Note: This is part of a 7-day challenge called “Please Don’t Starve” which is intended to help you create and sell your first product in a week. To learn more about the challenge, click here. Today is Day 2.
So many people set out to create a product—whether it’s a book, a coaching service, or an online course—and assume they know what people want. Don’t do that. Instead of assuming, just ask.
Listen to the audio of this lesson here:
There is only one way to start and that is small. When we set out to create our new products, the best thing that we can do first is to validate what we’re thinking of creating.
There are three simple steps in this process.
Step 1: Start with Demand
Success in any effort, particularly business, is really a matter of satisfying three questions:
- What do I love?
- What am I good at?
- And what do people want?
These three areas, which are often referred to as your “sweet spot,” are where you’re going to find the greatest resonance with your work.
As Frederick Buechner once wrote, your calling is the place where your deepest joy meets the world’s deepest need.
Today, we’re going to focus on what people want—that is, demand.
It’s one thing to be skilled or passionate at something. It’s another to meet a felt need, and the way you get paid for something is by doing just that.
I once spoke with someone who worked for a company that helps authors publish their books, and they told me about all the great benefits the company offers their employees as reasons for why I should publish with them instead of Amazon’s self-publishing service.
Then she said at the end, “And we offer the best royalty rate in the business.” I told her to start with that.
As you shift your perspective from Starving Artist to Thriving Artist, you need to think more like an entrepreneur. People don’t pay you because you’re passionate or even good, but because you help them solve problems.
People don’t pay you because you’re passionate or even good, but because you help them solve problems.
So how have you done that in the past? What needs or wants do you recognize in the world?
Start with that and then consider which of those areas are you particularly skilled at or passionate about.
Step 2: Ask the Right Question
When it comes time to validate your idea, it’s important to ask your audience what they want, but also to do so in the right way.
Don’t ask them, “Do you like this?” Instead, say, “Would you buy this?”
Really, you want to ask three questions:
- Do you want this?
- Would you pay money for this?
- If so, how much?
That’s how you validate a product and get a very clear idea of whether or not people actually want the thing you’re considering creating.
Step 3: Make a List
Finally, you need to make a list of people you’re going to ask if they like this idea. The trick to this is to know who you’re going to ask and how. It should be simple and easy; your goal is to get quick, clear feedback.
Also, make sure you’re asking the right people. If your mom isn’t interested in your new app concept, don’t ask her what she thinks about it; at least, not at this stage. Your job is to validate the idea, and in order to do that, you have to find people who actually want what you have.
I used to do a terrible job at this, trying to figure out if an idea for a book was a good one by going to my fellow author friends and asking their advice. Of course, they would offer their opinions, and this would affect how I wrote the book.
The problem was I wasn’t writing books for authors; I was writing them for readers. What it finally took for me to stop doing this was for a blunt friend to say, “Don’t ask me. I’ve never read any of your books and probably won’t start anytime soon.”
Make sure that you’re reaching out to people who represent the kind of customers and clients that you want to have.
Exercise: Validate Your Idea
Now, it’s time to test this thing you want to make before you actually create it, and to do that, you need people. But don’t do anything fancy like start a blog or build an email list. Don’t launch a podcast or YouTube show.
That’s too advanced; you can do that later once your idea takes off and it’s time to scale.
My friend Bryan Harris is the king of this and recommends a very simple process: Just think of anyone who might be interested in your idea, and make a list.
Go to your phone, use your Rolodex, open up Outlook. Do whatever you need to do to find a list of people who would want your thing. Tell them, “I’m thinking about creating X. Is that something you’d be interested in?” You’re just looking for a yes at this point. You can ask the other questions later.
Once people say yes, you want to follow up with them and ask some questions.
- How would you want it?
- What would you be willing to pay?
We’ll get into all these tomorrow, but for now, make your list and start running the idea by them. Put it into your own words, but make sure you ask them if they’re interested in what you’re working on and if they know of anyone else.
Your goal: Make a list of 100 people’s names and ask them if they want X (whatever you’re creating). Try to get 10 yeses.