How to test if a cool business idea you have will work (or if you should ditch it)
Having a cool business idea is only half the battle. Before you can expect your company to commit resources to bringing the idea into reality, you need to show that it has merit. In the old days, you’d do hours of research to build a business case. But those days are gone – a business case won’t work anyway – and now you have to come with some proof that the idea has legs. Luckily, there are many ways to show if a cool business idea will work or not. All you have to do is run a test.
You may ask your manager or boss for permission to run a test (after all, some cost money), or you may be able to run one on your own. That depends on your company culture and how much autonomy you have. However, before you ask for significant resources, run a test. Here are a few you could easily run right now.
Build a landing page
One of the fastest ways to test a cool business idea is through a landing page. It’s like building a brand new website for the idea without actually having the idea fully built yet. Instead of actually selling the new product or service, you’re testing if people are interested in the idea.
With landing page builder tools like Unbounce, you can build beautiful pages with no coding required. They will even have custom URLs too, so you get the real-website feel. On the page, you can include notes about features, test different copy, and collect potential customer information. If you word it like the idea is “launching soon,” then there’s no concern about collecting emails – you don’t owe them a product if you are clear up front. You can even customize the look and feel with brand creation tools like Looka.
Landing pages are particularly helpful for ideas about new products or services. They are for things you can actually sell. If you’re looking toward new models of efficiency or other less tangible customer-facing items, try one of the other ideas in this article as it may work better for you.
Launch a social media campaign
If you think that the way you work with customers is a problem and you have a cool idea on how to fix it, a social media campaign may be the perfect way to test it. Whether paid or organic, you can put out a social “drip campaign” (which is a fancy way of saying multiple consecutive social posts) to introduce the idea and how it will help customers. In the end, you could then put a quiz, short video, or simple graphic “announcing” the new idea. You’d judge if people like it based on engagement, so make sure you use copy that encourages people to share their opinions. For example, a Tweet might say “Let us know if you like this new idea – comment what you did or didn’t like!”
While you could manage this all manually using spreadsheets, a coordinated social media campaign is best handled by a social media management platform, such as Brand24 social listening tool, Crowdfire social management, or Buffer. These platforms will give you the opportunity to see your whole campaign holistically before you start, which could help spot gaps or issues before they arise.
Similar to a social media campaign, a survey is an easy way to test if people are interested in a cool business idea. They say you should always let your customers tell you what to build, and a survey is a perfect way to ask for customer opinions.
If you have a lot of current customers, especially if any signed up to be contacted about new products or services, they are the perfect place to start with your survey. This is especially true if your idea may increase customer lifetime value. If you’ve got a new idea that may expand into new markets, survey tools like Google Surveys are an easy way to get a representative sample of the kinds of people you want to learn from.
Surveys are great for reaching new people in a direct way and asking for opinions. Be careful, though, as many people will say they want something but many people don’t actually know what they want.
Make a mini-version of the product or service
If you think your cool business idea can be turned into millions in revenue, that’s cause for celebration. But until you test it, you have no idea if people really want it. Even if the research says it’s something people need desperately, there’s a difference between you knowing there’s a need and customers feeling the need. To test whether potential customers have as much need for the idea as you think, try making a mini-version of the product or service. That way you can see if people engage with the premise of your idea. You can even add feedback surveys throughout that will make the final version even better.
When making a mini-version, the first step is to look at the core elements of the idea. Then take the knowledge elements of it and see if you can create something digital. For example, let’s say you have an idea for a new service about cat grooming. You could try an email-based course about the Top 5 Principles of Cat Grooming. It’s a “knowledge product” that you can easily set up through email marketing platforms like Mailchimp.
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