Sure, your brilliant new idea may be the next Google, but what if it’s not? How much money are you willing to spend on your potential million-dollar idea? How much time are you willing to invest on your potential success? If you are like most other hopeful entrepreneurs, the answers will probably be “a lot.” However, before you begin spending tens of thousands of dollars or more on product development, hiring employees, and building infrastructures, consider cheaper and faster ways of testing your ideas.
Knowing whether or not people will use your product can save your company years of frustrations in addition to thousands of dollars. Furthermore, knowing what specific features and functions your customers will want to see in your product will also increase the likelihood of your company’s and product’s success. So how do you do it? Here is one way to validate your million-dollar idea without breaking your bank:
The first thing that you should do is create a concise statement that conveys exactly what your product/service does. This will allow you to frame your concept in a way that anyone can easily understand.
Next, you set up a very basic website, which should simply include a landing page that describes the details of your idea, and a button that says “Sign Up Now,” “Create an Account” or some similar call-to-action statement. When this “Sign Up Now” button is clicked, it should direct the user to a page that says “We are currently in private beta testing, please leave your email address so we can provide you with access when we launch.” Below this, provide a form that allows visitors to enter their email address.
One critical aspect of this website is that the content on the website must be stated as if the product/service already exists. Every word or statement should be framed as if the product/service is available for consumer use or beta testing. Elaborate on your concept idea so that you ensure that users who provide who with their email address want the specific benefits of your product. For a quicker alternative to this step, consider trying the tools of new services like LaunchRock, which allows you to set up pre-launch pages with integrated social components.
This website can be created for free using websites such as Wordress.com, which provides free themes, Plugins and customizations. To make this website live and visible to the public, you must purchase a hosting plan. This can be done through any one of hundreds of hosting companies. Companies like Site5.com and HostGator.com offer hosting plans as low as $5 per month.
The third step is to purchase a domain that reflects your proposed company name or product name. This domain can be purchased for as low as $8 per year. You could go out on a limb and get creative with your company or domain name, like Google, Yahoo, Twitter, and countless companies did with their original names, just note that it may alienate some users.
The next thing to do is to create a free Google Analytics account, which will allow you to monitor the traffic coming into your website. You will be able to determine how many visitors are coming to your website and from what sources they are coming from. This tool is provided for free by Google so there is no additional expense to track your traffic. Determining how many visitors are coming to your website is critical because it will allow you to analyze your advertising campaigns’ effectiveness.
The fifth step involves creating a free Google AdWords account, which will allow you to design advertisements that will be visible on Google when someone searches for particular terms. Next, you should revisit the statement that you created in step one. This will allow you to frame the context of your advertisement by using specific keywords. Begin by finding keywords that relate or are relevant to your product/service on keyword research tools. Then, when you are confident that you have outlined all the proper terms that are relevant to your product, begin creating the advertisement that will increase the likelihood that users will click on your add.
The important aspect of this step is to ensure that your advertisement content is consistent to what your product/service will be. After your advertisement is complete and you are confident with it, launch your Google ads. Google charges for advertisements by way of Cost-per-click, or CPC, which means that you pay for every click that your advertisement receives, or Cost-per-thousand impressions, or CPM, which means that you pay for every thousand impressions that your advertisement receives. Select whichever method is more suitable for you. Countless coupons exist out there that may save you money on your first AdWords account so look for them before you begin. The objective of your advertisements is to get as many qualified visitors to your website to provide you with an email addresses. The cost per advertisement or click can often be as cheap as a few dollars. For the purposes of this article, we will assume that you will run this advertisement for two or three months.
Once you launch your advertisement, begin viewing your Google Analytics results to see how much traffic you are getting. If you begin getting a lot of visitors to your website, this is a good thing. If you begin converting the majority of these visitors into people who provide you with their email addresses, this is a very good thing. Basically, you have now begun validating your idea. You have people that are interested in your idea and who are interested in your product. To further promote your idea, consider adding social media sharing options that will allow interested users to share your website with their contacts and friends within their networks. This will help you get more traffic, without spending more money, and will hopefully result in higher conversion rates.
However, the validation process doesn’t stop there. Use these email addresses that you have collected to reach out to these potential customers. Email these users as if you are ready to provide them access. However, begin the discussion by asking them what they expect to see in a product. Some potential users may be surprised or shocked to hear that you are asking for their opinion, but you can use this as an opportunity to fine tune your idea. Also, this is a great place to interview your potential customer to find out how they will use the product, how much they would pay for such a product/service, and if they would encourage their friends to use it.
At this point, you have taken what was just an idea, and have validated it as something that people would want. Furthermore, you have found out what specific features people would look for in that product. This will save you time from creating features that people don’t care about. Now you can proceed to building your product. If this experiment has demonstrated that you have not received any interest in your product/service concept, you may want to revisit the demand or utility of your idea. Ask people who can provide you with quality feedback about your idea, along with those who you assume need your product/service. If the results demonstrate that your idea was a hit, get started on building your business.
As you begin the process of developing your million-dollar idea, I would recommend considering using some of the Lean Startup Principles written about by experienced entrepreneurs like Eric Ries and Hiten Shah. For example, before you begin spending thousands of dollars on building the product, consider building a minimal-viable-product to further test the details of your product. Build a bare and basic prototype and utilize it as first generation version. Continue to get customer feedback along the way and constantly improve your product based on what customers want. Regardless of what direction you take, you are now better suited to evaluate the potential success of your big idea. I wish you the best of luck.