Why do so many new business and product ideas fail? It’s because innovators don’t take the precaution of testing their assumptions about what customers want, need and how they are going to behave before they start investing time, money and effort. Don’t fall into the same trap!
Get eye to eye with potential customers and check your assumptions
You can sit at your desk and hypothesise, you can (and should) research your chosen area online — trying to size up the problem you can solve, quantify the potential opportunity, check out the competition and learn from those who have gone before you — but there is nothing like being able to have a conversation with potential customers. Without customers, you won’t have a successful outcome, so you had better make sure you understand them.
Fundamentally, you need to find out whether there is an opportunity play:
- whether they have the problem you think they do
- whether the problem is big enough for them to bother to do anything about
- whether the existing solutions fall short of what they need.
These can be emotive topics that need discussing (video is great), so please don’t make the mistake of turning this into a survey.
Be as objective as you can
I have designed a seven-step test that helps you avoid common mistakes and the most important of these is trying to be objective throughout. This is challenging. You, no doubt, are all fired up and energised about a new idea, but it is this energy that can really bias your customer conversations and you may end up hearing only what you want to hear, which will result in you producing experiences that people don’t want or need.
My top tips include:
- Making sure you explore their problems, needs and behaviours before you ask for any feedback on your ideas, so that they answer without having been influenced by your thoughts.
- Don’t ask your mum (or anyone else who has a vested interest in making you happy). Recruit people who are one-step removed from you.
- Set out targets before you begin and design questions to give you answers you can score. For example, you need 3 out of the 5 people you interview to tell you that they have this problem and 4 out of 5 with the problem to tell you that they are not satisfied with the existing solutions.
Don’t delay - it is never too soon to start talking to customers
Get started with just five customer interviews. Even if you have no idea what your new product, service or experience could look like, you still need to start to understand whether the problems, needs and desires actually exist. I have worked with so many innovators who build new solutions based on just their own problems, only to find that they were in a very small market segment and the demand simply does not exist. I have also interviewed thousands of potential customers and in every single interview, I hear something that I did not expect. You will too.
The sooner you start to get real market evidence to support your idea, the better. With evidence, you can better manage risk and give yourself the best chance of success.
Evidence may tell you that you need to change your target audiences, the value that you think that you can offer them, your position in the market and so on. If you need to make changes, it is going to be way more efficient to find that out as soon as you can. And if you are doomed to fail, let’s do that early, quickly and cheaply. Let’s learn what doesn’t work, so you can find out what does.
The message I have here is clear - avoid wasting time, money and effort - test before you invest.
About the author
Julia Shalet is author of The Really Good Idea Test, which gives you seven proven steps to find out if your idea is worth pursuing. It will help you get evidence, make decisions, and move forward.
Want to know more?
Save 20% on The Really Good Idea Test by Julia Shalet
This content has been created by authors in their personal capacity. Any views, thoughts and opinions expressed belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Pearson.