What are the best ways to define and validate a new business concept?

New idea: outsourced virtual office and sales management and technical support for start-up technology companies expanding to new countries who can't yet afford to open their own office. Should we do phone interviews with prospective customers or just email a survey?


Face to Face will always be better. The reason is because to get to the root of an issue or to what really drives a person, you need to ask WHY 5 times. Only then you can offer a solution that will be irresistible to your prospects.

Let's try with an email survey.

1. What is your biggest struggle when you want to expand abroad?
2. Why?
3. Why?
4. Why?
5. Why?

You look like a freak, right?

Now in a normal conversation, it would go something like:

Oh, your biggest challenge is costs? Tell me more about it.
Yes, i just don't have enough cash flow to open an office abroad.
Where is your cash flow going instead? (that's a hidden why)
It's going into our local activities.
Why do you prefer spending money locally?
Because we get more return on investment.
etc etc..

I'm happy to jump on the phone to test this technique (it feels a bit awkward at the beginning but with some training it becomes natural).

Answered 4 years ago

A simple way to validate any startup idea is to put together a landing page and drive some traffic to it. Unbounce is a great tool for building landing pages.

Spend a few hundred dollars on Google Adwords to drive relevant traffic to your page to see if you can generate leads for your service. When you generate some leads, get on the phone with them and pitch your business. If they are interested, you can let them know you will be launching soon and you will notify them. If they aren't interested, it will help indicate if your idea is something that people want.

For a few hundred bucks, and using a simple landing page, you can generate sufficient data to help you understand if you are heading in the right direction.

Another tool I like to use is Survata. With just $100 you can get 100 objective survey responses from your target audience.

I also wrote a blog post about how to validate your idea. You can check it out here:

Answered 4 years ago

In terms of validation, there is no right or wrong.. phone or email is just a tool. i would prefer face to face interaction during targeted networking session.

preparation before you proceed with validation is important. start with potential client that you're comfortable with.

The easy part to ask questions.

The real work is
1. to define the right question to ask
2. establish a connection with potential client before you ask question.

I've seen many entrepreneur ask questions for validation.. end up not getting the real answer, because their respondents somehow not ready to answer it.

I hope this tip would be useful for you. Good luck.

Answered 4 years ago

Did you ever hear that famous quote from Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”? Apparently he never actually said it (shame! it’s such a great quote…) but the message is just as valid: people often don’t know what they want.

There are two main implications to this, as I see it.

First, if you’re going to talk to people, focus more on the problems they’re facing than the solution they envisage. Whether you do the survey on the phone or in writing, you’ll want to ask questions like:
-What’s the biggest problem you’re facing in expanding to new markets?
-How much of a problem is it, on a scale of 1 to 10?
-Would you be willing to pay for a solution to this problem? If so, how much?
If they don’t bring up your point on having the virtual office and sales management and technical support spontaneously then you can prompt them as a second step. Here, as Serena says, speaking to someone in real time will always be more effective in terms of being able to ask follow-up questions and dig that bit deeper.

Second, once you’ve done those stakeholder interviews and you feel you have a strong idea, get it live as soon as you can. Push out your solution, even if it’s not 100% there, and get some of those technology companies to pilot it. They can give you real user feedback to allow you to optimise the solution as you go, while they can also give you testimonials and referrals to help you as you start to advertise and grow the business.

Research is very important, and especially understanding the pain points of your target customer, but avoid analysis paralysis and launch something into the market as soon as possible so that you can learn and ‘pivot’ if necessary - before you’ve invested too much time and money in the wrong solution.

Good luck!

Answered 4 years ago

Since, market research is utmost important for any new business venture, initiate both primary & secondary research.

Secondary Market Research: The parent industry always plays crucial roles for its downstream. So, understand the industry statistics and various other parameters like industry size, industry challenges, current and likely future trends/changes, technological innovation, similar offerings/players profile (if any), industry appetite for new offerings, etc. In other words, identify various important parameters like latent demand of something of this kind.

Primary Market Research: Understand the gap which is needed to be filled up in the industry and come out with an appropriate plan of action.
This would help to validate if consumers are interested in a commercial product and identify if consumers will pay for that product and for how much. Finally, to be able to decide whether or not to launch your business.
Here, critical considerations are- questionnaire design/survey programming, sample size, sample selection procedure, data collection method (F2F, CATI, Email, Web Based, etc.), data tabulation and analysis.

Costing is a concern but phone survey would be preferable than email for sure.

I can help you with entire process, if interested.

Answered 4 years ago

Hi, this is Ann, a business coach for small entrepreneurs. I used to work in many top positions as Branding and Marketing manager, which required my great involvement in the 4P mix (Products, Pricing, Places and Promoting).

To answer your question, I would love to mention a very fundamental principle of idea and concept generation for business.

When developing a new business, the 3 factors should be taken into consideration are 3 Cs: the customers, the competitors and the company itself. Why?
The idea might sound very amazing, but not neccessary to the customers, will they buy it? People nowadays have less time!
The competition out there is dramatic! What are my competitors doing? What is my chance to stand out from the crowd? How will it make me the strongest brand in the market?
The company has some certain resources, what are our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? In combination with the analysis of competition mentioned above, what should we do to utilize the advantages?

However, those are just the tips of the iceberg. There are always thousands of underlying factors needed to generate best solutions. Only by investigating the 3Cs very well should an entrepreneur take the risk. In your case, it is still vague for me to fully evaluate the situation. Would you like to discuss more so that I can provide you some much better suggestions?

Best regards,

Answered 4 years ago

First of all, the fact that you are talking about market validation is great. I've seen so many startups invest time and money, only to find that no ones wants/needs their product, or that they only want a certain aspect of it (whilst the startup spent money developing a whole bunch of other features), or that they aren't willing to pay the requested price. So you're already one step ahead.
Also, the sooner you validate your product, the better! That said, the version you are validating needs to be representative of the end product, or else the validation isn't reliable.
So, how should you validate it?
1. create a business model canvas (which is what all startups should start with before creating a business plan),
2. Setup a Wix or Wordpress website (this can be done for free / very low costs) or if your venture is a mobile app, you can create a responsive wordpress website that looks and feels like an app. On the website, include the price of the product/service, and enable people to order it (yes, even if it doesn't exist!). I am happy to explain how this can be done even though you don't yet have the final product and by still being fair to the people who click the "buy/order" button.
3. Spend a small amount (say $100 - depending on your budget) validating the idea (promoting the product/service that you listed in the previous stage).
This way, after only spending a very small amount, you will be able to know (if you did it right):
a. Do people like your product.
b. Do people want/need your product (not the same as 'a').
c. Are people willing to pay for your product? (this being the most important stage)
d. How much are they willing to pay? (you can check this by having 2-3 landing pages with different prices on each).
2 additional important points:
a) in order to rule out external factors like an unattractive landing page or advertising campaign, and assuming you have the time, create multiple landing pages / advertising campaigns, with different designs.
b) during the above process, don't forget to check how much it costs you to get each user/customer to click the "buy" button. If for example each click on your promotion/advertisement costs you $2, and only every 10 people who click go on to the "buy" page, that means each sale is costing you $20. Then check what your average profit per sale is, and then you'll know if your service/product is worth pursuing (obviously there are additional factors like return customers, referrals etc, but you will get a good estimated/validation of the idea/business).
I'm happy to help you with this matter further, as this is a critical stage which if done right can save you a lot of time and money.
Best of luck!

Answered a year ago

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