This 3-step guide will help you from coming up with an idea to knowing the chances of success for your startup or business.
- 1.-Have an idea.
- 2.-Lay out the idea
- 3.-Test the idea.
Step 1. Idea. How to get startup ideas?
Do you already have one? Go to Step 2.
Here are some ways to get you started with ideas for a business.
- Make a list of these:
- Which Skills you have?
- List all of them, even if you think that the skill is utterly useless, write it down. Think about what comes up when people ask for your help. This can go from repairing cellphones, writing code, cooking, fixing clothes, anything.
- Which subjects you have an above-average knowledge of?
- Maybe you don’t have the skills needed to put a satellite en orbit but you know a lot of them and the space and physics. A good hint about this is when you can’t talk to everyone about that subject because they have no clue about that.
- What do you like to do?
- Ok, if you like to do something, chances are that you have skills and knowledge, but this isn’t always true. Maybe you like to dance but you have two left feet and can’t tell the difference between salsa and pop music. Again, this exercise is about listing everything. No matter how silly you think it is.
- What’s something I would be willing to do (or am doing) for free (or even paying for) anyway?
Now you have to take all that information and try to see what’s showing up the most. Go through your skills, knowledge and likes. If necessary, add items to those lists.
And to finish: Think what you can build, a problem you can solve or a pain that needs relief.
There are a lot of doubts about this idea brainstorming, the main ones being:
What if it already exists?
That’s actually good news, it means that there’s market fit for that idea. You could give it a twist or offer something unique or better to attract customers.
Keep in mind that a lot of people want to try the familiar done in a different way rather than a whole new thing.
What if it doesn’t?
This one’s a bit trickier, but it also comes with greater opportunity.
You’ll have to pay more attention and test more hypothesis on the testing stage, and you’ll know if there’s a hole in the market waiting to be filled or if the reason that product or service doesn’t exist is because no one is willing to pay for it.
A business idea comes down to problem solving
I used to think about “Solving a problem” or “solving a pain point” quite literally, with the problem or the pain being something huge, like world-hunger-big.
I used to think that some businesses were not solving problems. Like those funky phone cases or toy machines “What kind of problem is that?” I thought.
Then I saw the word “problem” from a different perspective. Instead of “problem” = “annoyance” it became “problem” = “something people are willing to pay for”. Those funky phone cases solve a poblem, maybe the customer wanting to express their personality in some way. It’s not that big of a problem or an annoyance, but it is something people are willing to pay for.
Finally! You have a business idea flying around your mind, so how do you take that and turn it into something more tangible?
Step 2. Bring your idea to the realm of reality.
This is where you go from “I want to make an app that can tell you the name of a song with a hum” (actually that’d be great!) To something more tangible.
What are the implications of your idea? Just basic stuff, you don’t need to think about an elaborate business plan or finances. Start with the obvious, like how much would you charge for the product or service you are providing? What does your product or service actually do to make your customer’s life better?
Don’t fall in the trap of talking about technical features. Too many entrepreneurs focus on the features of their product rather than what it is useful for. Don’t be too technical. Imagine Dropbox advertising the programing languages and the servers they use instead of tellign people that their files are safe and accessible whenever they need them. The second offer is much better right?
This is when being familiar with the topic helps a lot. If you focused more on your likes in Step 1 and are not that familiar with what you want your business to be about the learning curve will be a lot steeper. But if you really want it you’ll be able to pull it off.
Step 3. Testing. How to know if my business idea will work?
This is the best part, is when you know if your business idea may be viable without having to spend money actually building the business.
Imagine if your business idea was an app, years ago you would have to pay a developer to build your app, get a team of designers and marketers to promote your idea, that could add up to more than $10,000, just to find out that your app isn’t that relevant to the public.
There are many entrepreneurs that still approach busines this way and that’s why they fail.
Now imagine if you could see the possible success of your idea before spnding $10,000 or more?
Sounds great! isn’t it?
This philosophy comes from the lean startup and I wrote a blog post about it: 11+ Things you can learn about “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries
I can’t stress how important it is to test your idea along with all the assumptions you are making.
Do you think that your customers will be interested? Test it.
Do you think that your customers will love that feature? Test it.
Do you think your main lead generator will be Facebook? Test it.
By running tests on all your assumptions you can have greater certainty about the success of your business idea.
But, How do you know if people would be interested?
I think you know the answer: Test it.
Make a simple value proposition.
Try to put in a few sentences how your business could better the life of your customers.
Try to be specific, remember to think about the problem you are solving rather than the features.
Then, add a Call To Action. A simple email form will do, something around the lines of “If you are interested, leave your e-mail to get early access/special discount/other” so there’s a reason for them to sign up.
With that set up, try to find your possible customers. The more obvious start is with the people you know, friends and family. If you are part of a group (in facebook, meetup or something like that)
Oh, before we continue. Please, please PLEASE don’t be spammy. There’s nothing that fires up the “shady salesman” red flag that blasting on a FB group posting “Hey check this link about my business”.
Ok, with an idea of the possible places you can get your leads from, remember this: Your business is about solving a problem. No need to be spammy. If you authentically care about solving the problem you will get those leads.
Try to send people to that Value proposition / CTA (Call to action) and ask them what they think about it. If they would be interested in the project, if they do that’s great, ask for their e-mail to keep them updated. If not, ask why and make a record of that.
After a number of leads (let it be 100) you start to get an idea about the success of your idea.
Then you have to…
Based on the results: If they are unpromising, but there’s data that shows viability (by a change of perspective of the value proposition or focusing on a slightly different problem) try to give a little twist to your idea to adjust the customer’s needs. Try to get good results before moving on.
If the results show that only you and your cat are interested, try giving it a bigger twist or check back Step 1 and try with a new idea.
If the results are a green light: Congratulations! Chances are that your business idea has the odds of becoming a viable business.
Now you can think about investing time and money on your Startup.
Just remember, in the further stages and development of your business all this steps are just as important.
If you are not testing your assumptions/features/pain points there’s no way for you to know if you are investing on the right parts of your Startup and given the limited resources you must be aware of that.
You have what you need, now get to work.