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How to Validate Your Business Idea

Last week we talked about creating the high-level product idea and identify target group. At this moment, you should be able to describe, in a simple paragraph, what benefits your product can benefit your target users.

The next step will be to test your vision among the target group. User survey is mostly used at this stage to understand three questions:

  • Does my target user group resonate with these benefits
  • How the product/service fit into the existing user journey
  • What are the top concerns users have
Does my target user group resonate with these benefits

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. or vise versa. This is why it is important to understand if the user group you identified can associate themselves with the benefit and if there are better words you can use to communicate the message.

I suggest you to prepare different versions of the same message, they can be “problem - solution” type ( there is a problem and we provide a solution to solve it); “ Goal Achieving “ type ( you have a dream and we are here to help you achieve it); “curiosity arousing” type ( we have something interesting to you, come and check it out) etc.

Theses are different versions of the marketing message based on the same product instead of different products, I mean, if I want to help users relax the mind, it can be through sports, listen to music, do a massage etc, and you don’t have to be that specific anyway at this stage. What you are testing is how your target group would react to your product.

Make sure you ask them what is in there that make them like one version more than the other. Just ask and write down what they say. There should be absolute no intervention to what the respondent is thinking about. 

And do it face to face with at least some of the testers so you can observe their facial expression, and pick up the sentiment your message have on them in a more emotional prospective. 

Many times, business are surprised how the target users respond to the message and the reason they have for their choice. For example, I have just completed a user survey, the business prepared 3 version of the message and everyone in the team like the first one, the test result of 102 respondents from 3 countries suggested that 76 of them, which is 74.51% of them, like more the second. As you can see how important a simple test is to your product, it ensures that at least you will not make the No.1 product that you should not make, which is sell a good product in the wrong way.

How the product/service fit into the existing user journey

At this stage, you may have a rough idea on how the product or service would interact with your target audience. I mean, if the idea is a new design of the fork, it is most likely that the interaction would be use this fork to eat or to cook food. On other cases, it can be less obvious, say you want to develop a solution to help patients with heart problem monitor their heart beat and have the information sync in real time to the cloud so their doctors can access easily. It can be less obvious to you how they are interacting with the device at the moment (unless somebody close to you is a user of such devices).

Nevertheless, you have to start from some baseline assumption on the user scenarios because the questions are structured around each scenario, If you are thinking, say, to make product that can detect food allergy. At least we can assume they will be interacting with the solution before they eat (pay attention, not when!), when they go to see a doctor and may be some other scenarios, they need to be bringing this device from place to place, wherever they dine. Based on these understanding, you will be asking questions such as:

  • How do you usually learn about if a product contains the ingredient you are allergic to?
  • What about when you dine out in the restaurant? 
  • Can you tell me your experience where you had food you are allergic to? What happened?
  • Have you ever used any deivce to help you detect food allergy? What is it? Tell me your experience with this product/service? Will you recommend it to others? Why and why not?
  • Is the experience you describe to me a rare case or more often? 
  • What kind of information do the doctor needs to know to treat you?
  • … ...

The objective of these question is to understand how the users will be using your solution. And what they need to be able to do in different scenarios to achieve this purpose. 
As interviewer, you need to do your best to hold back your personal opinion, be very very encouraging and agreeable, the user is always right. And agree with them help to get more information out of them, make them feel more relaxed to tell you how they think and how they feel. Thoughts and feelings are personal and it can be hard for a stranger to share with you if they even sense a light disagreement. 

How do you interpret test result

Usually after 30-40 interviews, the patten starts to emerge; some survey covers thousands or more respondents, it is all about what is the sample size and how much time and money you have to do it. I have always done the what I call, 20/80 pax user survey, in which I take 100 people who covers the target group and I make sure I have face to face conversation with 20 of them. I have compared it with 1,000 pax survey and the findings are very similar while cost of the first one is only a fraction of the second. 

It is better to hand the summary part to a professional research person first because we are less biased to our personal opinions thanks to our training; second it is also most of the time not the expertise of the entrepreneur or the company. And thus it is more cost-efficient at the end.

Anyway, if you are to summarize what the findings are by yourself. I suggest to go down the 4 questions below and try to write your answers based on what you find:

  • Will I develop the product/service, why and why not
  • Can I categorize the results in anyway, how it will look like
  • What is the user journey my product/service will have
  • What the product should do and what it should not do

Of course, every survey is different even if it is the same product category. If you want any help understanding how to design your survey or to understand the findings, drop me an email at or reach out on my Linkedin

At the end. I want to talk briefly on some concerns you may have at this point:
Test sample does not represent the target group: I mean, I only surveyed 100 pax, but my target are millions of people, what if they behave totally different.

My answer will be: it is definitely possible but it is not likely. And moreover, you are better off doing the survey than not to do it because now at least you see certain pattern in the group you tested. And as you go on with your wire-framing and usability test, you will keep refining your understanding. 

Somebody will Copy my Idea i I do User Survey: for many entrepreneur, it is more scary if somebody that you tested with copied your idea or they mentioned it to others and the others copied yoru idea. 

My answer is: make sure your testers signed confidentiality agreement. And do not violate my advice, which is not to intervene with the test. No your own opinion, you should just be understanding what is going on and try to design based on the findings. 

user survey is critical for product success, it is something a product person should do to better understand the users and the market. And it also give good ideas and guidance on the envisaging and development phase that follows later.

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