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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 8 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 5 years ago

The answer to the question mostly revolves around the idea itself. Ideas stall because the process of getting them to market can seem overwhelming. If you validate your idea the process thereafter actually gets much easier. Here are few things to consider the next time you have your next big business idea.
1. Look for it: Before you even get wrapped up in an idea, save yourself the time and do a thorough search to find out if it already exists. If you find it does, do not give up on your inspiration too hastily. Perhaps there are ways to improve on the existing product? Can you offer value to the business already producing it? Could the market be satisfied better? If you answered "yes," move to the next step.
2. Seek feedback: Talk to others about your idea, especially people you trust. At this stage, what you want is brutally honest feedback. Entrepreneurs have a tendency to get stuck in "idea lock," when they are hellbent that their idea is a winner, regardless of what others say. If you are the only person who genuinely thinks the idea is good, then it is time to reassess.
3. Build an MVP: If your idea has support, then consider developing an MVP, or minimum viable product, to determine if it is a product you and others would really use. Channel your inner "MacGyver" and build a working prototype or look to a resource that could leverage newer technologies, such as 3D printing, to help. If you have a technology idea, such as a smartphone app, look to crowdsourcing or a Start-up Weekend event to find the assistance you need. Once you have the MVP, use, and test it and have others test it as well. If it turns out to be a product that you and your friends would never really use, scrap the idea.
4. Start building your identity: If your testing goes well and you feel that you might have a winning idea, start building a brand around it now. In today's fast-moving and innovating business environment, an idea that is validated today may be knocked off or even obsolete tomorrow, so do not linger. More importantly, unless your idea is founded in a ground-breaking and proprietary new technology, more than likely it is already being conceived by someone else already. It is off to the races. At this point, some fear that "exposing" their idea may lead to someone stealing it. This is a completely valid concern, but these days, you should go on the assumption that someone will steal it or develop a newer and better iteration eventually, so the key to success will be to be first to market. Also, while patenting is a great way to protect your idea, it is also an awfully expensive process that is not guaranteed to protect you. If you have the resources, engage a patent attorney, and pursue the protection, but if you do not, then turn your focus on building your brand. Start by choosing a great name and securing the website domain to create, at a minimum, a sharp business landing page. Next, secure your business name with every social-media site you can. Even if you do not use them, it protects you from others securing and using them, and it will ultimately improve your search-engine optimization. Then start leveraging these resources to build a fan base.
5. Hash a customer acquisition plan: Before you dive into a lengthy business plan, which more than likely will be obsolete before you even launch, focus on two questions:
I. "How do I get my first customer?"
"How do I get my n-th customer?"
You may have the best business plan in the world, but without customers, your business is nothing. Create a thoughtful customer-acquisition plan and marketing strategy and be prepared to explain it to investors, partners and stakeholders, as this will undoubtedly be the first questions they ask. Just remember, it is much easier to build a business around a demand than to build a demand around a business.
Now we come to defining part of the question. To define a business idea these ways may be helpful:
1. Find opportunities in your own community: Though cultures and languages may vary, many of the challenges facing our world are similar across many parts of the globe. As such, one of the best ways to identify world-changing ideas is to start locally: Look for issues that concern your local community. Rather than trying to transform the entire world all in one go, you might instead identify ideas that can first be tested in your local community. This can serve as a great way to fine-tune your efforts and quantify your impact as you prepare to take your idea to a much bigger stage.
2. Draw upon your own personal experiences: Many of the most powerful world-changing ideas come from the experiences and challenges an entrepreneur has faced in his or her own life. Take a moment to consider the problems you are currently dealing with. These problems could be affecting your current business endeavours, your personal life, or your home. Chances are, you are not the only person facing these issues. Rather than wait for someone else to solve your problem for you, take steps to change the world by developing a business idea that directly addresses the issues you are confronting. More importantly, understand that when you are addressing your own problems, you will be more likely to be passionate about creating and making available the best solution possible.
3. Look for ideas that get other people involved: Many of the most successful world-changing ideas do not just offer a new product or service. They seek to change the way people approach their day-to-day living. Changing someone’s mental outlook will have a far greater reach and impact in the long run.Take this example shared by business consultant Monica Bourgeau. As she wrote in HuffPost, “[Author and TEDx speaker] John-Paul Flintoff works to help protect the environment and prevent global warming. He realized he could make an immediate difference by reaching out to his neighbours. However, he did this not by overloading them with facts and research, but by giving them tomato plants. Every year, Flintoff offers his extra tomato seedlings to his neighbours, Bourgeau wrote, noting: "This simple and kind act started his neighbours growing some of their own food, thereby slightly reducing their environmental impact.”
The result: As customers and community members become personally involved, you’ll make a much bigger difference than you would on your own.
4. Go out of your way to ask others how you can help: Coming up with ideas on your own isn’t always easy. That is why brainstorming has consistently been found to be such a powerful tool. You may be struggling to come up with a world-changing idea. But there could be plenty of people around you who have great insights that can lead you in the right direction. Do not be afraid to consult with several different groups to find ideas. For example, you could ask family and friends about specific challenges. You could consult with like-minded co-workers who also wish to make an impact. You could even conduct focus groups in your own community. Successful businesses do not operate in a vacuum, especially if they want to change the world. As you leverage others’ input, you will generate more ideas regarding potential issues you can address -- and even some possibilities for how your business could solve these problems.
5. Give back through meaningful philanthropical work: Your initial business idea does not necessarily need to be world-changing in and of itself. But when you pair it with a properly aligned philanthropic effort, you can become a true force for good. A pair of glasses in and of itself might not change the world. But pairing eyewear with this philanthropic outreach certainly just might.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 4 years ago

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