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Newbie needs advice on how to validate an idea using questionnaires, etc.

Overdrive

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Hi! I've had this idea of a B2B web service that is a combination of selling digital products and a lead generation model for the past five months, but I realize I haven't put in any real effort towards validating the idea and have not made good use of my time. Question is what is the best method to validate the idea?

My assumed target audience would be SMEs (including startups) that are involved in international transactions of any type (including cross-border purchases/sales of products or services, etc).

In order to get feedback on my idea, I thought I'd start with a questionnaire with the intention to follow up with in-depth interviews of respondents. So I've created a questionnaire on Google, but I'm unsure if I'm doing it right. What are some general pointers when it comes to creating and distributing questionnaires for validating an idea? For example, should I keep the questions as broad and as few as possible in the beginning? Or should I ask questions that are more to the point, at the risk of revealing my value proposition too early? Anything I should pay extra attention to? Any good examples?

If any of you guys have experience with these things, would really like to hear your input! Or if anyone could point me to another thread that applies to my questions, I'd totally appreciate that too.

Thanks a lot! :)
 

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rwhyan

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I'm not sure a questionnaire would be your best way of validating.

Since you already have an idea for a solution to a need, you are trying to validate whether or not the need is a real need that businesses would pay to have a solution for.

Because of that, you really only need get answers to two questions:
  1. Is the pain-point that you've identified a real pain point?
  2. Would businesses pay for a solution to that pain point?

The best way to do this is to ask businesses directly.

You could do this with a questionnaire, but why not just call up some businesses and talk to them?

Describe your solution and see if they would be interested.

This is faster and more direct than a questionnaire. Also, it is likely easier to get in touch with business owners by cold calling rather than trying to get them to fill out a questionnaire.

When you have businesses on the phone, you can also ask follow up questions and explore their pain points more easily, making the information you get more in-depth.
 
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Overdrive

Overdrive

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I'm not sure a questionnaire would be your best way of validating.

Since you already have an idea for a solution to a need, you are trying to validate whether or not the need is a real need that businesses would pay to have a solution for.

Because of that, you really only need get answers to two questions:
  1. Is the pain-point that you've identified a real pain point?
  2. Would businesses pay for a solution to that pain point?

The best way to do this is to ask businesses directly.

You could do this with a questionnaire, but why not just call up some businesses and talk to them?

Describe your solution and see if they would be interested.

This is faster and more direct than a questionnaire. Also, it is likely easier to get in touch with business owners by cold calling rather than trying to get them to fill out a questionnaire.

When you have businesses on the phone, you can also ask follow up questions and explore their pain points more easily, making the information you get more in-depth.
Hi rwyhan, thanks a lot for taking the time to reply to my question. Much appreciated! Also thanks for providing clarity for me. The two questions you stated really sum up my intention perfectly and that's what I should focus on.

Asking biz owners directly is actually the main goal behind my survey which I've boiled down to a few essential questions and a final ask for an email address so I can hopefully follow up with an interview over phone or IM. I'm not sure how to get it to the right people though since my personal network isn't that big and I don't personally know many people who would be in my TA. Any tips how to go about that? I don't think cold-calling would be effective (for various reasons). Thanks again!
 

NMdad

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When you have businesses on the phone, you can also ask follow up questions and explore their pain points more easily, making the information you get more in-depth.
This. Talk to potential customers--you'll get way more qualitative info that'll be little gold nuggets.

I'd also suggest getting much more specific with your target market--SMEs are not a market, but more a general segment. What SMEs do you think would have the more interest, have the biggest pain, and get the biggest benefit from your idea? Driveway resurfacing companies, local moving companies, accounting firms catering to low-income families, salsa manufacturers? Who exactly? The more specific you are, the better the data from your conversations with them.
 

rwhyan

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Asking biz owners directly is actually the main goal behind my survey which I've boiled down to a few essential questions and a final ask for an email address so I can hopefully follow up with an interview over phone or IM. I'm not sure how to get it to the right people though since my personal network isn't that big and I don't personally know many people who would be in my TA. Any tips how to go about that? I don't think cold-calling would be effective (for various reasons). Thanks again!
Getting business owners to fill out a questionnaire is essentially asking them to provide value for you.

You want to do the opposite. You want to provide value for them.

Why should a busy business owner take the time out of their day to fill out your questionnaire? They don't know that it might lead to a solution for them. They just know that you want to take up their precious time to get information from them.

But if you call 100 businesses and say "Hey I believe I have something will solve a major problem you're having with _______, do you have a few minutes to talk?" then you are providing value to them instead of asking them to provide value for you.

Imagine you're the business owner here. You'd be more inclined to talk to a caller that could potentially provide a massive solution for your business than to fill out a random questionnaire online for who knows what reason.

What are your reasons for thinking cold calling would not be effective?
 

LiveEntrepreneur

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Careful here man, don't make the mistake that I did. Potential customers seemed to like my idea and said it was great but they were too lazy to sign up. I wasted over 1k setting up a website and that and the whole email system, turns out i wasn't addressing their REAL pain point.

The question that I should of asked before that I didn't was "is the problem big enough that you would consider changing to my product?" Most of them said, no.

They all told me what they really wanted. Save yourself time and money and find out what they REALY want. Here is a small step by step guide to what you can do:

Step 1: introduce yourself to potential customer

Step 2: tell them why you are contacting them

Step 3: ask them if they had a few minutes to talk

Step 4: if they say yes talk to them about your idea and ask what they think of your idea.

Step 5: this is where you ask them if the pain point is big enough to change to your product.

Step 6: if they say no then ask them what the real problem is.


Step 7: sorta done. You know now the pain point but not fully. Interview a few more people and if u see a ovbious pattern that they all have the same problem, i think now you have the right idea that people will pay for. But of course you only know for a 100% fact once you have their money.
 

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