Guide: How to validate an idea in 5 days

quickfire idea validation canvas
“QUICK-FIRE” Idea Validation Canvas

Quick and easy way to validated your ideas in just 5 days. Validating any product idea is both important and challenging. Ideally, you want to pick the right idea to work on and you don’t want to spend a lot of time and resources working on the wrong one. So how do you pick the right idea?

Simple. This quick and easy guide will help you and your team to choose and validate ideas.

A quick note: This guide was originally designed for organizations focusing on product innovation in B2B markets, however, it can easily work the same for anyone trying to gain early insights.

Day 1 – The Prep Work

Write down your idea.
Write down your idea in a concise way. In addition, write down a brief background story on how it was born and the source of inspiration. In case the idea didn’t come from you, get the background story from the original source. The background story is important. It gives context and often helps with initial research.

Find the problem.
Brainstorm the potential problems and write them down. Remember the background story? Those stories usually come from experiences, observations, and anecdotes. Use it to form potential problems. Problem finding provides a starting point in your Discovery phase.

Who is this problem for? Remember to clearly differentiate a need from a want. Think about, who has to deal with these problems.

For example: In our idea validation for Childcare Immunization Records system we’ve discovered that in child care centers and private schools, administrators and registrars usually deal with record-keeping problems, at the same time owners or directors have to deal with record inspections and penalties for non-compliance.

Solve a problem.
Write down the solutions to that problem. Try to write them in a way that states how these solutions will solve the problem, for whom, and why.

Why you? What makes you an expert that can solve this problem?

For example, you can solve this particular problem because your company offers the best solution in the market, or you are a trusted source within the industry.

Who pays? Who uses?
This information is the key to identifying your target audience, allowing you to reach out and quickly validate the idea. In B2B / B2B2C product innovation it is a challenge you will encounter frequently, as the people that make the purchasing decision are often not the end users of the product. Therefore, you need to choose wisely whom you need to speak to. Remember that speaking to the wrong people could kill a great idea or promote a bad one. Also, be as detailed as you can.

Use these 8 questions as a guide:

  1. Who will pay for this?
  2. Why would they pay for this?
  3. Who will use this?
  4. Who would advocate for this?
  5. Who will benefit from this?
  6. What are the roles, titles, departments, and organizational structures?
  7. What type of organization would this work for?
  8. What size of organization would be able to pay for this?

Day 2, 3, and 4 – Research

Tip: Give yourself at least 2 – 3 days for research.

At this point, you have an idea, a potential problem, and a solution. You have confidence and you know your target audience for the research. You are now ready to “get out of the building”. Whether you do it literally or metaphorically, the key is to talk to as many people as you can and find out as much information as possible. You will find that a lot of your early validation efforts will be done over the phone, messaging and emails.

Research – early insights.
Early insights are the information you will get based on a couple of simple questions, hypotheticals, and anecdotal evidence. That’s ok because it is still very valuable information. Remember that people are willing to speak to you and give their time, knowledge and thoughts without getting anything in return. With this early information, you will discover levels of interest, product requirements, possible competition, new ideas, or even pivot half way through your first day.

How to start with research?
Reach out to your network and talk to as many people as you can by any means possible.

For example: once I interviewed over 20 people in one day via Facebook messenger. My target audience, moms with kids and a doctor-patient relationship related idea. I myself happened to be a mom and a member of a diverse Facebook mommy group with over 2000 members.

Use these 4 steps as a guide:

  1. Write a short intro and 3 questions. It’s best to limit your questions to 3 for the initial conversation. Keep them open-ended. Avoid asking leading questions. Always account for follow-up questions. Avoid getting defensive if someone puts your idea down.

    Call intro example: “Hi, my name is Polina Tarnopolsky and I’m conducting early research for immunization records for child care centers. This is not a sales call. It’s for research purposes only and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind answering a few questions?”

    Opening question example: “How do you currently keep track of your immunization records?”

    The goal is to gain as much information and knowledge from the source as possible.

  2. Identify your network. Reach out to your sales team and account managers to help you reach customers. Identify people within your organization who have a network of people that you can speak to and then reach out to them for introductions. Review your connections on LinkedIn and see who is on their network. Look for groups, forums, meetups, and conferences. Look for online resources that will have open lists with phone numbers and emails. No shame in asking your friends and family to reach out to their network, as well.
  3. Get to work. Call, email, text, meet, message, Instagram, Snapchat, Tweet, survey, etc. Do whatever you need to get as many conversations going as you can. You should set a target goal of speaking to at least 20-25 contacts per day.
  4. Keep conversations short. The initial conversation should be short (15-20 minutes max). Take a note of contacts that can be more helpful in the future phases of research and ask them to commit to a longer conversation if you were to continue with this idea.

Research existing solutions.
Research the market and competition. Search articles, publications, forums, groups and so on. Also, ask questions when reaching out to people about potential competition.

Competition question example: “What do you currently use for your immunization records?”

Day 5 – Next steps

Usually, by the second day of research, you will have a good understanding of whether your idea needs to be dropped or not. However, you should never quit after just speaking to a few people, regardless of how they react to your idea. Set an initial target of getting full answers from at least 10 people before you make any decisions. Remember that validation is a combination of both quality and quantity of feedback.

The more people you can speak to the better. Realistically, in the B2B market, it’s just not easy to find 100 decision makers to speak within a matter of few days. (If you can, you are my hero!) It is possible to reach a larger group of people in a short timeframe by doing your research at a conference, but those don’t happen on daily basis.

Make a decision.
Decide what you want to do next. Maybe you decide that you need to continue for another week or two and speak to more people. Or maybe at this point, you have enough information to move forward to the next phase with your idea. Maybe you have decided that you should no longer pursue this idea. Maybe you want to pivot. These decisions often depend on the criteria and goals set by your team or organization.

Good luck and remember that no one tool or system or methodology is bullet-proof. These are simple guidelines, don’t be afraid to experiment and make them your own.

If you find this guide useful, please spread the word!

Polina Tarnopolsky
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