As an entrepreneur, you’re getting new ideas every single day. Everywhere you look, you see a new opportunity for disruption that no one has ever seen before. If you’re like me, though, not all of these ideas are created equal.
For every great thought that comes to mind, I get 50 that aren’t worth a second glance. Knowing how to separate the good from the bad isn’t easy, and it’s even more difficult to try and do so by yourself. You could always reach out to people in your network to help flesh out your ideas, but sometimes I want to make sure I’ve got every aspect of a new concept fleshed out before I share it with anyone else. In order to help with this process, I use my set of validation tools.
Validation tools are questions and heuristics that help you get to the core of what’s on your mind. If you’re looking to separate your best ideas from the rest of the pack, try starting with these:
1. Determine the problem you’re solving.
When it comes to solving problems, entrepreneurs are a step above the rest. Our whole job is making the world work better, faster, and more efficiently — so what does your idea do that furthers these goals?
Be specific about this: what issue is your idea tackling, who does this issue affect, and what other products are out there that face this issue down? The business world is stuffed to the brim with new startups, platforms, and brands, so nobody is going to be amazed by a slogan and some concepts. You also want to be careful of falling into the trap of simply adding nice to have “features” to existing products or services. In order to get your idea off the ground, you need to be able to tell people about how it’s going to improve their lives.
2. Get a feel for your market.
As important as it is for your idea to be able to solve problems, that alone won’t be enough to guarantee success. The business world is dog-eat-dog, so you need to have a solid understanding of what you’re up against before you declare your idea a success.
It’s a bit early for in-depth market analysis, but try and develop an understanding of what the current standings in the landscape look like before moving forward: What are the trends in the market you hope to pursue? Do they work in your favor or not? Perhaps most importantly, how will any competition react to these trends and how could that affect you?
3. Connect with customers.
The ultimate goal of any entrepreneurial idea is to get it in the hands of customers, so connect with your consumer base early on in your development process to see who latches on. The top 3 reasons that startups fail are 1) no market need, 2) ran out of cash, and 3) not the right team. If you can overcome the first of these reasons, you’ll be well on your way to overcoming the second two.
Develop a real consumer survey that pitches your idea to customers of all types — the people over at PhD Insights have created a two-week process that can help businesses set up these temperature checks. Investing in this kind of engagement research not only helps you gauge interest: the feedback the customers give will likely be the most honest and insightful you’ll ever get. They say that the customer is always right, and this is no exception.
4. Find your unfair advantage.
An idea without anything to back it up is, at the end of the day, just an idea. In order to bring a concept into reality successfully, you need an unfair advantage. This isn’t some kind of cheat: it’s a component of you, your business, or your development process that sets you one step ahead of your potential competitors.
For some entrepreneurs, their unfair advantage may be their team’s experience or expertise in a certain subject, while for others it could be their access to capital and key investors. If something didn’t set you apart from the rest, you wouldn’t be in the position you are right now. Figure out what your idea needs the most of in order to work: perhaps it’s additional time for research and development, or maybe it’s a quick deployment to market — in any case, make sure you’re aware of what you can do to bring it to fruition.
Ironing out a new idea is no easy task, but it’s a necessary one all the same. Putting in the additional work now will help make your final product more developed and resilient down the line — potentially saving you time and money in the process. Even the best ideas need to undergo some kind of validation process, and the one above has always worked well for me.