You have a great idea which might be your next big thing and your are excited. You want to build it, release it to the wild and watch the bucks rolls in. Unfortunately success is not normally that simple, the hard truth is your idea might not be that great. So we need a step after idea and before build - this is known as product discovery.
The first step is to reframe your idea into one or more hypotheses, or to phrase it another way, the assumptions that must be true for your idea to be successful. With a clear hypothesis you can now experiment and measure to attempt to learn more about the idea. Here are my top 5 experiment techniques you might find useful to try out...
1. Landing pages or 'smoke' test - build a landing page that has copy ‘pitching’ your product idea. Ask users to register. When people register follow up quickly with an email containing questions for the user to reply to. To attract visitors invest a small budget into adwords to buy your target audience. Measure the number of registrations vs visitors, measure how quickly users respond to your email. The higher the conversion or if registered users respond quickly, the more in demand your idea.
2. Interview potential customers - if you built a landing page you can look to ring up / Skype some of your registered users. If you have existing products you can reach out to registered users. As long as you keep your talk to listen ratio low, you can learn a great deal from interviewing customers. The aim is to ask questions to learn about your hypothesis. Your goal is not to prove your hypothesis is true, instead to learn if it helps your customer or if it is wrong. Here are three questions you can use to drive the conversation:
a) Do you have this problem….?
b) What concerns you or how do you solve the problem today….?
c) Does something like this… solve your problem?
3. Ask the public - either via blogging, LinkedIn or just simply Quora ask questions to help inform the strengths of your concept. Focus the question on your assumed problem and see how people overcome this today? This often alerts you to the competitive landscape.
4. Concierge MVP - In this solution you are the system. You attract customers via the web and give a highly personal service. Often the ‘systems’ don’t exist you manually crank the handle to deliver the value. Obviously this is not scaleable nor will it make money, but it does give you huge learnings and the ability to very easily iterate on experiments by changing the process or value proposition based on the learnings.
5. Test Adwords - Moving on from the landing page test multiple ad campaigns on Google Adwords. Focus on the various USPs you feel your value proposition offers. Measure the ad CTR and if your landing page as signup the click thu per signup. This will help you understand which messages drive people. Ignore cost per click or cost per signup there are many variables that impact this beyond your message. Remember this is to learn what is important to attract users.
Throughout running experiments you remember why you are doing them - to learn. This means you need to be honest and open to finding problems with your idea. It better to learn what the problems are as early as possible so you can fail fast and reshape your idea into a winning one.