How to validate your startup idea: validational strategies
It's time to get back to your solution and look at it in more details. By now, you should have a clear overview of what you are doing, how you are doing it, why you are doing it and for whom. You should also have a first validation of your Business Model and the need for your solution. You can now take the next step and start validating your product & market to achieve a Product-Market Fit. This sections will cover the following topics:
What kind of different validational strategies exist (i.e. website, prototype, MVP, and more!)
What exactly they mean and involve
What the differences are between them
What kind of tools you can use to build them
Why they are important
Tips on how to create them
What are the different Validational Strategies?
As mentioned before, there are two types of strategies: market-oriented and product-oriented strategies. Additionally, we can distinguish these strategies by functionality. For example:
A prototype is a non-functional visual representation of your product
An MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is a functioning product but only with the minimum required functions.
Many confuse prototype and MVP but to keep definitions clear, contrary to an MVP that can actually be used by the customers, a prototype is only a representation, without functionalities at this point. Depending on the complexity of your solution, you might be able to directly develop an MVP, or something functioning.
Below, Framework: Validational Strategies provides an overview of different tools you can use for validation. Let's get into more details about these different strategies. Keep in mind that these strategies are non-exhaustive. You can come up with your own way of validating a market or a product as long as it makes sense. You can also combine multiple ones into one, for example, by creating a mockup and putting it on a landing page.
Let's explore each of them in small summary cards below.
I. Non-Functional Product Validation
Tool links: Adobe Illustrator
II. Non-Functional Market Validation
Check out this guide developed by Unbounce for more information on what a landing page is, what different types of landing page exist, and the best practices to create one here or this 5-step guide to building a landing page. Also, you can check out some examples of landing pages compiled by Hubspot here.
III. Functional Market Validation
IV. Functional Product Validation
Tool links: If you are building an app, you can check out this no-code platform to build app without code: Bubble
Why is it important to validate step by step?
Starting small is important for four main reasons:
Constructively thinking about your solution and visualizing it to make it more concrete
An affordable way to validate your riskiest assumptions with real customers before investing time and money into the development of a product
Get further customer feedback
Convince investors that customers are interested by your product
How to choose and execute Validational Strategies?
The validation follows again a 4 step approach: Strategize, Develop, Test and Iterate.
The possibilities of validation are endless. But the chosen option needs to serve to validate a certain assumption about the product.
When choosing a strategy for the prototype, you'll need to evaluate three points:
The most uncertain assumptions you want to validate (Need for the product? Target customer? Feasibility? Value proposition? Price? Customer values?) Your most uncertain assumptions are most likely related to the innovation you are bring (Part 3, Block 4). For example, if your innovation is primarily in your branding and unique customer experiences, that's what you should test first! You can always test your branding with real customers to check how attractive it is.
The type of your solution: whether it's a physical product, a digital product or a service
The degree of complexity of your product
You can also, of course combine different validational strategies, for example a landing page, an ad and a demo. The possibilities are endless. Anytime you need to test something you can quickly test it through one or several options above and use the Framework: Learning Cards, mentioned in previous sections to structure your thoughts.
Here's a great video from Jake Knapp, author of the book "Sprint: Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days". For an overview of the 5 days in more details click here.
Supporting Tools & Additional Resources
For digital visualization: Adobe Illustrator
Guide on Landing pages, their different types and best practices: here
5-step guide to building a landing page: here
Landing page examples: here
Examples of great demo videos: here
No-code platform to build apps: Bubble
Keep in mind that there is no rule, no one-size fits all solution to test a product or a market. You need to exercise judgement and determine what suits your company best. Additionally, it's not about having one validational strategy but it's about evolving your validation step by step. In other words, you might start by offering a wizard of Oz type of MVP through an ad at a first stage, then create an actual first version of a digital product with a landing page and add functionalities to your product. In the next article, you'll have a small framework to create a validational roadmap.