Market Validation: How to Test Your Product Idea Throughout Development
Each year, thousands of startups launch products that they’re convinced will change the world. However, few of them will find success; according to a report by Startup Genome, only 1 out of 12 startups succeed in the long run.
As a product manager, a danger you must avoid is blindly falling in love with a product idea — as great as your idea might sound to you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to please users. And without proper research and experimentation, you’re setting your product launch up for failure.
Market validation involves evaluating the potential of a product idea to fulfill your target audience before its launch. The process involves combining both research and testing until you build the perfect product.
It’s crucial to run a proper market validation process during development. It helps avoid setting up product launches that fail, confirms a need for your product, and helps get funding from investors. These techniques will ensure your product is as thoroughly researched as possible, so you know it has a market waiting when it launches.
Research Trends Online
Online research is a low-cost, efficient way to validate your product idea. If your target customers are frequently searching for solutions to an issue you identified, then it’s a sign that you’re onto something and that your product likely has a market. The best tools to run this research include:
- Google Trends: Google Trends allows you to track how many times users search for a specific topic. You can also segment your target audience’s searches based on different factors, such as geographical location or year.
- Ahrefs: With Ahrefs, you can type in the keywords of the pain points you want to solve and analyze their search volume. Aside from helping you analyze the monthly searches of a specific keyword, Ahrefs also measures how much competition there is for it as well.
- Quora: You can go through Quora’s social platform and search for questions surrounding the challenge you’re trying to solve. You can even set up notifications to track relevant topics and have questions sent to your inbox.
The great thing about this approach is that it doesn’t take up too much of your time. That said, it only serves as a foundation, and further research and prototyping are required to fully validate your product idea.
Dive Into Your Customer Support Data
For product managers who already have an existing product and are looking to launch another new feature, analyzing support data can be helpful to validate ideas. The customer support team is at the forefront of user interaction and knows the customer’s main complaints and issues, which can guide what steps you should take.
First, write down a list of the problems you’re trying to solve, along with assumptions of what issues customers are truly facing. The next step is to ask the customer support team to share their data, such as customer tickets, chats, and recorded calls.
During this stage, you’ll be using the data to examine how many users are concerned by the challenges you want to fix. If there’s a high number of tickets related to your identified problem, it means that it’s a relevant issue that you should address in your next product launch.
Even if your existing assumptions aren’t proven to be accurate, diving into customer support data can help identify pain points you never paid attention to before. You can then use this data as inspiration for future features to test.
Conduct Interviews With Potential Users
One of the best market validation tactics you can use is to talk to ideal users directly via interviews. It’s an opportunity to learn more about their challenges and how your product idea could potentially help.
For example, here’s how CEO Rob Infantino was able to validate the product idea for Openbay by talking to potential customers:
“After formulating the idea for this online marketplace, I got out of the building and spoke to potential users of the service,” says Infantino. “Since I was planning to build a two-sided marketplace, I had to speak to vehicle owners and automotive service providers, both of whom consistently offered valuable feedback about their challenges, their needs and what they’d want to see.”
The insights he gathered then helped him find the direction to build the perfect product. “I built a working prototype and shared it with the same groups with updates along the way,” continues Infantino. “Before I knew it, I had validated my idea and development on a real product was to commence.”
As you’re interviewing potential users, keep in mind that the goal here isn’t to sell your product idea. The focus of the entire interview should be on user problems in their journey and not on product features.
Test an Advertising Campaign for Your Product Idea
Testing an advertising campaign before you have an actual product helps you evaluate the potential conversion rate of your upcoming launch. You can buy a domain, build a landing page that showcases your product with a CTA (such as email signup), and run an advertising campaign for traffic — even if you haven’t built anything yet. This testing tactic is powerful because a potential user who visits your product website and signs up is a solid indicator of interest.
Social media monitoring company Buffer did this in its early days by building a landing page that presented its idea, along with different pricing plans for visitors. Once an interested user would purchase one of their plans, they were led to a screen explaining that the product was not available yet, but they could sign up for a waiting list.
Run Beta Tests With a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
To collect feedback and validate your product idea, you can build a minimum viable product (MVP) and give it to beta users for reviews. It allows you to test your product idea, get feedback, and make changes to your prototype before the official launch.
An MVP is an unfinished version of your product with enough features that users can test whether it does a good job of solving their challenges. As Eric Ries, author of the book The Lean Startup, says: “As you consider building your own minimum viable product, let this simple rule suffice: remove any feature, process, or effort that does not contribute directly to the learning you seek.”
For example, Instagram’s first MVP was Burbn, which allowed users to share their experiences at different locations. However, the feedback from their beta users was negative: they found the app too tricky to navigate with its many complex features.
However, after talking to users more about their experience, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom noticed that they loved one feature: easy photo-sharing. The feedback led Instagram’s team to cut the majority of Burbn’s features and only keep the ones that matter.
“We went out on a limb, and basically cut everything in the Burbn app except for its photo, comment, and like capabilities,” says Systrom. “What remained was Instagram.”
At the end of the beta test, a straightforward way to collect feedback is to ask users to fill out a survey on their experience. Include open-ended questions so the user can tell you what they liked or didn’t like in their own words.
Don’t be afraid to hear negative feedback and complaints from your beta users. Just like in the case of Instagram, it’s feedback you can use to tweak your product until it matches what customers are looking for.
Set Up a Crowdfunding Campaign
Launching a crowdfunding campaign is a time-tested way to measure the demand for your upcoming product. Successful crowdfunding is a strong indicator of market validation since users are willing to invest their hard-earned money into your product idea.
Another benefit of crowdfunding is that it helps you land early adopters to your product, who can then act as brand advocates and spread the word about your startup to others. It boosts social proof, which you can then leverage in your pitch to investors.
However, the most significant disadvantage of launching a crowdfunding campaign is that it requires significant time and money. For example, a big part of making crowdfunding successful will be to build a strong audience through email and social media, which takes a lot of time. “The best way to get the word out about your Kickstarter campaign is to have an audience to launch to,” says Khierstyn Ross, crowdfunding product launch expert. “Generally, [you] need to spend six months or more building up an audience online prior to their launch.”
It’s why you’ll likely need to partner up with a digital agency during the crowdfunding process. Make sure to collaborate with a company that has good testimonials and that they’re a Kickstarter or Indiegogo partner to confirm their credibility.
An Effective Product Launch Starts With Market Validation
Market validation is an essential you can’t miss during product development. It saves you time building a solution that the market doesn’t need and maximizes your product launch success. As a result, you won’t disappoint stakeholders, and investors will be more likely to want to do business with you.
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