Discuss Home · Bootstrapped Podcast · Scribbleton Personal Wiki · HelpSpot Customer Service Software

Service to validate business ideas


#1

Hey bootstrappers,

I’m working on a service, that let’s you validate your business idea by building a landing page complete with pricing tables to see if people are actually willing to sign up for a paid plan.
Once they hit sign up on one of your plans, they will be presented with a Not quite there yet page and a chance for them to leave an email address to get notified, once this goes live. From there you can follow up with them and learn about what problems they’re facing and what dreams of a better life they have.

With all that information you should have all it takes to 1) know if there’s a demand from paying customers and 2) enough exposure to your potential customers to know how to solve their problems. I took heavy inspiration from @mijustin How to test your business idea in 5 minutes (or less!) on Youtube and Joel Gascoigne’s medium article about the way he validated Buffer: How to successfully validate your idea with a Landing Page MVP

I’d love to get your feedback on this. Is this something you would use? Am I missing a crucial feature that would make you sign up? Any input on this is highly appreciated.

Cheers,
Philipp


#2

Personally I’m not a big fan of getting people to sign up for a service that doesn’t exist. Feels like a dark pattern to me. Better to take the intiative to reach out to prospective target customers and straight out talk to them about the idea.


#3

I think it’s a reasonable idea.

A few quick thoughts on Product Validation:

Its really hard to do well because

  1. Customers often don’t fully understand the problem themselves (I considered offering a Spam Filtering service 15 years ago but people didn’t even notice how annoying SPAM was. Now spam filtering is (IMHO) a key benefit of Gmail).
  2. They don’t understand your solution as well as you think they do.
    It’s equally hard to communicate the solution to people. You explain one thing they imagine another. You never realize that you’re not communicating till they don’t buy. (Just think about how often clearly spec’d out software fails to satisfy customers)
  3. It’s frighteningly easy to THINK you are succeeding with the above when you have NOT. (How would you know if you were wrong?

Did you test it first with a landing page and pricing ?
(I’m only half joking).
Have you done any research on competition and demand for this sort of thing? Here’s one service to compare it to. I offers a bit more info than just “would you buy X at $y price”

I would probably not use this myself because you really need finer granularity than Yes/No to truly evaluate an idea. (That’s a fine start, but you need more).

What’s the advantage of this over one of the many Landing Pages services? (like LeadPages or something like that)?

One downside is that this seems like a service someone would only need for a very short time( to prove the idea either way). So, the real value (and $) might be in up selling them once their idea validates. You might need to wait til they validate their idea to see what the next thing they need help is (and thus what you might be able to offer).

I don’t think there’s a problem with showing them the service with a price and buy now button and then being very clear "not ready yet, but we’ll let you know when it is and give you a x% discount).

BTW, I considered creating a course on Validating Your Idea and interviewed a bunch of small sw company owners I know. It seemed like the idea service would be:

  1. Find a bunch of potential customers.
  2. Provide a warm-introduction and then,
  3. Hand off the potential customer to be interviewed by the company founder, and possibly assist with this interview.

The reality is that simply getting a binary Yes/No to an offer is very low granularity of research. You really need to know a bit more. What you got a .5% click through on the offer but:

  1. Buying clicks for that sort of customer costs 1% (per click) of what you make on the product? (so you spend $1000, get 1000 visits ($1/click) , sell to 5 customer and make $100/customer or $500. You spent $1000 to make $500.
  2. OTOH, what if adding (or removing!) one feature would take your CTR from 1% to 5%, or raise the price you could charge by 200%.

#4

How would you go about validating your idea then? Simply asking them if they’d buy your product is not an option. The other approach I could see is essentially pre-selling your product, but that requires you to invest time in proper wireframes and other measures that build trust. Which is not a bad thing of course, it just takes a good portion of work.


#5

Thanks a ton for your elaborate answer Clay!

You’re absolutely right, it’s not easy to market this idea. I get the feeling only a handful of entrepreneurs even think about validating their ideas beyond “I’m gonna ask some friends and students” and “I’ll google for a day”. That means getting in front of those customers is pretty hard and requires a good portion of educating.

On the other hand you’re also right about it not being a very straight-forward pitch. I realized that people have troubles getting the idea which is not a good thing. See www.6months.co for the pitch.

Haha, yeah as you see I’m currently validating it the same way I’m pitching the product. It’s definitely a bit meta :slight_smile: I put up the landing page yesterday and have no insights so far. There’s not much traffic yet.

There’s some competition, but their USP is a bit different. The one you posted is more about questionnaires and less about gauging interest from your paying audience. Another competition is QuickMVP, but their site seems to be abandoned. I couldn’t sign up properly last time I checked.
Landing page providers are definitely competition, but even with those you spend quite some time setting up the page, connecting Mailchimp, getting a custom domain going. I feel a streamlined product that’s geared towards this one use-case might help people validating their ideas more quickly and comfortably.

How woudl/do you go about validating ideas yourself? What’s your approach?

That’s true. It’s not an ideal business that generates nice and long customer lifetime values. Either you get a high volume of customers who want to validate business ideas, or you up-sell later - as you said.

That’s a good point. People who don’t hit sign-up are lost and you don’t really know what made them leave your page. Was it the copy on the landing page? Didn’t they understand your problem? Was a feature missing? The prices too high? All that might play into this, but on the other hand if few people sign up, you know that those are the things you have to change and then simple retry with another version. You could A/B test this until more people are willing to give you their vote.


#6

Identify a target, find individuals in that market and directly contact them. Pitch your idea and gauge the response. Old school research and sales techniques.

Why isn’t simply asking them an option? If you don’t know who to contact that’s already a big red flag.

A “bait and switch” sign up form feels cheap and sketchy to me. You are “selling” something that you don’t have to sell vs doing some research and information gathering to make educated decisions. A sign up form doesn’t provide you any details aside from the fact a person was willing to give their email address. Since you don’t have a trial or anything for them to use there’s no way to determine actual interest, usage or intent. There’s no conversation to talk about possible features or potential use, it’s just “here’s my email”.

I think we in tech circles get enamored with gimmicky things that are supposed to make marketing and sales processes better, faster, bigger, whatever. At the end of the day some of those things may be useful but sales/marketing is not a binary decision, it’s emotional, it’s personal, it’s grey, not black and white. Tech helps for sure but at some point we need to remember how to just roll up our sleeves, pick up a phone, have a conversation and get a little dirty in meat space. How does getting an email address help you make an informed decision about what to build and what it should look like? The only thing it tells you is there may be some interest but even then how many email voters turn into cash paying customers. A genuine conversation with people in your target audience will give you so much more information. Why do you think corporations spend so much on focus groups and market research?


#7

That’s good advice dgrigg.

I only wanted to say that asking them “how much would you pay for this?” or “would you pay for this?” doesn’t mean much. Thus this is not an option to validate if you have something people are willing to shell out some money for.

I think you got how the product is supposed to work a little wrong. It’s not only collecting emails, but also gauging their willingness to pay. It doesn’t matter though, because as it seems, the landing page I built didn’t seem to resonate with visitors anyway :smile:

I do agree that a genuine conversation is worth much more and there’s also ways to figure out if the people you talked to would actually give you money for it.