So you’ve got a great idea for a product. What do you do next?
One of the single most important things you can do is to validate your product idea before you go ahead and start creating or manufacturing your product.
I want you to have to be confident that your product will sell before you start investing in creating it. So today I am going to share 5 free ways to validate your product idea. All they’re going to cost you is time, which in my opinion is time well spent.
Listen in to hear me share:
- An introduction to the topic (00:31)
- Considering who your potential customers are (03:06)
- Speaking to potential customers, and the sort of things to ask them (03:59)
- Why it is important to read Amazon reviews! (12:09)
- Use the Jungle Scout sales estimator (16:18)
- Buy other products (and then return them) (20:14)
- Using crowdfunding to validate your product idea
My accompanying Blog Post:
Podcast Episode 103:
Welcome to the Bring Your Product Ideas to Life podcast, practical advice and inspiration to help you create and sell your own physical products. Here's your host, Vicki Weinberg.Vicki Weinberg:
Hello and welcome to this week's episode. I am recording this with a bit of a cold, so apologies in advance if I sound a little bit croaky while I'm talking to you.undefined:
Um, so in episode 135, I talked about how to come up with product ideas, and today I wanted to talk to you about what to do next so you've got a great idea for a product. So then what? I have talked about this topic before, but as I work on my book, which is both scary and exciting, um, you'll find out about more about that in the new year hopefully. I'm revisiting a lot of old podcast episodes and blog posts, um, while I'm looking at the content and I've started to realize that um, since I originally recorded, um, the first podcast episode on this subject, things have moved on. Some things have changed. You know, for example, Covid has changed a lot in the world, and also I've learned a load of things from podcast guests that I've spoken to, and I feel like it's time to revisit some of my most popular episodes. I'm really keen to do this one now, as I believe that validating your product ideas before you actually go ahead and create your product is really important, particularly now when things are for a lot of us, you know, pretty tight. Um, I love this topic. As I've said. I talk about this a lot and you've probably heard me, but I'll say, I don't think it matters how much or how little it costs to create your product if you'll never see a penny of this again. You know, even if your product is, costs pennies to produce, if you are never going to get that money back and it's, you know, and you're doing it as a business, then obviously that doesn't work. And as I say, I know that you know, things, well you know, it's hard now, and I feel like if you are going to be spending some money on creating a product, I think it is a bit less scary. Don't get me wrong, it's a little bit scary. It always is, but it's a bit less scary if you have a good idea that your product will sell well, that it's as good a product as it can be, and it'll make you a profit. If you have absolutely no idea and you're going to it blind, it's a huge gamble. So all that being said, that's to summarize, I guess. I think that validating your product ideas before you spend any money on creating them is well worth doing, particularly now. However, I also don't want you to spend a lot of money on this, so I'm going to share with you today five free ideas to validate your products. All they're going to cost you is time. However, in my opinion, this is time well spent. I do have a download to um, two, which is called Seven Free Ways to Validate Your Product Ideas. I'll be honest, this is really old, but it's still very relevant and you can get that via the link in the show notes. So the first free thing that you can do to find out if your product has a chance of selling, is to find your customers and ask them some questions. So what we're going to start by doing is thinking about your potential customers and who they are, and I suggest you take five to ten minutes to really think about what kind of person would buy your product. I actually think it's worth writing this down as well. So for example, you might want to think about what stage of life they're at. So are they new parents? Are they graduates? Are they retired? Um, roughly how old are they? Maybe where they live, and that doesn't need to be really specific. It might be that at the moment you're just thinking of selling your product in the UK for example, you might want to think about what interest they have, which social media channels they use, if any, where they shop. Do they shop online or do they still shop in person? Um, as much information as you can about the person you think might buy your product. And don't worry if you're guessing and also don't feel like you're sort of pigeon hole in things either. I know this is really tricky. Um, I always used to find these sort of ideal customer, right? Client exercises, really hard work, and I also used to sort of wonder at the point of them, but when it comes to products, it is really good to know who your product is for because the next thing you really need to do, and we'll talk about this in a moment, is speak to those people and get a little bit of insight into what they'd be looking for for a product like yours. And importantly, whether it's something they would even consider buying. Um, while we're on the subject, and again, you've heard me say this before, but do not just ask your friends and family for their opinions. I know that going, you know, thinking about your ideal customer finding, finding them, going, asking questions, it is a lot of work. Please don't skip this and think well, I'll just ask the people who live in my house, or I'll just ask my best friends, or, um, and there's a few reasons why not. One is that they might not be your ideal customer. So I've used this example before, if you were looking to create a product for new mums, and let's say your granddad says, well, I think that's a terrible idea. Um, that, not that it wouldn't matter what he thinks or, um, his point of view isn't. But you know, isn't important. However, it's not really that relevant if he's not the person that would be buying that product in the first place. Um, and so, you know, I wouldn't want you to be overly disheartened if perhaps people you ask aren't as keen on your idea as you are because your friends and family might not be objective. The thing is as well, is you also might get the fact that you know, they want to support you, so maybe they are not thr best people to buy your product because they want to support you. They say yes, yes. That's brilliant. That sounds great. Everything you're saying is great. Um, and you know, they've got the best of intentions, but actually that might not be the most helpful thing for you. Or they might go the other way and they might, you know, be a little bit cautious. They might think ooh, the economy's hard at the moment. Starting a business is tricky. Um, and, you know, try and not, not put you off, but just, you know, air on the side of caution. And while we are on the subject, I should also say that even if you believe that you are your ideal customer, so perhaps you are, you know, you're creating a product that solves a need that you have, like we spoke about in the previous episode, um, that doesn't mean you don't have to do any customer research. Just remember that you are one person and ideally you want input from lots of other people and hopefuly other people you speak to will have the same issues as you. Well, not hopefully have the same issues, but you know what I mean. Hopefully they will also have a need for your product. Um, hopefully they will also really like your product idea, but if they don't or have different ideas, do take those on board. Because the purpose of, you know, doing this work, which is hard by the way, is to find out, you know, make well two things. Um, find out if your product is something that people would buy, and find out what people are looking for from a product like yours. So you can make it as good as you can be. So once you've worked out who your ideal customer is, chances are, you might know some people already who fit that. Um, although do sort of bear in mind what I said before about just asking your friends, and if you don't, then you can always try asking around for people who, who might know these people. Um, another way of finding people and a large group of people at this stage anyway, is probably online, so I'm thinking Facebook groups here, if I'm honest, because you can get Facebook groups for most things. Um, in a minute I'm going to talk about other ways you can use them, but I think Facebook groups could be a really good way to get some input on your product ideas. I mean, you don't need to run a full-blown focus group. I'm not saying you need to do that unless you particularly want to. You could have a short online questionnaire. And so if you were, were using Facebook groups for example, you could ask whoever is the owner of that group, if you could put a link to your questionnaire or you could just ask one or two questions in the group. Or you could say, is there anyone in this group who would like to talk to me about, about my, my ideas, Um, however you want to approach it. However you feel would work best for you. Um, and of course, you know, if you're unsure, then always ask whoever runs a Facebook group before just going ahead, um, posting in there. I actually have a free Facebook group for product creators. You're always welcome to come in and ask these sorts of questions if you feel like the people in the group are your ideal customers, or some of them might be. And even if you're not sure, can't, you know, come in and ask us, that's no problem at all. And you can get the link to that group in the show notes. So whether you're asking people questions in person or you're on the phone, or you're asking Facebook groups, the kind of things it would be useful for you to know, first of all, is how relevant your product idea is to them. So if you share your idea and go, does this sound interesting to you? Does this sound relevant? And they go, well, not really. This means either one of two things. Either they're not your ideal customer. So maybe you need to be looking somewhere else or there's something about your idea that isn't quite working and perhaps needs a bit of tweaking. The second thing I think it'd be useful to know is what they like or dislike about your idea. Perhaps like and dislike, because that gives you some feedback on where you can optimize it and where you can improve it. And the things they like can also help you with your marketing and your communications. Because if, if everyone's telling you, oh, I really like this thing, then possibly that's a feature that will potentially be quite popular. Now if your idea isn't fully formed yet, so you know you want to create a product, but you're not entirely sure. Exactly what that product looks like or how it works. You might be able to find out what they like or dislike about other similar products, if similar products exist, or what their wishlist would be for a brand new product. So if this is a totally original idea, you could say, okay, if there was a product that solved this specific problem you have, um, what would it do? What would it consist of? What would it be? And that could really help you. Then the final thing I think it would be useful to know is what they'd expect to pay for a product like yours, because that gives you a bit of a baseline for where you could be potentially pricing it. Um, this is tricky. And when it comes to pricing, um, I have a whole podcast episode on pricing you could listen to. Actually, this isn't the only thing I would do to work out how to price your product, but I do think taking into account what potential customers think is really important. So the second free thing you, you can do to validate your product idea, um, comes back again to Facebook groups or maybe other online forums. I know others do exist. Um, nothing beats asking people for input, as I've said, but for any reason that's not right for you or that's not right for you at the moment. You can get a lot of information from more passive online research. So what I mean by that is you can go into relevant Facebook groups or other online forums and you can see what kind of conversations people are having. And you can use the search function to find discussions that might be relevant. So as an example, um, recently I was looking to buy a dress and the brand that I was looking to buy for has a Facebook group for its fans or followers or customers if you want to call them. And so one of the first things I did was to search in a group for the product I was interested in because I wanted to see pictures of people wearing it, um, you know, on different heights and different sizes. I wanted to read the comments and I sure got loads of information I found. You know that they size is a little bit small. So maybe to size up, I got some good tips about washing and caring for the product, um, how to wear it and how to style it. And I got all of that without asking a single question. So you could do something similar. So if your product was for mums, for example, and you enter in a mum's group, and let's say my first product was Muslin to Baby, so let's use muslins as an example. I could have gone into a Facebook group for mums and I could have searched for muslims, and I'm sure there would've been, you know, at this time some posts, some people saying, I don't know, do I need Muslims for my baby? Or, I'm looking to buy some, which branch should I go for? Or, um, how do I get stains out? Or whatever it is. And there would've been some really useful discussions that I could have taken things from. Um, that doesn't mean, by the way, joining groups for specific brands. So if your product was running related as an example, you could join groups of runners and see what kind of things your ideal customers are interested in, what concerns them, things like that. And I would say the more niche you can go, the better. So if your product was aimed at female runners trying by female running groups, for example. So I think, again, this is something that can take a little bit of work and a little bit of time, but it is free and you can find out lots and lots of information by doing this. So my third free idea for getting some free product research is to look at similar products on Amazon and read the review. Reason bim? Well, one is good to know if there's anything similar on the market right now, and if there is, it would be really useful for you to know do people buy it? How much do they pay for it? What do they think about it? And you can find this all out online. I recommend using Amazon for this because there's a huge range of products and most will have reviews you can read and land from. And if the product you're interested in don't have reviews, then obviously think about what this tells you as well. Of course, you can use other sites for this. You could use Etsy, for example, if that suits your products a little bit better. Or you could use any online marketplace. As I say, the reason I like Amazon is because for lots and lots of products, they're, they're on there. And even if it's not somewhere you ever intend to sell, um, if your competitors are there, well one, if your competitors there, it's worth thinking about wherever it is somewhere for you to be. But even if you're adamant, no, I don't want to sell on Amazon, that's fine. But you know, I think. The number of reviews on there and what they can tell you is a reason to at least take a look. So what I would suggest you do, I was just, you go onto Amazon, you search your products, they're similar to yours or maybe in the same niche as yours, and you take some notes. So I would write down the features of the different products, I would write down the price and I would take, pay really key attention to what the reviews say. And this is for both positive and negative feedback. Because when you are creating your product, this is your opportunity to refine your product, to include the things that are popular. Or to make improvements. So if everyone says, oh, you know, they love the packaging for a specific product, not saying copy it by any means, but let's say there's something different about the packaging. Let's say most similar products come in a box, but um, that, you know, you are looking at example, it just comes from a belly band and all the customers are saying, this is great because there's less packaging and we don't need all this packaging. You know, take note of that. Or if everyone says, and this product feels a bit flimsy. Take note of that because if you were going to make that product, you could make something a bit more substantial. And also think about what people say about the price as well. Because when you read reviews, I'm sure you've seen this yourself. Um, I read so many reviews that go, well, I can't believe this was of course this much or I got this in the sale. Well, I'm really glad because I wouldn't pay the full price for it. And of course there will be people who are always going to say that, but do pay attention because you'll also read reviews who go, this is worth every penny. This is expensive but I can see why it's worth it. And if you're reading reviews that think, say things like that, really look at that product. What, what is it that makes it worth the money? What is it that justifies that price? Um, as a rather real example of this, how I used this when I was launching my bamboo bowls, which was a few years ago. Now I don't sell them anymore, so, my goals were slightly different in two ways. One is they were quite large. They were slightly larger than others on the market, which actually sort of was something across all of my products, but they also had really minimal branding. Reason being is when I was looking review, at reviews, I'd read lots of them about, basically with two things I've read. One was that lots of parable products at the time, um, the branding on the side of the bowl, which really identified it as a baby product, which meant it had a limited sort of, not shelf life, but use if you want, because bigger kids and adults didn't want to be using a beautiful wooden bowl with, um, like a baby brand logo on the side. So I put the branding for mine on the bottom of the bowl so it wasn't visible. So from the outside it was just a gorgeous smooth bamboo bowl. And I also read the, once the baby got to, lots of reviews about, oh, once my baby got to this age the bowl wasn't quite big enough to fit their meal in and I had to upgrade. Now I obviously wanted my product to be able to be used for as long as possible, so I made the bowl slightly bigger. Um, so that, you know, a parent could buy this and know they could, you know, give it some longevity. Basically, that's what all of my products were about. But whether I got the inspiration for both of those features because they were features, was from reading the reviews of other products and seeing what people liked and disliked. So my fourth idea is to use something called the Jungle Scout Sales estimator. Do not worry if you've never heard of this. And this is actually another way you can use Amazon. So there is a company called Jungle Scout and they have a free tool that helps you to estimate how many sales per month a product is making based on their best seller ranking. Don't worry if this just sounds like nonsense. If you don't, got a clue what I'm talking about. Um, I have a blog post that explains it in more detail, which I'll link to in the show notes. But basically, um, you look at, um, a product on Amazon, you take a note of the bestseller ranking, which is in the information, you go onto this retool, you put that in, and it'll estimate how many sales that product's making. Obviously this isn't a hundred percent accurate and this can't be the only thing you do. But in my opinion, it's a useful additional check you can carry out alongside your other research just to get an idea. I wouldn't just do this for one product, by the way. So if you're doing, you know, if you're looking at products online, you're looking at Amazon, as I've just suggested, for some of the products you look at. Um, You can do this check and just see, just see where, how many roughly they're selling and see if that's kind of tallies up to you based on, you know, what you've learned about the products and what people think about it. Um, I just think it's something that's really worth doing. Um, Jungle Scout also have paid for software, which I use, but I will say at this stage, I don't suggest investing in this. I don't think it's worth it. Um, this free tool, as I say, while it isn't a hundred percent accurate, it's pretty good. And obviously it is only looking at sales made on Amazon, which obviously might not be what you have in mind. However, Amazon is a huge marketplace. There are lots of customers and lots of products can and do sell well there, so I think it'll at least give you an indication of whether it's something that people are buying, even if you intend to sell on your own website or set on Etsy or somewhere completely else entirely. And as I mentioned, I do have a free guide that talks about more about how to do this. I'll also put the link to the tool in the show notes for this episode. Uh, it probably is quite self explanatory, but as I say, if not, I have details on how to do it. I should also mention at this point that if you are interested in selling your product on Amazon, I do offer a, should I sell my products on Amazon? mini strategy session where I do a lot of the research I've just mentioned for you. So this isn't for when you're at the idea stage, this is when you actually have a product, you know, your product's ready perhaps, or at least in production. So you know, you know a bit more about what your product is. And I look at competitors for you and I basically come back and say either yes, I think this would be great to sell on Amazon. And I, um, talk about how to niche it. So what sort of category to list in, how to make yours slightly different from other listings on Amazon. Or I'll be really honest and come back and say, well actually do you know what? I think based on whatever the reasons are, um, this might not be the best place for you to sell your product at this time. Um, because as I mentioned before, Amazon can be a really hard place to get started and it can take a lot of time, potentially a lot of money if you're paying somebody to help you with it. And I think that it's really good to know before you start whether you know, whether there's any opportunity there. And I'll be really honest because I know that for me, if I was to be launching my brand of baby products, which I launched originally, I want to say about 7, 6, 7 years ago now, if I was looking to launch them today, I don't think I would sell them on Amazon because I think that category is absolutely saturated. At the time it was, it was really good. Um, but now I think there's probably too much competition and it just wouldn't work out. And I think that's the kind of thing that is really useful to know before you start, before you start. Because there will be, you know, there will be somewhere, um, there will be somewhere that you can, you can sell it and you can do really well, but not every sales channel is going to be right for everyone. So again, I put link to that in the show notes now on the subject of Amazon. My fifth suggestion, you can do also while you're on Amazon if you want to, which is to buy other products. With the aim of returning them as part of your research, so, I suggest, the reason I suggest you do this on Amazon, by the way, is there a returns process is really easy, although you might not, you know, you might not want to do this. You might want to go into shops instead or, or buy somewhere else. I like to say I like doing this on Amazon because if I've just been doing some online research and I've been researching products and looking at their features and everything, I like to suggest a couple, um, buy them. Get them sent to me at home with the intention of returning them. By the way, this is the bit that makes it free, so I like to buy them, get them sent to me, and then when they arrive, um, have a real in depth look at them to help with the research. So, for example, I would always take photos of them because I think that was really useful and I'd make some really detailed notes. So I would look at things like the packaging. So how is the product packaged? Is it in a box? Is it in a bag? Is it in a, does it have a belly band? Is there an insert card or a flyer included? More information. What's actually included on the packaging. I will say this was really helpful when I was designing my first product, um, because I knew the packaging was going to be a box and I was like, but what do I even put on a box? So I ordered some other similar products. So, so baby muslins on Amazon. And I looked at the boxes and I look what kind of thing they had on them. And I saw, okay, they've all got a brand name, they've all got a barcode, they've all got washing instructions, um, all of this. And that really helped me because I didn't have a clue what to put on my packaging. So I found that really useful. You could also look at the materials used for the product. So if it's paper based, is this dirty? Is it flimsy? Can you work out what sort of paper stock it is? If it's fabric, do you know what type of fabric? I would also look at the quality of the finish, um, and also things like how it feels to you. So does it feel like a premium product? Does it feel like a more budget version? And does it match up to the price you paid and your expectations? So if these are products that you've been reading about on Amazon, you've been reading all of these reviews, you know, does that match up with the product you've actually received? Hopefully disclose without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway. I am not suggesting for one moment that you copy anyone, that you copy any products, that you copy anyone's ideas. Please, please, please don't do that. Um, the reason for doing this is just to see what else is out there so that you can make your product unique and you can make it as good as it can be. So, for example, let's use the muslin example. And let's say you were looking to develop a new muslin and you'd been reading lots of reviews about some, and everyone says it's too thin. Well, what does too thin mean? You order them, you take a look and you can, you know, you can see for yourself. When? When people say it's too thin, this is what too thin looks like, so mine needs to be different, or something's too small. Okay, What does too small mean? You know, you order it, you take a look and go, okay, so everyone thinks this is too small. Mine's going to be bigger. And yet, of course you can do that without seeing the product in real life. But I just think that if you can, that really helps you because this is just about making your product be as unique and as good as it possibly, possibly can be. That's the purpose. So you create great product that your customers are looking for and that they're happy to pay for. So I really hope these ideas have helped you. I have one final thing I want to mention. That's something I wish you might want to look into. Um, if you've looking to validate your idea, it's crowdfunding. I know it's not quite the same as validation, but I also notice that is something that's, if you were interested in. I also know this is a lot of work. I know it may or may not be right for you, but if you're interested in finding out more about crowdfunding, I suggest listening to episode a 103 with Jess Bailey, which is links in the show notes list episode. And in the meantime, if you want even more free ways to validate your product ideas, you can download the free guide that I mentioned earlier. So as always, thank you so much for listening. Thank you so much for listening all the way to the end. If you have any questions at all, you can always contact me Vicki at vickiweinberg.com, and have a lovely rest of your week. Thank you so much for listening right to the end of this episode. Do remember that you can get the full back catalogues and lots of free resources on my website, vickiweinberg.com. Please do remember to rate and review this episode if you've enjoyed it, and also share it with a friend who you think might find it useful. Thank you again and see you next week.