SMB Nation Blog
Here are two extremely cheap (read: free) ways to test ideas.
Founder of Soundwise. Host of Founders Nextdoor podcast.
FEBRUARY 21, 2017
Last night in the shower, you had an ingenious idea for a new business.
You rushed to the desk to write it down, with water still dripping down your back. Your [insert the brilliant thing] is going to change the universe! It’s time to call up investors, assemble a team and . . . stop! Stop right there!
Before plunging into execution, you should confirm you’re solving a problem and/or meeting a need that people want to pay for. (Unless you’re Beyoncé. Then you can make money selling the air you breathe.)
Idea validation should be done on both macro and micro levels. And if you do it right, you won’t need to spend your PayPal balance on any of that. Here are some extremely cheap (read: free) ways that I and other entrepreneurs I know have used to test ideas.
The macro test
Before testing the specifics of your new venture, validate the big picture first. How large is the market? Who are your potential competitors? Are you differentiated enough? Google will answer all of those questions for you.
Start by searching the keywords related to your idea in both Google search and Google Trends. For example, when I had the idea for starting Soundwise, a mobile platform for audio courses, I researched around keywords such as podcast, audiobook and e-learning. Need more keyword ideas? Sign up for Google AdWords and use the Keyword Planner tool for inspiration.
You should also Google “XYZ industry report” or “XYZ market analysis” to get stats and data about your market. Pay attention to the related search terms Google shows you at the bottom of your search result page. For more updated information, filter the search to only include results from the past year.
Think of at least one company that offers a similar product to yours. Do research on that company and on its competitors. How do you know who its competitors are? Just Google “product X versus.” The competitors’ names will pop up, as there are legions of articles written online comparing every minute detail of every product: Pepsi vs. Coke, Target vs. Amazon, chihuahua vs. chow chow . . . . How do people find time to write those? I don’t know. Ask Google.
What you want to find at this stage is not necessarily a large market size, which often comes with the side effect of competitors galore. Ideally, what you want is to be able to say yes to all of the following:
Is there an upward trend in search volume and industry growth related to your idea?
Can you find existing players in your market that are already doing well to demonstrate there’s indeed market demand?
Are there meaningful differences between what’s in the market and what you’re thinking of offering? (We don’t know that for sure yet. “Seem to be” is good enough for now).
Former Amazon executive John Rossman shares his checklist for developing an internet of things strategy for your organization.
By Thor Olavsrud | Follow
Senior Writer, CIO | FEB 20, 2017 6:53 AM PT
The internet of things (IoT) may present the biggest opportunity to enterprises since the dawn of the internet age, and perhaps it will be bigger. Research firm Gartner predicts there will be nearly 20 billion devices on the IoT by 2020, and IoT product and service suppliers will generate $300 billion+ in revenue.
Successfully leveraging that opportunity — bringing together sensors, connectivity, cloud storage, processing, analytics and machine learning to transform business models and processes — requires a plan.
"In the course of my career, I've estimated and planned hundreds of projects," John Rossman, who spent four years launching and then running Amazon's Marketplace business (which represents more than 50 percent of all Amazon units sold today), writes in his new book, The Amazon Way on IoT: 10 Principles for Every Leader from the World's Leading Internet of Things Strategies. "I've learned that, even before you start seeking answers, it's imperative to understand the questions. Guiding a team to a successful outcome on a complex project requires understanding of the steps and deliverables, necessary resources, and roles and every inherent risk and dependency."
Before you start the hardware and software design, and before you figure out how to engage developers, he says, you need to start with a better set of questions.
Rossman says there are three key phases to building a successful IoT strategy. While he presents the steps sequentially, he notes that many steps are actually taken concurrently in practice and can be approached in many different ways.
Part 1. Develop and articulate your strategy
First and foremost, Rossman says, you must narrow and prioritize your options. IoT presents a broad swathe of opportunities. Success depends upon understanding your market, evaluating the opportunities with deliberation and attacking in the right place.
Running a small business poses many different obstacles that you must overcome. It is important for small businesses to address these issues before they become major hurdles to the progression of your company. Some of the biggest mistakes small businesses can make are in regards to technology. By either failing to stay with the times or improperly applying new technology, a business can be set back far behind the competition. However, there are consultants that can help you avoid these common tech mistakes that most small businesses make
.Failing to Stay Up to Date on Hardware
When you are upgrading your technology, it can be easy to purchase new software updates instead of staying up to date on the latest hardware. Staying up-to-date on the latest hardware technology will help your business stay ahead of the curve and up to the task of any technological issues that may face your organization. Even though software companies are spending millions of dollars to advertise their newest releases, invest your money where it counts and keep your hardware up-to-date.
Not Having the Right Digital Security
When your small business doesn't have enough digital security, your risk factor goes up greatly. There are hackers that are ruthless when it comes to destroying websites and stealing valuable information. There are consultants who can help your small business fortify itself against these potential attacks. Not having the right digital security can be a tech mistake that can end up being very costly in the long run.
Failing to Utilize Social Media
When you are trying to reach a new audience online, social media is key. There are millions of potential clients and customers who are constantly checking their social media. It is important to take advantage of the great traffic on these social media networks in order to get the word out about your small business. Social media can be a great way to get people on board with your vision. Building a loyal customer base is easier than ever before with the rise of this new technology.
Failing To Back up Your Data
Companies today are very reliant on their records and data which are almost completely stored electronically. This is very true if you are a media company that may have to access old files in the future. Make sure that you are always making physical hard-drive or cloud-based backups of your files. This will help give you the peace of mind that even if your main hard drives crash, you will still have backups of all the files you may need. There are now backup programs that will automatically backup your files on a regular basis.
Not Being Mobile Friendly
More often than not, your customers are going to see your website for the first time on their mobile device. It is important that your site has great mobile capabilities. This will allow you to be able to make a great first impression with your mobile friendly website. This will help your small business grow more than you ever imagined.