Ariel Rosenthal is a co-founder at Xprt, a new startup looking to save people the hassle and the headache of doing extensive research before buying a product.
I don’t know if you ever experienced a eureka moment – a second when everything comes together and an amazing idea pops into your head. As someone who is in the business of creating new things and has seen various ideas blossom into fully functional products, I can tell you that there is nothing like that feeling. You get excited, you can’t sleep, and you start imagining how the future is going to look.
It is very hard to resist this feeling and to act logically instead of on a hunch. You believe that there is nothing in the world that can stop you from achieving your dream and no devil’s advocate can tell you differently.
I built an entire company based on that hunch, I raised money based on that hunch, I worked night and day, nonstop for three years based on that hunch, and I failed miserably based on that hunch.
I am now working on a new startup, but this time around I am implementing lessons learned and doing things differently.
If you have a great idea and you want to turn it into a successful product, here are a few tips you should keep in mind:
1. Don’t keep it to yourself
If you believe you have a great idea, tell it to as many people as possible and seek their opinions. Talk with people you trust and whose opinion you value. Write down their advice and feedback, and make sure to address it.
Don’t be afraid that one of them will steal your idea as chances for that are slim and the benefits that you can get from their input are priceless.
2. Seek the devil’s advocates
Many people will say that your idea is amazing. That might be, but make sure to find those who will be brave and smart enough to pinpoint its flaws.
This is the feedback you should actually be looking for. If you manage to come up with good answers to all of the problems raised, you are on the right path.
3. Build a product that you would use
Make sure that you are going to build a product that you would actually use. If your idea does not even address your own needs, you should seriously rethink it.
4. Test your idea
You are now going to spend years working on this project and dedicate your life to it. Don’t skip the most important step of testing your idea. It will take few weeks and cost a few bucks, but these are very important weeks and money well spent.
Create a mockup of the product and ask as many people as you can (who are not familiar with your idea), to take a look at it and tell you what they think your idea is about. Wait for their reaction and see what they think of the idea.
5. Create a landing page
Build a decent looking page with a clear call to action. It can be an email input box, a form, a shopping cart. Whatever you think can simulate how a user will act when the real application is launched.
Instead of hiring a designer, you can find great looking templates and purchase them for just a few bucks. There are also several free options if you want to try out some initial concepts.
Create a Google AdWords campaign and run it for several days or weeks. Make sure you get enough data to really be able to make an educated decision. Use Google Analytics and Mixpanel to analyze your results and to understand what your actual conversion rate is. A great conversion rate should be above 15 percent.
When your money almost runs out, there are still things you can do with just a few bucks. Use oDesk to find people who can help you get Facebook likes and shares, Twitter followers and tweets, and backlinks to your landing page. You might think that you can do it all on your own, but with the help of another dedicated person or two, the impact can be much more significant.
6. Find your first clients
Make sure that you are not the only person who has this pain. Find at least several friends who are going to be your future users and that you wont need to chase in order for them to even test your product.
If you are building a B2B product, contact some of your future potential clients. You can present yourself as a university student who is conducting an experiment, or working on an assignment. Give them some details about the product and ask them if it is something they would use.
This has the added advantage that if some potential clients say yes, you can keep in touch with them; learn from their use-cases and needs; develop the product accordingly; make them your first beta testers; and finally, turn them into paying clients.
7. Get out to market
The last and most important thing: get out to the market as soon as possible. You don’t need a feature full product, just a functional one. Your most important asset is your users. Take advantage of it and learn from them.
If after running these tests, you decide to move on, remember that even though you have a long hard road ahead of you, you should always stay optimistic, believe in your product and never give up. It may take you several tries to get it right, but that’s the nature of entrepreneurship.