How do you get access to the right people to validate an idea?

I have an idea that I believe will benefit two target markets (don't we all). I have tried reaching out to one of the markets (food truck owners) online (email & Facebook): 4 in total so far. None of them responded. Is it because there's something wrong with my message to them? How do you get to the right people to validate your ideas? Do you try all sorts of methods before you finally give up? Is the lack of replies an indication that my idea won't work, am I executing my outreach the wrong way or do I just need to try to reach more people?


The art of the "cold pitch" is definitely something that needs to be worked on, and doesn't come naturally to everyone.

A couple of quick tips:

1. 4 is not a big enough target group, you've got to cast a bigger net. Try pitching 20, and aim to get 3-5 responses.

2. When sending a cold email, really think about what you are offering them. Whilst you'll get the odd good egg that simply wants to help - you can't expect entrepreneurs and small biz owners to take time out of their day to answer your questions. To counter, why not tell them you're conducting research in the space, and would be happy to send the finds/reports back to them in a nice format, which could in turn help their business.

3. Don't give up, keep hustling. Try changing around the emails slightly, track which emails convert into responses, and fine tune from there.

Good luck and feel free to book a call if you want to chat more.


Answered 11 years ago

Hi, I'm not sure if you're aware of this but Facebook has a spam filter built into it. If you sent 4 emails to people that you don't know, they most likely ended up in that folder (which most people don't know about and never check). So most likely no one ever saw your message!

Also, 4 emails is also far too small a number to judge anything from. But more importantly, validation of your idea is usually an interactive exercise, and not something that you want to leave to an email.

If I were you, I would go out to the next and nearest food truck rally, and hang out there. Most food trucks are run by the owners, and there are always lulls in the day when they are not doing anything. That's when you should introduce yourself, say something very complimentary about their food, and then ask them if they have the problem that your idea solves. If they do, then, that gives you the opening to talk about your product/service. What you'll most likely find is that shall not only get feedback space on if your idea is good or not, but also refinements that will make it better.

And don't ask just a few… Make it your project to hit at least 80% of them there. After that you will have a better idea of what are your idea will work or not.

Good luck!

Answered 11 years ago

I think you're doing all the right things, and you're learning exactly what you set out to do. Unfortunately, the data is not telling you what you wanted to hear.

Keep in mind that running customer development experiments, it's ok to hope that your thesis is validated, the point of the experiment is to learn and iterate. If you just go looking for "proof" you'll find a "smoking gun" out of anything, but if you stay dispassionate, you'll find something worth pursuing.

Granted, 4 is a statistically insignificant sample-set but what you're learning is that food truck operators are busy operating their business and are going to be hard signing-up for any kind of service or app.

Your messaging might be wrong too, but based on some experience in this space, I think what you're finding out is your idea might just not be able to find traction here.

Look to your other market, experiment, be open-minded to the results and keep trying.

I'm happy to talk to you in a brief call to help you setup your experiments with a bit more clarity and talk about how you can do outreach to get a more meaningful sample/response rate.

Answered 11 years ago

I'd suggest polishing your in-person pitch and hitting venues where food trucks gather. These events happen weekly in major US cities. You should go one week to observe the customer lining up patterns and then pick an appropriate time the next week (maybe when the food trucks are wrapping up for the day) to approach the food trucks with your pitch.

Here's just one example of what I mean

Answered 11 years ago

Lots of great guidance so far. Here's what I will add/reinforce:

1) There's no substitute for talking to folks in-person. Their eyes dilate when they talk about what matters to them. You need to be there to see it happen.

2) When you're first talking to people, make sure you focus on them, not on your product. Understand their problems first before you even try to tell them about what you think might solve them.

3) Numbers are your friend. Talk to as many people as possible. Be methodical about it, test hypotheses systematically (see Steve Blank's stuff on this) and avoid leading questions.

4) Make sure you close every interview with an open-ended question like "What's the question I should have asked you, but didn't?"

5) As for finding ways to talk to people, personal connections are gold. Be shameless in asking friends through Facebook, Twitter and email for introductions to people that you want to talk to. Everyone wants to help a friend or a friend of a friend. No one wants to be pitched. Be clear and concise and clearly listening and always ask interviewees "Who else should I speak with to understand this problem?" If any person you talk to doesn't give you at least one new name and hopefully a handful, you messed something up (target market, interview style, interview length, or they felt it was a pitch).

Answered 11 years ago

I recommend being entrepreunarial and actually go in the streets. Go meet a food truck everyday. In a week, you'll have 7 conversations. Beats emails, phone or Facebook

Answered 11 years ago

Cold cold calling is stupid and takes forever. Either set up dummy site or info and share it then ask for feedback. Quickest way (that my son did to great success) setup in a coffee shop and put an ad on Craig's list and offer to pay $10 for anyone who will come by and see your demo and give feedback. In one day and hundred dollars you will have your answer more than you can believe.

Answered 11 years ago

One of the best ways to get some much-needed feedback is with a beautifully designed survey (because something that looks good is going to be better than random Facebook messages). It also shows you're committed to the idea and professional. You could send the survey link to business pros on LinkedIn (normally has high engagement), through email or even your personal social media pages.

An easy-to-use survey option is Fieldboom: Their site also gives tips on getting feedback and how to build a small business (once you really get started).

Hope that helps!

Answered 7 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? The best way, is to see whether people are willing to pay for your product/service.

This is how you find that out:
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 last 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, as this is a critical stage - which if done right can save you a lot of time and money. Before the call, and in order to make the best of your time, please send me more information about your product/service and the content of your email.

Best of luck!

Answered 5 years ago

The first thing I would tell you is do not always be inclined too much towards people for your idea validation, because people will answer you according to their ego states. There are three ego states of Child, Parent and Adult. The Child Ego state is one where people are full of joy and hope which is pure and good. The child state can be bad in cases where one is immature. The parent ego state is “do as I do” state where the person copies exactly what the parental figure does or says. While the Adult Ego state is, while an adult is a mature state of neither child nor of a parent. Two friends talking about going to get dinner at the new restaurant near the office is an example of Adult to Adult interaction. You will never get 100% accurate answer.
Step by step process to validate your idea:
1. Define your goal: Just like any idea management-related activity, validation starts with defining your goals. In this stage, you will decide what you want to learn and what aspects to validate.
You goal can be one of the following, for example:
1. Problem – Is your problem true/worth solving?
2. Solution – Is your product/offer going to solve the problem?
3. Features – How do the core features of your product work?
4. Business model – Is your business model viable and scalable?
5. Price – Is there enough demand to make your business model work with the price you’ve set? How does your pricing model work in practice?
Although these themes are common and important, they are just examples. The purpose of your goal is to identify the most critical assumption related to your specific idea, so make sure you start with the most significant one.
For you it can be an assumption that is most likely to happen, but you can also start with an assumption that has the biggest downside or the worst expected value. Map out all your assumptions regarding your idea and prioritize the one that is the most critical for your idea to succeed. Let us say your idea is to sell contact lenses online with a monthly subscription. You know that the market is growing and will be $9,2 billion in 2023, so there is no need to do separate market validation. In this case, your most critical assumption is most likely related to the price and your goal is to learn what is the right price point for your monthly contact lens plan.
2. Develop a hypothesis: After you have defined your goal for idea validation, it’s time to develop a hypothesis based on that goal. A useful hypothesis is a testable statement, which often includes a prediction. The key here is to start from the most critical assumption. That is the one that is the most likely to fail and would also have the direst consequences. What would have to be true for the idea to be feasible? In Airbnb’s case, for example, its main critical assumption was that people are willing to stay at a stranger’s house and that homeowners are willing to rent out their homes for strangers. For Airbnb, this was their most critical assumption because the entire idea depends on other people willing to share their homes. Although house-swapping was already a pre-validated concept and an efficient way to travel with little money, Airbnb’s concept was different. Airbnb’s idea was validated before they even had one. They were looking for ways to pay their rent when they realized that a huge conference was coming to town and all the hotels were booked up. The founders bought three airbeds to the apartment, offered their guests a bed-and-breakfast service and showed their guests around the city, which allowed them to pay their rent and validate their business idea at the same time.

Usually coming up with the hypothesis is not difficult. What is more important is to define the minimum success criteria for the test, which is not always easy. For example, if 8 people out of 10 would say they would rather sleep in a hotel than on someone's couch, does that mean Airbnb’s idea is invalid? What comes to your contact lens business, your most critical assumption is whether people are willing to make a purchase online as well as the price they are willing to pay for it.
3. Experiment and revise: Once you have developed a hypothesis, you can actually start validating that assumption by running experiments.
The point of experimentation is to find the fastest and cheapest way to test your assumption in practice. An experiment is a test or a set of tests that measure the effects of a hypothesis and reveal whether you should proceed with your idea.
In other words, an experiment is conducted to learn if your assumption is or isn’t true. Often, the initial idea is just a starting point for a better and more refined idea because you almost always need to improve it.
When you are going through the validation process, you have a chance to learn how to make your idea or product even better.
There are tons of different ways to conduct an experiment:
1) Build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
a) Landing page
b) Email
c) Physical prototype
2) Fake it 'til you make it/ Wizard of Oz
3) Interview/survey
4) Crowdfunding platform (such as Kickstarter)
5) A/B test (make different versions of your advertising campaigns to see which one performs better)
If you want to validate a problem, conducting interviews and surveys are often enough. If, however, you are looking to validate a product or a service, you might want to use Wizard of Oz prototyping or similar.
When validating a price, you might want to create a landing page and conduct A/B tests. You might also want to try selling a fictitious product and use accepted offers as a measure.
When you are doing research, ask for feedback; ideas, responses, comments and look for common answers to the following themes:
1. People who say they will buy your product = Target market
2. What people are actually paying for it = Price?
3. People who will buy/keep buying it = Demand
4. Validate and develop: In this stage, you should confirm your assumption to be either valid or invalid. If your idea has potential, and the most critical assumption is correct, you can start refining your idea. Although validation isn’t always a guarantee of success, as it’s the execution that matters, having validated the most critical assumptions and using the data you’ve gathered in the validation process will definitely help when you start developing and implementing your idea.
Idea Validation Success Factors:
1. Be ruthlessly critical: People who build businesses are almost always optimists, and while you definitely need a certain amount of optimism, having too much of it won’t get you very far. There are far more bad ideas than there are good ones and even for the good ideas, there are far more bad solutions than there are good ones. The only way to get past this issue and to make better decisions is to be extremely critical of your own work.
2. Keep the validation process simple: Keeping the process simple and effective is the key to fast learning. Often your assumptions are different from your actual challenges. So, instead of listing every single assumption and spending tons of time making sense of them, treat your process as a simple, general framework. Pay attention to picking the right selection criteria and metrics and focus on the most essential aspects of your business first. You have plenty of time to focus refining the details once you know your business idea is solid and the big picture works. The point of validation is not to come up with a perfect solution but to make sure your idea has potential.
3. Involve the right target audience: When validating a new idea and gathering feedback, involving the right audience is the key. Although your nearest and dearest are the first ones to support your idea, friends and family are not usually the most reliable source of feedback. Your idea validation process depends on the ability to gather accurate information regarding your idea. Therefore, finding the right people who know enough about the business or the topic of your idea is necessary. For example, if your offering is a B2B product for the Fortune 500, you probably want to reach out to them.
4. Be systematic: Idea validation should be done in a systematic manner to keep track of the assumptions you have regarding your idea, as well as the measurable results you’ve received from testing it. One way to increase your systematism is to use a dedicated innovation management software for gathering, developing, evaluating, and validating new ideas. Viima, for example is a cool tool that helps manage ideas throughout the entire validation process. You can gather all validation data in one place, including feedback, validation boards, evaluation criteria, etc.
5. Look around and learn from others’ mistakes: It is very unlikely you’re the first and only one coming up with a new idea and there’s a chance that there are several people who have had the exact same idea before you. Being aware of what happened to already existing ideas is smart as it can help avoid some of the critical mistakes already made. In most cases, having no competition isn’t a sign of originality and innovativeness. Often, either the timing or execution of the previous ideas were poor, or the ideas were bad to begin with. It does not matter how well your product is executed if no one finds it useful. So, look at the players in the market and how they do things. Is there something you can learn from previous mistakes or your current competition to avoid making the same mistakes people have made before you?
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 4 years ago

Unlock Startups Unlimited

Access 20,000+ Startup Experts, 650+ masterclass videos, 1,000+ in-depth guides, and all the software tools you need to launch and grow quickly.

Already a member? Sign in

Copyright © 2024 LLC. All rights reserved.