Filing for a business license

You’ve come up with a big idea — one that could blossom into the business of your dreams. But you’ll never know if it’s worth pursuing unless you validate it. Before you invest your time and money (or quit your day job), put your idea to the test with these six tactics.

1. Ask the right questions

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of exploring a new business idea, so keep yourself grounded by asking yourself questions like:

  • How is my business idea unique?
  • Am I creating something that will make life easier for my customer?
  • Is there a proven demand for my business product or service?
  • What makes me uniquely qualified to turn my business idea into a reality?

2. Get fans and funds

Crowdfunding platforms, such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, are great for gauging interest in your startup idea. If you set up a crowdfunding website, you’ll quickly see if your idea is a winner because people will part with their hard-earned money to help bring it to life. It’s easy to build a loyal customer base right from the start because people feel like they’re part of the process. You’ll get attention and feedback from thousands of potential investors. And if your project attracts a lot of interest, you can feel good about going for it!

3. Go straight to your customers

Friends and family will likely gush about your brilliant idea. But if you want unbiased feedback, it’s best to look outside your inner circle and at your ideal customers. Here are some ways to reach them:

Have a focus group. Identify and interview a small number of consumers who use similar products or services.

Get social. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the like to chat with groups that might be interested in your business venture.

Conduct a survey. Create a survey to get the answers you need to proceed. Find out how you can get the customer insights you need with VerticalResponse’s free survey creator.

Connect with bloggers in your industry. Ask if you can write a guest post about your business idea and solicit feedback from their readers.

Online discussion forums. Reddit is a great place to have discussions on hundreds of different topics, so why not use it to validate your business idea? Since Reddit is an open platform with more than 230 million users, you’ll want to pose your question to a more targeted audience. For example, if you search for Startup Ideas, you’ll find the subreddit, Startup Ideas, where you can share your business ideas with fellow aspiring entrepreneurs. (Learn more about where to go online for unbiased feedback about your business idea.)

Whichever method you decide to use, your goal is to find out what challenges customers are facing, what tools they’re currently using, whether they’d use your offering and what they’d be willing to pay for it.

4. Hatch a brilliant idea

Business incubators are organizations that help startups grow by providing resources and services, such as seed funding, coaching, networking connections and mentorship. And they can offer the support, inspiration and advice you need to take your business idea to the next level. Before you apply to join a business incubator, do some research to compare membership costs and the resources offered.

To get started, go to the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) website and use the lookup tool provided to see what’s available in your area.

5. Keep tabs on your competition

What other players occupy the space you want to pursue? How will your offering be similar or different? Is there a gap you can fill or a specific niche you can target? Get the lay of the land by analyzing the competition.

To gain valuable insight into your competition, you can:

  • Read reports from industry analyst firms like Gartner or Forrester Research
  • Monitor Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn posts
  • Scan the Small Business Snapshots from SBDCnet.org, a National Information Clearinghouse serving the Small Business Development Center Network and America’s small business community
  • Study companies’ success stories and learn from their mistakes
  • Pick up the phone and ask them directly

When all is said and done, the effort you put into researching the competition can help you save time and money and put you on the path to success.

6. Test the waters with a landing page

Once you have an idea, find out if it has traction by creating a landing page to promote it. Be sure to include information about your product’s features and benefits as well as “Buy Now” or “Learn More” buttons. When people click on the button, take them to a page that explains the product isn’t available yet and allows them to sign up to be notified when it’s ready. Folks who are interested will give you their email addresses, which means you’ll be well on your way to growing your customer database.

Why be that entrepreneur who pours a ton of time, money and energy into a business idea nobody wants? While there’s no way to know for sure if you’re sitting on a million-dollar business idea, testing it in advance is a good indicator that you’re on to something good. Go boldly and challenge your business idea. Once you test its mettle, you can pursue it with passion and confidence — and make it a reality.

Got a small business question?

Request a call from a Small Business Adviser for tips and guidance. The conversation is free — not a sales call.

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