If you take one thing away from what I write, take away this- you must, must, must test out your product before you decide to launch full-tilt!
If not, you will have spent so much time (and money) on a product/service that either no one wants or it hasn’t been perfected yet, which runs the risk of also damaging your reputation. Even before that, you want to test your business idea out to make sure that it is helping people to solve a problem that they are having (and are willing to pay for).
This is so incredibly important that I am going to skip the preamble this time and jump right into some tips on how you can test both you business idea, and your product/service. I’ve included some tidbits from the first iteration of Youth Beyond Enterprises as examples. Remember, these are my personal tips!
Testing Your Business Idea
- Identify your targeted customer market- be as specific as possible.
- Example: Pre-Teen/Teenage students with either an interest in pursuing entrepreneurial studies/career path, have a business idea, or have an existing business but need assistance.
- Determine what the three most pressing problems are for this customer segment, as related to your business idea.
- Example: Lack of encouragement to pursuit an entrepreneurial career path.
- Outline already existing solutions available to customers.
- Example: Summer Company program for students between 15-29.
- Determine your value proposition (an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers).
- Example: A resource centre/service that celebrates, assists, and better integrates younger entrepreneurs into the community.
- Identify the features of your business idea.
- Example: Run by a local young entrepreneur with a sole focus on assisting other local young entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs-t0-be.
- Lay out the benefits that your business idea has for your targeted customer market.
- Example: Networking opportunities with other like-minded young entrepreneurs, potential partners/investors, and community organizations.
- Seek feedback from others, especially those you trust to be brutally honest with you.
- Example: Talking with other local organizations that were focused on either entrepreneurship programs for older youth and other groups around the province who have or are planning to do something similar.
- Build an MVP to determine if your product/service is something your targeted customer segment will actually use.
- Example: See It’s Not Just You Who’s the MVP.
- Determine how you will attract and retain customers.
- Example: I plan to attract and retain customers through writing engaging content based on my experiences as a young entrepreneur in our area. I gained these customers through word-of-mouth, social media promotion, networking, flyers, and making connections with other local youth organizations.
- Start getting your name out there.
- Example: Choose your business name and register it with your province. The first thing I did after I had tested and validated Youth Beyond Enterprises and my other business, Tracey’s Business Service. You also want to set up a website- even if it is just a page with a brief overview of the product, you, and contact info.
For some examples of how other entrepreneurs have validated their business idea(s) in the past, see Entrepreneur.com’s article 9 Entrepreneurs Reveal How They Validated Their Business Idea
If your testing determines that your initial idea is not something that will help your customers solve the problem that they are having, then it is time to decide whether to either make a pivot (make a drastic change to either your business idea, testing, MVP, targeted customer segment, etc), make an iteration (making a slight change), or walk away. We’ll go more in depth next post about what each of these mean and how to do it.
In closing, here are some words to remember as you move through your entrepreneurial career (and life in general), courtesy of Paul Foster’s book and online course, Test Your Business Idea (which provided a lot of inspiration for this post):