Friday, April 11, 2014

Validating Your Brilliant Idea

As we mentioned in one of our earlier posts, having a brilliant idea is nice but it won't necessarily get you anywhere. For one thing, it's very unlikely that it's new. According to statistics, 149 other people around the world have exactly the same idea at exactly the same point in time (not always the same 149, obviously). And the chances are that a handful of them are attempting to implement it as we speak.

But, out of that handful, how many have actually taken the time to understand questions like: what problem is this idea going to solve? Whose lives are going to be changed if the idea is realized? And why should anybody care?

When that brilliant thought hits you, the first thing to do is validate it. This can be done in several ways. One of the most popular is to create several different landing pages that give a tempting glimpse of the idea with the aim of arousing your visitors' curiosity—prompting them to ask for more information. After that you can run an AdWords campaign for a few days or weeks to drive visitors to your landing pages. There are a number of resources that allow you to set everything up in a few hours. This approach relies on people actively searching online for specific terms relevant to your idea. By the number of searches, clicks, and visitor contact info you can gauge interest levels for whichever product or service you had in mind.

Be aware though that, as with almost everything, this approach has its disadvantages—not the least of which is driving visitors to a non-existing offering. Sometimes the idea is so innovative that people might not be able to properly verbalize their need or identify their problem. To use a familiar analogy: it's a bit like trying to explain the advantages of a smartphone to people who've never owned one. "Why do I need it," they ask, "I can check my emails on my computer… my old flip phone is perfect for phone calls." When it comes to ground-breaking ideas, this method fails big time … and equally provides little insight into the approaches most likely served by existing products. Finally, this sort of validation provides the sort of yes/no answers that don't allow you to change or evolve your thinking in response to feedback from your audience.

As a better alternative to validate your idea, nothing beats reaching out in person or by phone to interview relevant portions of your network. When you're engaged in active dialogue you get a much better understanding of your audience's needs, as well as whether and how your idea can help to address them. As you continue gathering feedback, your idea will become that much more specific, nuanced, relevant and actionable, to the point where it may bear only a vague resemblance to the original. But this way you've gained valuable insight, and maybe a handful of like-minded individuals who are simply dying for YOU to take the next step.

What are some of the other ways to validate ideas?

Rachel, Dan & Dmitry

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