I recently created a post on coming up with product ideas. Today I want to talk about what to do next – how to validate your product ideas so you can ensure you create a product that people want to buy.
It doesn’t matter how much (or little) it costs to create your product if you’ll never see a penny of it again. I do think that it’s a bit less scary spending that initial money on your product if you have a good idea that it’ll sell well and make a good profit. If you have no idea, then it’s a huge gamble.
However I also don’t want you to spend a lot of money on this. So my ideas are all free. All they’ll cost you is time! However, in my opinion anyway, this is time well spent.
1. Find your customers and ask them questions
Take 5-10 minutes to really think about your potential customer. What kind of person would buy your product?
- What stage of life are they at? (i.e. are they new parents, graduates, retired, etc.)
- How old are they?
- What interests do they have?
- Which social media channels do they use? (If any.)
Chances are you might know some people who fit this criteria already. If not, you can try asking around for people who do.
Please don’t just ask your friends and family for their opinions. They might not be your ideal customer – so don’t be too disheartened if they’re perhaps not as keen on your idea as you are, or they might be keen to tell you what they think you want to hear.
Probably the quickest and easiest way of reaching a large pool of people (at this stage anyway) is online. (Think Facebook groups!) You can find groups for most things and this is a great way of speaking with people who might potentially be interested in your product.
You don’t need to run a full-blown focus group (unless you want to). You could set up a short online questionnaire, or just ask questions.
What to ask?
Things that would be useful to know are:
- How relevant your product idea is to them – as if not at all, they’re not your ideal customer or something needs tweaking.
- What they like or dislike about your idea. Knowing what they dislike gives you some feedback on where you can optimise and improve it. The things they like can also help you with your launch communications.
- If your idea isn’t fully formed yet, finding out what they like or dislike about other similar products – or, what their wishlist would be for a brand new product (if this is a totally original idea) would really help.
- What they’d expect to pay for it – because that gives a baseline for where you could be potentially pricing it.
2. Look in forums and Facebook groups
Nothing beats asking people for input but, if for any reason that’s not right for you at the moment, you can still get a lot from more passive online research.
Go into relevant facebook groups, or other online forums, and see what kind of conversations people are having. Use the search function to find relevant discussions.
As an example, I was looking to buy a dress recently, from a brand that has a Facebook group for its fans. One of the first things I did was to search in the group for the product I was interested in to see photos of people wearing it and read their comments. Got loads of info on sizing, saw it on different heights, got a good tip on washing and caring for it and on how to wear / style. All of that without asking a single question!
Now, that doesn’t mean joining groups for specific brands. If your product was running related (for example) you could join groups for runners and see what kind of things your ideal customers (as they’re likely in that group) are interested in, what concerns them, etc.
The more niche the better. So if it’s a product aimed at female runners try and find female running groups, for example.
3. Look at similar products on Amazon and read the reviews
It’s good to know if there’s anything similar on the market right now.
If so, do people buy it, how much for and what do they think about it?
You can find out all of this by doing a bit of online research.
I always use Amazon for this, as there’s a huge range of products and most will have reviews you can read and learn from. (And if the product(s) you’re interested in have no reviews, think about what this tells you too…)
Note down product features, price and what the reviews say – both positive and negative feedback. This is your opportunity to refine your product to include things that are popular, or make improvements!
For example, does everyone say a certain product has a funny smell, or feels flimsy? Do they love the packaging? What do they think about the price?
4. Use the JungleScout sales estimator
Another way you can use Amazon! JungleScout have a free tool that helps you to estimate how many sales, per month, a product is making, based on their best seller ranking.
This won’t be 100% accurate and can’t be all that you do – but, in my opinion, it’s a useful additional check you can carry out, alongside other research.
Obviously this is only looking at sales made on Amazon and that might not be what you have in mind. However, Amazon is a huge marketplace, with lots of customers. Many products can and do sell well there, so it will 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 somewhere else entirely.
5. While you’re there, maybe even buy samples (to return)
Another thing you can do, on Amazon (or elsewhere) is to buy products similar to yours (with the intention of returning them – or it’s not free!)
I like doing this on Amazon as the returns process is easy. You might prefer to go into shops instead.
When they arrive, take photos and detailed notes to add to your research.
- Things to look at include:
- Packaging. How’s it packaged (is it in a box, a bag, is there an insert card or flyer included?), what’s actually included on the packaging? So helpful when designing my first product packaging. It’s a box, what do I put on it?!
- The materials used. (i.e. if it’s a paper-based product, is it sturdy or flimsy?) If it’s fabric, what type?
- The quality of the finish.
- How it feels you to you. Is it a premium product, or does it feel like a budget version? Does it match up to the price you paid (and your expectations)?
You could share these with potential customers and ask for their thoughts too.
Hopefully this goes without saying – but I’m not suggesting for a moment that you copy anyone. Please don’t do that. This is just about seeing what else is out there so you can make your product unique and as good as it can be.
In the meantime, for even more FREE ways to validate your product idea, download my freebie here.