We see you. You’re an ambitious woman who juggles a ton and has big dreams. And you’ve probably thought about breaking free and finally launching that dream business you’ve had on your mind for years.
In fact, you probably even have more than one idea, with each one having more potential than the next. But despite all of these amazing ideas, you still struggle to take action. It’s not just you. This whole launching a business process is tough.
How could you possibly decide which of your many, awesome, passionate, and beloved ideas are really the right one to start with? They all sound so amazing to you, and they also all sound like a ton of work. You couldn’t possibly tackle them all at once.
The truth of the matter is that you may be completely right. It’s possible that every single one of your ideas could make millions, but none of them will ever make a cent if you don’t choose the idea that is right for you.
So what’s next? Do you leave it all up to fate? Not exactly. The best way to find out which idea will work best and actually earn an income is to do some good old-fashioned market research.
Market research is a concept we’ve all heard about at some point. You might even know that it could make or break your business before it ever gets off the ground. However, very few of us have actually done market research on anything we do.
If it is so important, then why doesn’t everyone dive right in? Why are we still just talking about market research? Why aren’t we taking action?
The answer? FEAR.
We have an acute fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of putting ourselves out there, and fear of making ourselves vulnerable in front of our friends and family.
Do you break into a sweat merely thinking about asking your former coworker if you can pick their brain? Maybe there’s something about their interests or personal life that would really help you figure out your business idea? But fear stops you and you stand there paralyzed and say nothing.
What would they think of us? We convince ourselves that they would probably think we are desperate. Or worse, that we’ve somehow resorted to scammy tactics to make money. Or even worse: that we are trying to sell them something and they’ll never speak to us again.
Here’s the reality. Most of our friends and family actually want to see us succeed. They would be more than happy to answer a few questions if they thought it would help us. Here’s another truth. When you take action, you get unstuck. You get actual feedback and break free of paralyzing and overwhelming fear. From now on, don’t think of market research as extreme immersion therapy to get over your insecurities, but as a necessity, if you want your business to get off the ground and thrive. Don’t skip this step simply because you are afraid of what people will say. Because at the end of the day, people are going to say “Yes” to helping you succeed.
We all want quick answers and quick fixes to our business to make sure it’s successful, but it’s not that simple. You need to work through a process to figure out how to actually validate your idea before investing a ton of time and money into your business.
Here are 5 actionable steps to take and validate your idea for success.
For a more in-depth look at these 5 steps, subscribe to the podcast Corporate Trailblazers with Ina Coveney on iTunes, or wherever you listen to podcasts and go to episode #1.
STEP 1: Decide whether your Idea is right for you.
Many of us have a business dream, and it’s usually driven by the desire to make loads and loads of money. But rarely do we actually stop to think about the lifestyle behind that business idea and what it would mean to our quality of life.
Let’s say you are an amazing cook and you fervently wish you could do it full-time and share your passion with the world. Your first thought may be to open a catering business. It sounds like a fabulous, fun, and lucrative idea, right? But have you thought about the lifestyle behind it? Most catering gigs take place at parties thrown at night or on weekends. Maybe that schedule suits you well, or maybe it means never seeing your family.
Here’s what it all boils down to: Once you get what you want, will you want it anymore?
So before you launch that business idea, put your idea through the lifestyle lens. How does it look to you now?
STEP 2: Choose a business model you can stick with
Let’s imagine you have this fantastic idea to offer Personal Concierge services.
Here’s the most obvious route to success. You become a very busy assistant to equally busy clients and go get their groceries, dry cleaning, walk the dog, buy a gift for their loved one, and other tasks that keep you busy all day.
Maybe that works perfectly for you, but that is not your only option.
There are many ways to make money with your business idea that expand past running other people’s errands all day and racking up a high gas bill.
Instead, you could perfect the art of outsourcing. Here’s how it works. You receive requests from your clients and manage vendors from a central location (like your own home). Hire others to do the running around for you, and charge more for your upscale, premium services. You can even save the tasks you love the most for yourself and assign the rest to someone else.
You could also take this idea and teach others how to manage their own outsourcing business. Create online courses and resources for people who have their own business ambitions and teach them how to manage it all, create a video series to teach them how to solve client problems, or even blog about what makes a successful concierge service.
Whatever business idea you start with, make sure you pick one that you will stick with for at least a year. Ask yourself if it’s sustainable to your lifestyle and a business you actually want to run. From there, you can branch out and add more services to your list.
STEP 3: Define your target audience and get specific
Before you can approach your audience about their habits and needs, you should know who would be interested in your services in the first place.
Is your service for men or women?
Do these women work or stay home?
Do they have children?
How old are their kids?
Is there a comparable service out there?
Who do they appear to market in their promotional materials?
Define your avatar (also called a “persona”) and get as specific as possible. Start identifying someone in your circle who meets these criteria. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready for the next step.
STEP 4: Talk to your target audience member
The best way to get someone to talk to you about their habits is to simply ask them outright. Let them know you are doing a little bit of research before you launch a new business, and you would love 15 minutes of their time.
But first, you need a strategy. Don't ask them questions like, “Would you subscribe (or purchase) what I’m offering?” and instead focus on listening to what they really want and need.
Ask about their struggles. Have they ever used similar services as yours, or does your service solve an outstanding problem they just can’t fix? Do they actually want this problem solved? Do they even know it is a problem? Are they happy with the current service they subscribe to? Why, or why not?
Once you get to the bottom of how they truly feel about the problem and how they would like to solve it, you know how to move forward. Now you can confidently create a product or service they absolutely love and are willing to pay for.
STEP 5: Define the transformation
Now that you know who your audience is and what they are struggling with, it is time to take a second look at your offering. Take all of the feedback from those interviews and incorporate it into your offering. Create something amazing that your audience really needs from you right now.
Next, write a few short sentences about the transformation your audience should expect to see by using your service. Make sure to use the same language and exact phrases your audience used in Step 4 when describing their struggles. Your new audience and potential clients will feel like you’re reading their minds.
That’s all there is to it! Now you have a well-researched, actionable, and effective marketing campaign for a new business that you know people truly want and will line up to buy. What about you? Have you decided which idea to validate?
Leave us a comment and tell us how your own market research went! Did your idea survive the audience validation process, or are you going to pivot to a fresh idea? Whatever you end up deciding, just know that you’ve got this!
Ina Coveney is an online entrepreneur and business expert. After a successful career in Information Technology, she started her online business teaching others how to use their corporate skills to advance their own dream businesses. Ina is the host of the Corporate Trailblazers podcast as well as the Commuting Bites business series on YouTube. She lives in Boston with her husband and 2 beautiful sons. Follow Ina at fb.com/femaletrailblazer and on Instagram at @inacoveney