Validate Before You Build

Don't start coding just yet...

👋 Hey, I’m Ben! I write monthly deep dives on how to grow products and companies. I go deep on growth strategies, how to build products users love, and what actionable lessons can be learned from what best-in-class companies are doing.

This week I will be going through why you should validate your product ideas before building them and some strategies for how to do so.

A common trap for aspiring entrepreneurs is to get so excited about their idea that they dive head first into building it and trying to bring it to life. As much as I love the eagerness and bias to action, you can save yourself a lot of time, frustration, and money by validating your idea before you start building it. Nothing feels worse than spending months grueling over a product only to find that people aren’t willing to pay for the thing you poured your heart into building.

Before you write a single line of code (or pay someone to write a single line of code), your goal should be to determine whether the thing you want to build solves real user pain points to the point where people will pay you money for it. There is a big difference in what you can take away from your mom telling you she likes your idea vs. having 10 customers with cash in hand ready to pay you to solve their problem.

There are hundreds of creative ways you can try to validate your product but today I will focus on my favorite method. The strategy is simple; you make a simple landing page for the product with an “early access” or “waitlist” request form. If the problem you are aiming to solve is acute enough, you’ll be able to get people to sign up for the waitlist.

I’ll break down the steps here to make it simple:

  1. Build your landing page. Making a landing page has never been easier; you can do it quickly and cheaply via websites like Carrd, Squarespace, or Webflow. For a simple one-pager with email capture, I recommend using Carrd. You don’t have to have a fancy website or even any other tabs; it can be as simple as a one page site that has an email capture and describes the problem you’re solving and what your solution does. For example, I made Earnings Overview in under 30 minutes using Carrd to help me understand if the idea is something worth building.

  2. Engage with people on social. Build it and they will come is a lie. People won’t magically find your website, you have to try and get it in front of them. Social media is a great way to do this. You can search by hashtags relevant to your product and comment on conversations, find relevant subreddits, post on sites like indie hackers and ProductHunt, and more. Use whatever audience you have. Talk to people! Your goal is to get them to add their emails to your waitlist.

  3. Go to relevant meetups. Find out where your target market hangs out and go talk to them. Meetups or conferences around a specific topic are a great place to do this. Get real feedback from your target market and find out whether they think what you’re cooking up is worth paying for. If it is, they should have no problem adding their email to your waitlist.

  4. Go to your local Starbucks. This is basically the Walmart version of the “go to relevant meetups” step. Not every target market has an easy-to-find place where they congregate. Depending on what you are building, going to a local Starbucks and offering to buy someone a coffee in exchange for their feedback can be an easy and effective way to get the feedback you’re looking for. Again, the goal here is to get get feedback and evaluate whether people are willing to add their email to your waitlist.

  5. Get Creative. There are plenty of other ways you can get your idea in front of users. Try different things, get creative with it, and have fun!

After you go through these exercises, how many emails do you have on your waitlist? How difficult was it to get people to add their email to the waitlist? The answers to these questions are leading indicators to how hard it will be to get people to pay for the product you want to build. If the pain point you are solving is acute and the product you want to build truly solves it, you shouldn’t have a problem getting people to join the waitlist.

Now that you’ve validated your product idea, it’s time to get building. As a bonus, when it’s all said and done, now you’ve got a list of real potential customers that you can reach out to when you do launch!

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