Whether you like it or not, validation is something you will do throughout your entire start-up process. It confirms your customer problem, steers your lean canvas and supports every step of the way from initial prototype to MVP to full-scaled product. If you can’t validate your customer problem, there’s no way your solution's going to fly.
So how do you go about validating each step to get the confidence to invest more of your time and money? Here are a few pointers to get you on track:
Find your customer
First thing’s first, you need to find your customer. The ways you can do this come in many shapes and forms – from in person, on the phone and online, through to Facebook, blogs and meet-up groups. You need to immerse yourself with your customer to understand where they gather, so the way you target and test with them becomes easier.
Get out and talk to them
Although this can be difficult and daunting, the best way to get feedback is by speaking to people. Your sample size might be smaller than other channels, but the quality of feedback you’ll receive will be gold. You can really dig into those pain points, create empathy and understand why they feel like they do. You’ll be able to gauge gut reaction, plus see how excited or not they are and where they think there could be improvements. Definitely not something you can get from an online survey.
Start Facebook advertising
Facebook’s data allows you to target down to a micro segment, not only can this help you size your audience, but it can provide a direct line into them. You can drill down to a kilometre radius, pick relevant demographics such as age, sex and relationship status, choose political preferences and filter by net worth. I’ve even heard stories of divorce lawyers targeting Facebook users based on their newly single relationship status.
You can also target through groups or pages they like, interests and hobbies – almost anything you want to know, Facebook has data on. When you’re testing through Facebook advertising you need to ask, are people resonating with your advert/proposition? Are they clicking on your ads (without your creating clickbait, you need to clearly articulate what you are selling here)? The next natural question is, where are you sending them from these ads and what are they doing when they get there?
This leads into my next point…
Create a landing page
Landing pages can be quickly built without any coding experience in as little as an hour. Sites such as Squarespace and WordPress allow you to whip something up very quickly at a minimal cost, I’d advise opting into a 1 month trial to, again, minimise your costs. This also allows you to shut down the site if it doesn’t test well.
While you might not always have a product at this stage, you should have a proposition you can test. Your aim is to understand your users’ behaviour on your landing page – analyse what they do and if they are willing to pre-register or show their interest by giving you something, (ideally, an email address).
To better understand this behaviour, you can add some additional free tools to your site fairly easily, such as Google Analytics, to measure visitation, on-page behaviour and acquisition. You could do some AB testing (again you can sign up for 30 day free trials with the likes of Optimizely or VWO) to test two different calls to action, propositions, images – anything you’re uncertain of.
Surveys are another great tool for you to gather input and validate problems and potential solutions. Typeform, Survey monkey or something as simple as Google Forms can create an easy feedback mechanism for you to gather insights from your customers.
These can be set up quickly and seeded out to as many potential customers as you can find. Incentivising entries with a prize or give-away can often increase your levels of participation. Try to think about what’s in it for the person on the other side and why they would spend their time helping you.
These are just a few ideas and tools to get you thinking about your customer and how you can start validating your start-up idea. Most importantly, just get going, have fun and be willing to pivot your idea based on what you're hearing.