I launched my first ever blog in 2014.
I would write about how businesses can market themselves online using a mix of search engine optimisation (SEO) and content marketing.
I was writing for businesses who couldn’t afford to hire an online marketing expert. I figured if I struggled 5 years earlier, there must be other businesses who are in the same position.
The plan was then to monetise the blog by offering personalised training to help businesses take their knowledge to the next level and tailor to their industry specifically.
So far so good.
I had some big dreams.
It looked something like this:
- Launch website
- Create incredible content
- Gain huge subscribership and a following
- Make money and travel around the world blogging
What happened after 3 months was pretty depressing: no one subscribed, let alone commented on the blog and no businesses were willing to pay for the training.
This is what happens when you don’t check if your business idea will work in the first place.
One particular story comes to mind.
I met an accountant at a networking event who was interested in finding out how I can help her get more enquiries by ranking her website in Google.
At the event she mentioned how she was spending a lot of money for online marketing. When I asked her how much, I was expecting to hear a something like £500 per month.
But, she was actually spending £75 per month.
Anyhow, we agreed to meet for a coffee a few days later to discuss further.
I spent one hour giving her website improvement recommendations and then a further two hours writing a detailed email describing low hanging fruit changes she could make.
Did she take me up on the coaching?
Of course not.
In hindsight, what I should’ve done is share my prices as soon as I found out she was spending £75 per month. This would’ve allowed her to fast fail.
If that had happened, I can imagine her saying something like, “oh, that’s quite a bit more than I’m spending right now, but let me think about it and get back to you”.
I would’ve saved 3-4 hours had that happened.
What’s funny though, is that whilst trying to recall this story, I looked through my old emails and found that she actually recommended me to a photographer friend who said she will get back to me.
I’m going to email her next week. So not all bad, hey. 🙂
Ok, let’s get back to the story.
I was essentially targeting the wrong type of business. They didn’t have the time, budget or even the interest to market their business online themselves.
If I had validated my business idea beforehand, I would’ve saved 3 months of writing content and trying to make sales to the wrong audience.
Since then, I’ve learnt how to prove ideas before I spend any time executing them.
Validating your idea methodically will help you answer that constant question going on in your head, “do people actually want this?”, and naturally guide you to make the right choices.
When going through this validation exercise yourself, you need to look out for two key things:
- Is it a BIG enough problem you are solving for them?
- Are they WILLING to pay you to help solve this problem?
I’ll show you three powerful ways of validating your business idea.
1. Google Ads
If businesses are advertising, there’s a good chance they are making money.
Starting a business people are already paying money for is a lot less risky than a business a market doesn’t exist.
Every year I have someone asking me what they think about their innovative, never been done before, business idea.
I usually start with, “that’s massively risky because you’re creating a new market”.
I used to chase dreams of being the next Facebook, and now I steer well clear of them.
Competition is evidence customers are willing to pay for products and services.
One of the easier ways of checking if businesses are willing to pay to advertise is by using Google Ads.
Let’s say you want to start a mobile massage service in Brighton, UK but you’re not sure if there’s enough people who are looking for this.
Now, go to Google.
Search for “mobile massage in Brighton” or other related search terms and checkout the results.
The four businesses at the top are paying Google to appear there.
Forums are a great source of information when you want to understand the issues your target audience faces.
People will often resort to forums when they have a problem.
Remember, solving REAL problems will increase your chances of creating a successful business.
For example, let’s say you want to create a dog training business for dogs with ADD or ADHD and you come across the below forum.
This is pretty good proof that other dog owners are suffering from this and talking about it online.
As an expert you could jump into that conversation and see how they react to your advice.
However, I would avoid looking at this as an opportunity to make a quick sale.
Instead, it’s an opportunity for you to really understand your target audience’s problems and how they would like you to help them.
Sometimes problems are not strong enough for people to take action, and that’s also something we are trying to establish by doing our research.
Forums can also be a great way of getting new business ideas.
Let’s say you know you want to create a business working with dogs but not sure how. Just spending an hour trawling through the comments can leave you with tens of ideas.
Forums are very useful when used right, but don’t spam. Get involved in the conversation and start adding value.
3. Make a Sale
This is the best method of validation.
If you can get someone to pay you for your service or product before it’s even created, you can give yourself a huge pat on the back.
Before I even created a site around online marketing coaching, I found a small business who wanted to pay me to train her.
I didn’t need a website to do this.
I didn’t need a bunch of testimonials from previous clients.
I didn’t even need a Facebook page.
All I needed to do, was to connect and show her how I can solve her problems.
This is the ultimate validation that your offer solves a burning issue, they are willing to pay for.
The more yeses you get, the more confident you can be about your new business idea.
Some of these ideas can also be applied to new ideas in general, not just business. For example, you want to create a new piece of content, go find out if your content answers a question you target audience is asking is in forums.
What new business idea or idea in general are you trying to validate right now?