In the past two days I talked to three first-time entrepreneurs that wanted input on their ideas. Every single one cited the desire to use focus groups to help validate their project. Entrepreneurs don’t need focus groups. Henry Ford has a famous quote that exemplifies how I feel about focus groups: If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said “a faster horse.”
Now, talking to customers and potential prospects is the right idea. Doing focus groups in the traditional sense is overkill and too expensive. Entrepreneurs are much better off seeking out prospective customers and engaging in a customer driven process using the 4 Steps to the Epiphany (free PDF of book) or Lean Startup model.
A few things to consider when attempting to validate a startup idea:
- Talk to at least 10 potential customers about the idea and get their input
- For the prospects that express interest, ask for a firm commitment for them to use it (e.g. timeframe, cost, etc)
- Ask them how they go about solving the problem now as well as what other things they’ve looked into to solve the problem
- Seek out entrepreneurs or potential advisers that have relevant domain expertise
Validating an idea before jumping into it full-time is one of the harder things to do as an entrepreneur. My recommendation is to roll up your sleeves and talk one-on-one with as many people as makes sense and get direct feedback.
What else? What other tactics do you have to validate a startup idea?