It happens all the time. A talented individual quits their job to pursue a business based on an untested idea/hunch. They spend months in a vacuum living on savings, with the goal of shipping a product.
Shipping a product is a difficult and daunting task. So you should celebrate when you launch! But releasing a product to crickets is discouraging. You are taking a risk with your time and money, you don’t want to arrive at your launch with a product that no one wants wants.
When we come upon that “great idea” the temptation is to jump right into building it. We love to build things it’s the fun part for us. But if we want our project to become a financial success, then we need to hit the brakes and be a little strategic. If you are a developer don’t open your code editor. If you are a designer quit sketch. We gravitate to what we know and what we are comfortable with. But let’s not commit to an idea before we ask some questions.
If you are ready to work on something big, it is worth taking the time to understand your audience.
If you have a great idea then why not vet it? For your project to work you need other people to want it. Don’t assume you know everything about your customer’s situation, talk to them! Here are some starter questions to help you approach your research:
What problem are you solving?
Do your potential customers understand the problem or pain-point?
Is the problem something people can describe? Is it abstract? Is this a problem that people know and understand? Is it problem that many people face?
Who is this product for?
What kind of business or individual will use or benefit from this product? How big is the organization (solo/startup/enterprise)? Who in the organization would be the one purchasing your product?
Where does your target customer hang out?
Do you know the online communities or platforms where your potential customers are? Do you know the conferences that they attend? Do you know any organizations they are a part of?
How do you plan on reaching these people and organizations?
What are your distribution channels? How will you make sales? What is your plan to attract people to your site or sales funnel?
What is your potential customer frustrated with?
Is the problem big enough pain point that people will pay for your solution?
What are your customers underserved needs?
What is your target customer already paying for?
What are they not paying for? Discovering what people will pay for is a great start. If you are building a product for scrappy teams, it may be hard to get them to pay unless your product is a must have. Check out Bare Metrics startup calculator. Does it makes sense for those teams to build it themselves?
How much are customers willing to pay for your service? Will they pay you upfront?
If people are willing to pay you money right now (before you launch) you may be onto something.
Who are the competitors in the space? If your customers are already using a competitor ask these questions:
These questions are a great start, but you are solving a specific problem. Take some of these questions and tailor them to your own surveys and question sets. It’s smart practice to think through questions like these. But having real conversations with potential customers will be far more insightful.
Don’t assume you know your customer. Go out and talk to them.
It’s work and can be uncomfortable at first. But taking time up front is worth it. Understanding your customer’s needs is vital for your product to gain traction.
Building a product is hard enough. Building a product based on a hunch has definitely worked for people. But for every untested idea that gets off the ground, hundreds of others fall flat.
Happy building, and best of luck.