you could fulfill with your new business idea.
Joining a startup incubator or accelerator program is a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs and get access to their business resources.
These often include professional market researchers, focus groups and entrepreneur think tanks.
The opportunities that lay waiting here are endless.
>>BONUS – Take These Online Classes about Business Idea Validation
Entrepreneurs face more competition than ever before–yet simultaneously see more opportunities, too.
Still, ambition without realism is unnecessarily risky. Field test your ideas before investing all your eggs into one basket.
Asking others for feedback–including successful entrepreneurs–is a great starting point.
Running a short and small ad campaign, or visiting a trade show, can also work to prove the concept and sales potential.
Also, study your competition to find holes in their business where you can better serve the customer.
Check out my guide on how to start your business right with tons of useful tips I learned by successfully starting, building, and selling multiple companies.