Most entrepreneurs begin their startup journey with the notion that ‘if we build it, they will come.’ They identify a problem, think of a viable solution, and then dive headlong into getting a product ready. Startups spend months on building a product so that they can get customer feedback and make it as close to perfect as it can get. But this validation needs to happen before, and not after, the minimum viable product (MVP) is launched, something that many founders fail to realise. The MVP is a prototype for your product, and unless the idea behind it has been validated by potential customers, any future iterations will amount to nought. After all, you can't build a skyscraper on shaky foundations. Here are a few common mistakes entrepreneurs should avoid while validating a startup idea:
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Any startup that bases its product design strategy on assumptions is bound to fail. It's easy to assume things. Someone you trust may tell you that the market is ripe for a certain product, or you might overhear an established entrepreneur at a networking event telling his circle how his company only used email marketing to get their customers and you assume that what they're saying holds true for you. But, once we start believing assumptions to be the truth, we start altering facts to suit version of reality instead of going about it the other way around. That's why it's incredibly important for entrepreneurs to carry out independent research and test their assumptions through interviews with potential customers and industry experts.
Understanding your customers' perspective does not entail asking your family and friends for feedback on your idea. Most of them will say that it's promising just to avoid the awkwardness that'll spring up if they say it's bad. Instead, you need to find your potential customers and find out what their needs and wants are. And it's not surveys or informal conversations I'm talking about, but rather detailed interviews with penetrating questions that provide real insight. Doing this can help you find your startup's unique selling proposition and create a product that solves real problems right out of the gate.
Validating a product, even a hypothetical one, before the idea is an exercise in futility. People will be nice and say that the it sounds like something they'll buy, but only because they don't have to shell out money right then and there. Also, if your idea is solid but untested and you build a product that receives poor feedback, then you'll think that the idea itself was the problem when that isn't really the case. Once you've validated an idea and are sure that it's bound to succeed, you can always tweak your product several times until you arrive at the ideal version. However, if the idea behind the product holds no worth, then no matter how good a product you make, it simply won't sell.
If you have any competitors operating in the same field your startup wants to enter, fastidiously using their products should be one of your main priorities. Compile an exhaustive list of your direct and indirect competitors and start using their products to identify all their flaws and useful features. You can identify the marks they missed while creating their product. This will help you create a product that's instantly more useful than theirs. Personally trying out all the solutions currently present in the market is an invaluable experience for solving a problem through a unique formula.
Even after validating your startup idea, the chances of you getting your product right on the first attempt are infinitesimally small. But that's part and parcel of being an entrepreneur. Mistakes and doubts will harangue you at every turn of your journey; it's up to you to learn from them and continue undeterred if you ever want to succeed.