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This collection of resources from 9 Clouds helps you build your business and community.


Will Your Idea Work? Two Questions to Uncover the Truth


It’s easy to ask a question and harder to ask for money. We should do both to truly test our ideas.

The Wrong Question

Ask and iterate is a mantra that drives entrepreneurs. Businesses are reminded to always ask their customers when testing out a new idea or product.

This is great advice. As we’ve argued on Digital Homesteading, you should start with a minimum viable product and keep improving based on a feedback. This method not only works for business but also communities.

There is one problem: people lie.

When you ask friends, family or even strangers about your idea, they are going to sugar-coat their answer. Few people will tell you that your idea or product won’t work. Instead, they might say it could be better with this widget or that they might buy it if it had this feature.

Asking for input without consequences encourages false responses. Instead of asking and iterating, businesses should insert an intermediate step: charge.

Don’t Tell Me, Pay Me

When someone is asked to pay for something, their true feelings come out.

If they don’t buy it, they don’t like it, need it or want it. It’s a harsh answer, but it’s the true answer you need to improve your idea.

Test your idea by charging, but do this in a powerful two-step process that will improve your idea and grow your business.

  1. Start by sharing your idea with past or potential customers and follow your demo with a short survey (SurveyMonkey is a good option). Ask them in the survey what they liked about the idea, what they didn’t like about the idea and if they might be interested in purchasing.
  2. Use their answers to make a personal, time-sensitive sales pitch, particularly to those who answered yes to having interest in purchasing. In this pitch, highlight what they liked about the idea, tell them you are improving what they did not like about the idea and ask them if they want to purchase the product/service right now at a special beta tester rate of 50% off. In essence, you are offering them their ideal product before you take the time to make it to ensure there is actual demand.

That’s it.

This simple technique allows you to follow up with potential customers and customize the product/service for them, meaning you’ll have a better chance to sell it. Most importantly, if they are not willing to purchase at half the cost, even with a promise of modifications just for them, you know they will not purchase it later.

This technique is often seen with online courses or software. You may be invited to try a product for free and after the trial, you will be asked for feedback. If you say that it needs better integrations or improved analytics, the company will quickly write back and tell you that they will make those changes for you if you purchase now at a reduced rate. The customer is forced to honestly answer if the product, even after improvements, is worth the money

This is the harsh feedback you need to decide if an idea is worth pursuing. Plus, this strategy has the added bonus of making money before you invest time to develop the product/service. This lean startup mentality is the best way to decide which ideas to pursue.

The Right Question

Asking potential customers if they are interested in your idea is only the first step to decide if an idea is worth pursuing.

Don’t stop with the ask. Instead, invite them to purchase your idea with the improvements they recommended.

The honesty of their cash will save you time and potentially make you money.

Want help testing your idea? Request our marketing assessment, and we can come up with ways to test your next product.

Request a Free Marketing Assessment

Photo: Jeff Kubina