This post is written in sympathy and understanding of the misery that most startups go through before they have their first active users. The days or even months of doubt can shake a startup to the ground. The dilemma of “Is it the idea?” or “Is it the marketing approach?“. Nothing can help a startup more than validating one of those. If the idea is solid, it just means you need more patience and better marketing campaigns, but if the idea is broken, no marketing campaign can save the startup. It’s doomed.
According to CBInsights, the most important reason behind the failure of a startup is “No market need“. This goes back to the idea phase and validating the idea. I bet not all of that 42% is truly due to the idea. If the market exists and you can’t find it, the startup will die and it will be blamed on the idea because “there is no market need“.
There are two fundamental checkpoints here:
- Is there a need for this product/service?
- Who are the target customers?
Here we don’t talk about founder-idea fit and other VC-invented terms. Here we assume that you, the founder, can successfully pull the product together. Let’s go back to the two checkpoints above.
How do you test whether there is a need for your product/service? We talked about that in the last couple of articles and the point was the importance of talking to your customers. The hardest part about talking to your customers early on is where do you find them and get answers from them. People are busy and even if they need your product, most likely, you will not catch them at the right moment. It’s a very inefficient process.
The hardest part about talking to your customers early on is where do you find them and get answers from them. People are busy and even if they need your product, most likely, you will not catch them at the right moment. It’s a very inefficient process.
When you come up with an idea, you have some ideas about who your target customers are. You may be wrong about that, but you have assumptions. You need to validate these assumptions ASAP otherwise, you don’t know where to look for these customers to talk to them and validate your idea. So, “Is there a need for this product” and “who are the target customers” go hand in hand. You cannot know the answer to one without knowing the other. They are like 2-unknown equations. You cannot decouple them from each other.
How do we find the solution to these coupled equations? We eliminate one of the unknowns using one equation and find the other unknown. It’s similar here. We don’t care about the idea and talk to various customers. We ask them about their problems following the rules that we discussed here. If we have the solution to the problem that one customer is pointing to, we may be on to something. But first, you’ll have to make sure there are no good solutions out there that this one customer is unaware of. That’s why the more customer interviews you’ll have the more confident you’ll be in your idea.
Okay, let’s say you found one customer whose pain matches your solution (not counting yourself!) and they don’t know an existing solution. You’ll need to find more customers like this one and find some overlaps between them. These overlaps help us with our marketing campaigns. Pay attention to the wording that these customers use. These words are most likely the words that they’ll use when they search for solutions. Gather all these words and include them in your website and advertising campaigns. There are no better SEO keywords than the ones you receive from your pilot customers or beta users.
Where should you stop your initial customer interviews and start building? Ideally never! You should constantly be in touch with your target customers. But in order to validate your idea, you need to have three customers with the same pain points and in agreement that there are no solutions for their problem out there. At this stage, you really know that you are on to something. The probability that three customers point you in the wrong direction is pretty slim. This is the best-case scenario. What if you don’t find three people in your industry that point to the problem that you are trying to solve? Then the question would be “Is there an overlap between their pain points?“. If there is a clear overlap between them and it’s not your solution, it’s time to pivot. Solve the problem that exists.
Now that you found a problem to work on or validated that the problem that you were originally finding a solution for actually exists, it’s time to build a solution for that problem. Can you build a solution for that problem? Is it feasible? What is the market size if you build the solution? Is this even a problem that you personally care about? Because if you don’t feel passionate about a problem, even though it’s a real problem, you will not succeed.
These are the things that we’ll talk about in our next few posts. Stay tuned and thank you for reading! If you like this material, tell your friends about it and share! See you soon.