Entrepreneurs are gamblers by nature.
Often, they come up with new businesses, products, and services that are completely foreign to customers. They hope that their offerings will be a hit.
But, the reality of being in business is that they can’t predict whether their ideas will do well, or if they’ll be a complete flop. All they can do is try their best, prepare their products and services before they launch, and adequately test the viability of the businesses before going into launch.
Prior to starting their own businesses, entrepreneurs must first test out their ideas. If they do this, they can be reasonably assured that they have a chance at not only surviving, but also thriving in the marketplace.
Here are four genius ways for entrepreneurs to validate their business ideas, as well as products and services, before they release them to the public.
1. Use Social Media and Content Marketing to Test the Waters.
When business strategist Tara Gentile has a new idea, she will take to the internet to see if it has a chance. She said that one time, she tested one of her plans by writing about it on her blog. She has advised entrepreneurs to set up a landing page and ask for email addresses, and to produce sales letters for products that are not yet available to see what the response would be.
Gentile wrote, “This kind of testing shows you what you need to rethink and which pieces of your product are most important to your customers. Then you can iterate and create something better—before most people even know the idea exists.”
Post your ideas on Facebook, Twitter, and your other social media pages, and write about them on LinkedIn or your personal blog. If you get a positive response, you know that you should move forward.
2. Ask for Feedback.
Before they put any product out onto the market, you can bet that big corporations are running focus groups and repeatedly testing said product. Since you’re an entrepreneur, you don’t have these kind of resources. Instead, take to the internet for opinions from your friends, family, and consumers.
Inc.com’s Darren Dahl recommended Ask Your Target Market and UserTesting.com, two sites that offer access to different audiences. While both of these services cost money, it’s an investment in your idea. Just think about it: You’d have to pay focus group members anyway, except that this method involves less stress, planning, and coordination. With the click of a button, you can learn what’s wrong with your product, what’s right, and if you should keep going with your idea.
3. Try to Raise Money from Investors (or Strangers).
If you have a great idea, people are going to want to get involved with your business. Create a prototype of your product, prepare a presentation about it, and reach out to private investors.
You could also utilize crowdfunding websites and ask your colleagues, peers, friends, and loved ones if they would contribute to build your idea. Also, find your target audience on websites where they hang out, and create content for those sites in order to promote your idea. If you’re not honing in on the right demographic to raise money from, you’re not going to get anywhere with crowdfunding. You might get a false sense that your idea is a flop, when in fact you just weren’t targeting the best audience out there.
The top crowdfunding sites are GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo, and they all charge just a five percent fee. If you do end up raising all of the money necessary to build your product, give back to your investors in the form of a gift or a share in your business. Then, when you have another excellent idea, they’ll be eager to contribute again.
4. Find a Mentor.
You’re not an expert in your market… yet. By finding someone who is, you can see whether or not your plans are worth pursuing further.
Ask an expert in your industry for his or her advice on your business idea. He or she can tell you whether it’s risky, what the market is like right now, how to go about promoting your product, and what to do to be successful. You can learn about his or her failures, and figure out how you can avoid them. By picking the brain of someone who has been there and done that, you can get a better idea of what your trajectory should be.
Your business idea may just be brilliant enough to change the world. But, you have to take it one step at a time. Once you validate your idea, you can start small and build it up into the company you’ve always dreamed of running.
Want more? Join Money and Business for Creative Entrepreneurs with veteran entrepreneur, Ramit Sethi and get his personal game plan for validating a business.