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6 Ways to Test if Your Business Idea Has Potential

First, the excitement sets in. Then comes the dread. 

You have a new business idea––or a new idea to grow your existing business––but suddenly you feel it’s not good enough. 

If everyone’s doing it, how can you be original? 

But if no one’s doing it, doesn’t that just mean no one wants it? 

If you feel like your idea isn’t good enough, chances are there are two things going on: mindset and action. In this article, we’re going over both, so you can get unstuck and validate your business idea.

Getting the right mindset

When you look at a business idea as either “good” or “not good,” that’s a binary decision and it can be especially damaging to our creativity as entrepreneurs. The good news is that binary thinking is something you can get out of.

Step 1: Logic it out

If you think your idea is not good enough, why is that? Write down every possible reason. 

For example: 

  • You thought about it too quickly for it to be good.
  • You wouldn’t use the product yourself.
  • You heard of another entrepreneur trying a similar idea and it failed. 

Let these reasons be genuine and authentic. If they are painful, embrace it. You want to get to the deeper issues, which are often very uncomfortable. If you want to really go deep, set a timer for five minutes and don’t stop writing reasons until the time is up. 

Step 2: Categorize

Then categorize your reasons from step 1 into either: 

  • Emotions and Feelings, or;
  • Actions and External Factors. 

For example, you may feel like you’re not creative enough (emotions/feelings) and you may have no idea if anyone wants what you have to offer (actions/external factors).

A reminder here to be honest with yourself. Really assess if something is internal (feelings) or external (actions). A good rule of thumb is that an internal issue is something about you (your innate abilities), while an external issue is about something that can be done (a skill or job).

Step 3: Prove or disprove

For emotions and feelings, look for internal examples. For instance, let’s say you feel uncreative. Think about a time you had to make something work at the last minute, r other times when you had to create something with super limited resources. Remembering these times of pure creativity should serve as a good reminder that you’re a creative person.

For external factors, look for data or tests you can run. Let’s say you’re worried no one wants your services. What can you try to see if that’s true or not? And if it’s true, what can you change to make sure people do want what you have to offer?

If you’ve gotten through the emotions part and are worried about external factors, keep reading. Phase two of this article is all about taking action to address those concerns. 

Taking action: experiment and iterate

Building a business is fundamentally the process of solving problems for someone else. Here are some activities you can do to validate if people want the solutions you offer, depending on how advanced your idea is right now. 

Experiments if your idea is new and not fleshed out 

Your current state: you’ve got a basic understanding of what you want to sell and who you want to sell it to, but that’s about it. 

1. The Curiosity Test

What it is: A conversational way to assess if your concept is intriguing to people.

What you need: An ability to casually speak about your idea, product, or service. 

How you do it

  • When someone asks what you do or what you’re working on, bring up your idea casually and at a high level.
    • Script: “I’m working on [product or service]. It’s for [ideal customer] and helps them [solve pain/get value]”
  • Then listen intently to what they say afterward:
    • Do they compliment you or say, “Oh that sounds lovely” (or something similar)? 
    • Do they ask for more information or ask how it might help them?

If someone gives you a generic compliment, chances are they are just being polite. If they start asking for more information, that’s a great signal that someone is interested in your concept. 

2. The Landing Page Test

What it is: A digital way to assess if your concept is intriguing to people.

What you need

  1. A landing page builder (like WordPress, Softr, Unbounce, Carrd, or Squarespace). 
  2. Some way to drive traffic to it (an existing blog, partnerships, social media, or paid ads).

How do you do it

  • Build a basic landing page introducing your product or service, who it’s for, and what pain it solves or value it delivers. 
    • On the page, leave a section where people can submit their email to learn more about the offering.
  • Drive traffic to the page and see who signs up to learn more: is it who you thought would sign up? Did anyone sign up? 

If people are signing up to learn more information, that’s a clear signal that they are interested in what you have to offer. The next step would be to get on a phone call with them (or email back and forth) to learn what intrigued them and what questions they have. 

Experiments if you have a fleshed-out idea but no tangible product or service yet

When you’ve got a full concept of your idea, here are two tests you can run to assess if people are interested: 

3. The Giveaway Test

What it is: Giving away a small introductory portion of your product or service for free to gather warm leads. 

What you need: A free mini-version of your product (usually an ebook or webinar).

How do you do it

  • Offer the free giveaway to the world (through your newsletter, paid ads, or a partnership, etc.), collecting emails for people to get their free copy.
  • Follow up with everyone who accepts your free giveaway to see how they liked it. 
  • If they liked it, book sales calls to see if they are interested in your full offer.

Free giveaways can be massive lead generation tools!

4. The Step-Up Test

What it is: Sell a small but high-value version of your product instead of giving it away for free.

What you need: A smaller version of your product (like a workshop or other slightly higher-value goods).

How do you do it

  • Market the offering product and see who buys. 
  • Upsell to your full offering after delivering the smaller offering. 

This method can be impactful since you make some revenue already and deliver great value for customers. 

Experiments to see if you have a product or service ready to sell

If you’ve got a fully built product or service and are ready for customers, here’s what you can do.

5. The Get-To-It Test

What it is: Start selling! 

What you need: Your full product or service.

How do you do it: Start reaching out to your ideal customers (or building an inbound funnel with content to attract them to you), and try to sell your product or service. At the end of the day, you’ll know if it’s working based on how many people book sales calls with you and how many end up buying.

Remember: Selling is a validation tactic. If it sells, it’s validated. If not, you can assess what didn’t work (the process, the audience, or the product/service).

6. The Social Media Test

What it is: Offer your products or services and see who bites. 

What you need: An Instagram (or any other social media) account.

How do you do it: Post on your social media accounts that you have a new product or service offering. Explain who it’s for, and invite people to reach out to you if they have more information. Try to sell the product or service to anyone that reaches out. 

This is a great way to sell things that would usually require a storefront or e-commerce store, but entirely for free. You can accept e-transfers for payment if people buy.

Testing, testing

If entrepreneurship is solving problems for someone in a way that makes them happy, then validating your business idea is just the process of identifying who needs the solution you want to offer. If you’re having trouble finding the people who need your solution, see how you can adjust the solution so people do want it.

As scary as that can feel, that’s really it. 

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