Your time and money shouldn’t be taken lightly. Do you want to know an easy way to waste both? Here it is: Go all in on a product that you haven’t validated with the market. I have seen this result in total busts more than a couple of times.
So here is a simple rule to follow…
Cardinal Rule: Never assume you know what your audience wants.
Even if you are creating software for the niche you serve, let the people tell you what they want. Being a member of your audience is helpful, but it isn’t enough.
This is hard for most people.
The ability to relate to others and understand their needs, wants and struggles is called “empathy.” The best entrepreneurs have high levels of empathy for their audience and they do a tremendous job of putting themselves in their buyer’s shoes and listening critically before making assumptions.
How to Validate Your Software Idea
There are more than a few ways to validate an idea, but here are some of I recommend you start with.
#1 Share It!
People are so concerned with their ideas being, “ripped off” that they miss out on the chance to get valuable insights.
I have always shared my ideas with other people before launching them and have never once had an issue with someone stealing anything.
Remember, ideas are the easy part, it is the execution that matters!
Even if someone takes your idea, chances are slim to none they see it through to completion. Also, stealing someone’s idea who has confided in you is a guaranteed way to make a lifelong enemy, and most people don’t go that route.
#2 Check out Your Competitors
Too many people have this happen…They have (what they think) is an original idea. They are pumped to work on it, but after googling it, they see that… *GASP!* There is already a product like it out there!
So, they bail on the whole idea.
This is often the worst thing you could possibly do and part of why most ideas never make it to fruition.
An existing competitor is actually a good thing because they have already validated the idea for you. We will talk later on about how you can use existing competitors when planning your marketing campaigns for your software as well.
You don’t need to be original every time you make something. Often times, an absence of competitors may indicate you have a dud on your hands (or of course, a gigantic success, but more often, a dud).
Tip: Buy and use your competitor’s products. Don’t copy them, but there is no harm in you making a product based on improving theirs. Do the right thing and don’t abuse the competitor’s refund policy. That would make you a real dick. Don’t be a dick.
Fortunately for you, many of these sites are transparent about the sales of their products.
If you can’t see the number of sales, reviews will give you a decent idea of sales made.
The number of people who leave reviews of the products they buy is obviously a small fraction of the total number of buyers. However, if you want to sell 1,000 units of a software to qualify it as “worth pursuing,” finding another similar item that has 1,000 reviews means this is possible if you can emulate the other products marketing success.
It is very safe to assume 1,000 reviews means at least 1,000 sales (depending on the marketplace, it may mean tens-of-thousands.
BONUS: Tools like iSpionage can let you see what your competitors are targeting in terms of their product marketing. More on this in the marketing section.
#3 Mingle with Your Potential User Base
If you are the only person who has ever expressed a concern that your product alleviates, you likely have a dud on your hands.
So, being a member of the group you serve will help, but even if you aren’t, you can easily get your “thumb on the pulse” of your audience in the following ways.
- Join social media groups (Facebook, Linked-In).
- Search what people are saying on Twitter with a basic hashtag search.
- Attend networking events and conferences (my favorite).
- Read the questions and comments on YouTube videos and relevant blog posts.
Tip: Listen more than you speak. Don’t be that guy that has a clear agenda and asks, “what are your biggest problems?” It comes off as self-serving and disingenuous. It is easily sniffed out. Have some class and engage naturally and you’ll get much more realistic feedback.
#4 Check Reviews for Similar Solutions
Thank god for honest people right? While negative feedback stings when you receive it, using it to your advantage is all you can do. You can use the negative feedback your competitors have received to create something that addresses the concerns.
Negative reviews, in my opinion, are more valuable, but checking what a tool does well is beneficial also, so be sure to look into what people are enjoying about a product.
#5 Get BETA Testers
You will get feedback one way or another, so why not get it from people who feel they are part of the project and understand that it isn’t perfect yet?
Consumers who purchase a product that isn’t described as “beta” don’t expect beta quality. Their money works fully, so should the software. Sorry, I didn’t think of that cute line, a customer did 🙂 I wish I could take credit for it.
Don’t make the beta offer free. These people will not test the product critically. Offer them a big discount on the finished product (with a money back guarantee if the product doesn’t launch) and you’ll get much more activity from your users and more constructive feedback.
There are many ways to validate your product idea. I could wax on about more complicated tools and methods for gathering much deeper analytics and testing user activity, but that isn’t what this program is really about, remember?
It is about lean software that is low cost and easy to maintain and change (if need be).
So, you don’t need to perform all of the testing options I shared above but you need to do something to confirm you have something worth creating.
Some people validate their products in a much more systematic way, but I am not rigid in how I test, I just test!
Coming up Next: Preparing Your Product for Distribution