The most important thing that a founder has to know before starting an enterprise is their market. Before you spend your (or your investor’s) hard earned dollars, before you sweat about marketing or look or product, you want to confirm that there is even a market for your idea in the first place. Makes sense, right?
You CAN reduce your risk
A common tactic to validate your ideas with your market before you begin is to just plain go out there and interview some people with the Problem your Solution aims to solve. More specifically, you want to find people who will spend actual money to solve that problem with your solution. The goal of this exercise, again, is to validate your ideas before you done anything else. For more on how to best conduct these interviews, check out our post here. But, you say, where to find these magical people with money who will help me get my business started? Well, let’s have a look.
Start with who you know
This one may seem obvious but it’s often overlooked. You have a social network. These people may be friends, relatives, colleagues, former co-workers, your postie, whoever. Their network have networks, and those networks have networks and so on. With some effort, you should be able to source contacts that move you ever-closer to someone in your target market. Even people close to you in your network that may seem wholly unrelated to your target market may know someone who either is a target or gets you closer. Start here with a social post asking for help and a few phone calls. You’d be surprised how far it can get you.
Expand your network
So the last one netted you a few leads and a couple interviews but when you’re validating a market, you want to find enough people to reach a critical mass of problems that need solutions that people want to spend money to solve. You don’t need 100 interviews to start, but you should perform enough interviews that you can move forward with confidence that the first few were not just anomalies.
That said, if your network isn’t big enough to find who you’re looking for, expand your network! Professional organizations are a great source of new people to meet. Think product management associations or the like. Or try your local chamber of commerce. There are plenty of professionals there who would be willing to help. Another great source of new contacts are conferences. They’re held all over the place all the time so finding one that gets you closer to your market shouldn’t be too difficult.
The main point here is get out there! You can’t meaningfully expand your network sitting at your desk. An evening or two out at events can pay off big time when you’re trying to expand your network.
Try something wild
That prospective customer that you had in mind when you came up with your solution? You know, the one that you were afraid to reach out to because you thought they were too big for you? Well, have at it. The truth is that, whether they know it or not, they ARE looking to solve problems. And if you have a novel solution that you want to develop you’d be surprised how many ears you can bend. People like saving money, so long as their time isn’t wasted. You could be that person to save them money.
You’ll be glad you did
Most startups fail not because the people leading them didn’t care. They did. They cared a lot. But if you don’t take the time to validate your ideas with the market before you spend, you could end up burning cash on non-viable idea after non-viable idea. Or worse, spending all of your cash on fancy branding, t-shirts and swag long before you find out that nobody cares about your idea. Whoops.
So now you’re equipped to find those magical people in your market who have your problem and want to spend money on your solution. Hey, if you’re lucky, you might even find your first few customers before you’ve even built your prototype. Not bad!