Accelerate your startup market validation
find out what people actually need and give it to them
by Hans Baumhardt | 13 Feb 2017
Validating the demand for your proposition is more important than anything, especially cutting code. The top miracle assumption for most startups is an economically addressable market for the wonderful proposition.
Finding out what people actually need, and then giving it to them is likely to be more successful.
If you have yet to validate, read The Lean Startup : How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Reis. This is the home of Lean build-measure-learn (or hypothesis – metric – experiment) assumption validations, the foundation of our favourite iterative startup practice. For more depth on lean validation principles and current thinking check our recent article Lean validation: past, present and future
If you don’t have a ~30 word proposition that solves a validated problem, step away from the code. Your business concept and product proposition should drive ALL your investment decisions across engineering, commercial go-to-market, operations, and well … everything.
No validation is like gambling on the $10 tables in Vegas, without the free drinks. We know, having made this mistake ourselves with a tech integration product that could’t find a market. Good learning, but an expensive hangover.
Sometimes we help a product lead business to define and validate the market proposition after a significant investment in product engineering. When product is already built, it can be like whack-a-mole™ to find an economically addressable market. Rather than elaborating a product for a market, we iterate through markets to force fit a product. Which sounds more sensible ?
On the other side of the table its the same story for commercial folks wanting to get going on product. Lovely validate first article on StartupGrind 5 steps every non-technical founder should accomplish before finding a CTO by Hicham Amine.
To get going with validation, start with this straightforward guidance Lean Validation: 10 Ways to Quickly Test Your Startup Idea. That’s great advice, but how to scale it ?
If you benefit from a great network that can connect with likely buyers, do it. If not, scaling feedback at low cost can appear to be daunting. Engaging with relevant business decision makers cost effectively at scale to establish a high propensity market need is, for us, the toughest bit of starting up.
The simple way is to go with a smoke test of mock-up landing pages that explain your proposition. For complex solutions or new categories this may need help from a video explainer or click through demo. Then drive appropriate audiences to them with engaging offers on:
We used this for one of our own investments, matter-center.com to validate the market and start qualifying product before engineering. A solid network was generating great 1:1 research interviews, but in a highly contended enterprise market. Smoke testing provided a breadth engagement which identified a more appropriate (addressable & underserved) SMB segment in 30 days. Having a clear market segment to target for product needs and commercial model, the engineering for MVP only took 6 months.
For a public success story, Buffer published a great post on Idea to Paying Customers in 7 Weeks: How We Did It. Its a really simple proposition, the best ones generally are.
Inbound traffic is an elegant way to start feedback conversations at scale with a low unit cost, and a smoke test is a great first step as an experiment, but probably not the final answer.
Have a search on “smoke test validate demand” and get familiar with SEM targeting. To speed this up, we recommend Launch Tomorrow by Luke Szyrmer which will get you going in a couple of hours.
For deeper investment in different types of validation experiments, learn about Generative Research vs. Evaluative Experiments from What Type of Lean Startup Experiment Should I Run? which is well written and has killer art like this ->
If you are putting off market validation as it looks harder than product development, you may need to partner. Validation is not tough, it just needs 4 to 6 weeks of engagement effort to get a directional indication.
First published by the author on hjbconsulting.uk