Having an innovative idea is not enough to build a successful product. It seems nowadays everybody already knows that. But do they really? According to the latest CB Insights research from August 2021, 35% of startups fail because they didn’t meet the market needs.
Bringing a new product to market requires a lot of work, time, and money, so you need to make sure it’s an idea worth investing in. In the early stages, the most important thing to do is to check whether people actually need your product and are willing to pay for it.
Why? Assuming that you know what people want and need is a common mistake of many entrepreneurs when starting a business. It can be compared to jumping headfirst to a swimming pool without checking its depth. Do you really want to risk having your backbone broken? Validating your idea is an essential step to verify that it is worth proceeding with, no matter how amazing and innovative you think it is.
How to validate my idea at an early stage?
It’s really exciting at the beginning. You have a great idea, a big dream, and a lot of energy to make it happen. You want to move it forward as fast as possible. Maybe you already have a budget and you’ve hired a great team. Everything is happening so fast. But slow down for a moment. First, you have to answer 3 basic questions:
- Will my idea respond to users’ true needs? In other words — Will people want the product enough to pay for it?
- Is my idea feasible to develop from a technical perspective?
- Will my idea get enough leverage to cover costs and become profitable?
Answering these questions will help set the right starting point for the product. Spend some time upfront to confirm that the product you’re about to build is actually something people want and are willing to pay for. And don’t lose your enthusiasm, because this is the best time for experimenting and it can be done with a much smaller budget than when the product is already on the market.
But what if I find out my idea is not that good? Good for you — you will have avoided wasting your time and money and can move on to something else. Developing a product is a complex process and there’s never a 100% guarantee the product will succeed. However, following the best practices of human-centered design can definitely increase your chances.
Start with hypothesis
Try to define a need that you are going to fulfill with your future product and define your future audience by asking yourself the following questions:
- What problem are you going to solve?
- Who are the people that have this problem?
Try to put your hypothesis in one simple sentence, e.g.: “Owners of small restaurants in Poland have a problem with keeping their businesses during the pandemic.”
Do they? Let’s find out — this is a good starting point for the next phase — research of needs.
Research of needs
The best way to find out whether the need really exists is by going out and meeting with people that you are creating the product for. Try to find your audience on the internet, social media, Facebook groups. Explore and observe their behaviors and habits. Simply ask them to talk with you. But don’t be the talker — try to focus on listening. Listen deeply what are their desires, what they really need. That kind of research can drive you to fantastic insights and conclusions.
Research of competition
OK. You know that the problem exists, but nowadays it is nearly impossible that no one else in the world hasn’t tried to solve it yet. Become a usual user and start searching the internet for the solution that you are going to develop. It is the easiest way to check whether you are swimming in the red ocean (existing marketplace) or blue ocean (uncontested marketplace). Search for both direct and indirect competitors. Create a database of all your potential competitors and try to find the missing point — generate a missing value proposition that no one currently offers.
Sounds too complicated and overwhelming? You’ve done all of it but you’re still not sure whether your idea is good enough to be feasible and profitable? Don’t worry — we’ll help.
Put your idea in the hands of professionals
As a software house, iteo focuses on delivering a complete solution which is a software product. Often our clients come with a concept that is well defined having solid research and business background behind the idea itself. In this case, we can focus on defining specific functionalities and use cases and then starting the design and development part.
However, sometimes a client sees some business or technical opportunities but doesn’t know whether the idea is something desirable and useful, and responds to the real market need. What can we do if the idea is not precise yet and there are many unknowns? In this case, the best solution is the conceptual workshop, which helps the client go through the whole process of idea validation guided by professionals.
The process of conceptual workshops allows defining the functional areas of the product or service in which the introduction of new digital solutions will be the most effective and valuable, both in terms of business and for end-users. Its effect is the definition of the high-level product scope that will support the client while preparing a roadmap for the product. The results of the conceptual workshop should be the basis for starting a product workshop which focuses on the specific functionalities.
The process should be customized based on individual cases depending on information and materials provided by the client. However, in general, it should consist of the following steps:
- onboarding & research
- workshop sessions
- analysis & conclusions
Step 1 — Onboarding & research
The entire process should be carried out in close cooperation between the client team and the iteo team. On the client’s side, engagement of the product owner and decisive person from the business perspective is a must-have.
The process should begin with a general overview of the challenge. We start from the kickoff meeting which helps us get to know each other and expectations on both sides. It is essential to provide all possible materials so that the iteo team can get to know the business context of the project and the client’s expectations.
After the kickoff meeting, we spend time analyzing the delivered materials, the client’s environment and competition, and we conduct research. At this stage, the most important thing is to get to know the context — learn as much as possible about the client, his needs, users, strategy, possible initial ideas, and other elements that may have any impact on the project. It is also important to locate the project in the existing technical infrastructure.
Based on all gathered research materials, we are ready to structure further stages of work and perform the workshop itself.
Step 2 — Workshop sessions
Workshop sessions are the main elements of the process. They are cooperative on-side or remote meetings of the iteo team and the client.
The workshop session is strategic — at this stage, we want to define what possibilities we have for introducing new, innovative solutions to the existing environment, how they should be connected with the overall strategy and vision of the brand, to which business needs we should respond to. This meeting will begin with the presentation of the results of the iteo team’s work carried out during research. The developed material will be compared with the assumptions previously provided by the client.
Then we can also focus on the development of an initial, high-level functional scope of the product (needed to describe the next stages of cooperation) and additional research hypotheses (if they turn out to be needed for an in-depth verification of the assumptions made).
The conceptual workshop can be conducted on-site as well as remotely. Both ways have their advantages and disadvantages. On-site workshops give a possibility to meet the whole team in person so it’s much easier to create a unique atmosphere of creativity and team spirit. On the other hand, they could be more expensive and time-consuming, because usually, the team needs to travel to another location. Online workshops can be conducted despite the location and this is definitely the biggest advantage. There are plenty of tools available now which help us with online workshops. Our favorite one is Miro which enables us to work together with the client without compromising on the quality of the service.
Step 3 — Analysis and conclusions
The final step in the conceptual workshop process is summarizing the materials produced. The main result of the work is to define the product scope that will meet the client’s business objectives and respond to the needs of users. Preliminary requirements necessary to start work on the product will also be collected. The results of this process can be:
- documentation of all materials created for the workshop process and a summary of the course and effects of workshop meetings with the client
- conclusions and recommendations regarding the direction and scope of the digital product responding to the client’s needs
- description of the proposals for the next stages of cooperation
Why is it worth investing in conceptual workshops?
Yes, conducting conceptual workshops requires spending some time and money, but thanks to them you can save much more time and money in the future.
- You are putting your idea in the hands of professionals — we have experience in product idea validation and you can be sure we’ll recommend the best possible methods and solutions.
- It’s good to share your idea with people who are not emotionally involved with it — we can look at the whole concept from a completely different perspective.
- You will be guided through the whole process of validation — we’ll ask you the right questions, answer yours and give you hints during the whole process.
Ready? Let’s work on your idea and turn it into reality :)