What I Learnt Reading 80 Articles On Product Validation

While I had some time off over Christmas I decided it would be useful to read up on product validation. Especially after the launch of my first startup, Readercatch, which although launching quite successfully on ProductHunt failed to generate any meaningful conversion.

I created a site called validationguide.com (using Ghost) to host all this research. Upon researching the topic, I realized something, Almost all product validation methods for successful bootstrapped companies are the same.

There's the odd sneaky company that uses Ads or just launches a product without validation. But for the most part almost all validated companies do these things:

1) Listen To People

Whether it's selling Bone Broth or launching the next platform for App deals. Validating products requires listening to people's problems first.

In other words for your product to be validated you need to start talking to people and asking them about their problems, what's taking up their time at work, etc.

For Kettle & Fire it was Justin's friends talking about how great Bone Broth was and Justin finding out that no business sold Bone Broth online. For App Sumo it was Kagan's last startup, Gambit, where he learned that startups wanted more users over more revenue.

2) Sell Sell Sell

Nowadays when a startup is launching you see the plain old email signup landing page. That's great if you're the next X in tech and everyone's hyping about you, but for validating your customer's needs an email sign up box sucks.

Instead try creating a fake (or real) checkout flow for the product that doesn't exist yet. Justin validated Kettle & Fire by creating an Unbounce landing page with a PayPal checkout and knew he was onto something when he received $500 in orders. App Sumo validated it's business model by running Reddit Ads and selling pro Imgur accounts. Drip validated it's problem by emailing a bunch of founders asking about email marketing.

Being lean doesn't mean building the full product. In fact if you can get someone to pay you based off an idea then you're onto a real winner of a business.

3) Find A Way To Easily Reach Customers

So you've found a group of customers who have a problem and you want to see if your solution will solve it for them. Here's a few quick ways:

  1. Cold email/message/call your target customer (How Drip got started)
  2. Run FB/Google/Bing/Etc Ads (How Kettle & Fire got started)
  3. Write blog content and share it online about how your product solves X and Y (How Basecamp got started)

Your target customer should be so relieved that your product exists that they should be willing to pay for it. Don't make the mistake of building something nice to have.