This is a guest post by Travis Newton, the Commerce Dude
When it comes to ecommerce or business in general people tend to think “Hey, I’ll come up with a kick ass business plan, research the market, put up my store and I’ll make money by the truck load.” Now I’m not saying not to do any market research; but one of the fastest most effective methods to see if you actually have a viable product is through validation. What is validation you ask? It’s getting your potential customers to pay for your product, solution, etc. before you have you spend an excess amount of time and resources on that business.
And I know what you’re thinking “If the market is going up and all the research shows that this is a viable market then why do I need to worry about validation???” I’ll tell you why, just because a market is purchasing a particular item what makes you think they’ll purchase from YOU? For example (true story) a colleague of mine decided he wanted to sell e-cigarettes. All the market data pointed toward that being an “easy” market to infiltrate.
He went ahead and imported a shipment of the e-cigarettes, look how easy it is to place a bulk order on alibaba.com:
(Note: At the end of this post I’ve put together a resource for those interested in creating physical products and importing)
and you know what he told me when I asked him how things were going (I’m paraphrasing here) “These things are harder to sell than I thought” and then I asked him if he validated the product before he put in his order, he said no. So he spent money on the order, his store, marketing, etc. all of that time and money wasted because he didn’t validate his offering and the worst part….inventory sitting in his closet.
Validation will help you:
- Get unbiased opinion if you have a viable product people actually want. Nothing says I want your product more than someone parting with their hard earned cash.
- Have positive cash flows before you launch your store.
- Most importantly save time and money.
So how do you go about validating a product? Here are my top 2 simple yet effective ways to validate a product before launching:
#1 Tap Into Your Own Network (there’s some overlap here in Top 5 Marketing Strategies for Bootstrapped Startups)
As obvious as this seems people seem to not want to bug their friends or family with their business ideas. I for one look at like this; I’m not selling them an idea but rather a solution to a problem. Furthermore, would you suggest a great movie to a friend, restaurant, or kick ass product? So why not suggest your own kick ass product???? Now I know what you’re thinking “My friends aren’t interested in my product, I don’t want to bug them, blah, blah, blah.” But who’s to say you have spam ALLLLL of your friends with your product? Pinpoint those friends that your product/solution is actually made for. So how do you drill down into your friend’s likes/dislikes? Good ole’ Facebook, let’s begin.
So for this example I want to start a store that sells Crossfit Super Hero socks, sounds cool huh?
But before I go on alibaba.com to order pallet upon pallet of socks and stock up my garage with inventory, let’s reach out to my network and see if I can sell a pair or two of socks to them.
So in looking at the main Crossfit page I have about 12 friends I can reach out to:
So let’s reach out to them. This is the exact email script I used for my WOD Sox (I would certainly tailor this to Super Hero Socks.
I'm testing out a new venture, figured you'd like it:
W.O.D Socks - a specialty sock to protect your shins during deadlifts and crossfit workouts.
$25/pair, the closest substitute is $60 so more than a 50% savings.
limiting this to only 10 people this 1st round.
Short simple and to the point, if they want the pair, they’ll respond back and you can send them your paypal info .
So I’m sure you guys are familiar with reddit and you can get lost on there for hours with the hilarious posts; BUT did you also know you can use it to validate your product.
What I like about reddit are the subreddits, you can literally find a subreddit (niche) for everything and if it’s not there you can create one.
I see a subreddit as having a type of email list of specific people that are more likely to be interested in my product.
So for the crossfit socks example let’s look at the crossfit subreddit:
So there are ~30,000 subscribers to the crossift subreddit…SCORE!
Now on reddit you don’t want to be spammy or pushy, it’s best to be as tact as possible with your post so how do you do that exactly? Like so:
This is the exact script I used validating my WOD Sox, to tailor it to the super hero socks we would change it to this:
How many of you guys would benefit from a knee high sock with slightly more padding to protect your shins (Validating this, would like your feedback)
Hey guys, I am validating this with a buddy of mine.
We both are workout junkies and tend to scrape the hell out of our shins/legs when we do deadlifts or crossfit workouts.
So we created these super hero socks to protect our shins.
Would you be interested? Yes = Up Vote; No = Down Vote.
Thanks you guys rock!
It’s important to ask for upvotes for downvotes because the more upvotes the higher it’ll be in that subreddit.
For example if you noticed on my post it received 35 upvotes.
It was in the top 5 postes of the crossfit subreddit for about a week which got my post some really good exposure.
Not only that that’s 35 people interested in my product and those that were truly interested commented.
Pro Tip: You must respond to every single comment. As basic as that sounds you’d be surprised how many people ignore that step. The more you interact with people and the more value you add the more upvotes you will get. So you have people interested in your product, now what?
Well, those people that commented saying “Yes! I need these in my life!” you send them a private message that’s similar to the one you sent to your own network.
“Thanks for your interest in the socks, they’re really are an awesome product and will help with shin bruising/scraping.
From the feedback and messages I’ve received, for Reddit we’re going to charge $18 for the socks…right around that $15 range. If you want a pair send us your shoe size and PayPal $18 to email@example.com give us 8-10 days to make your pair and of course if you have any issues with them we’ll be more than happy to refund your $18.
Thanks for trying out our socks, we really appreciate it, looking forward to you rocking them at your box!”
So as you can see my private message to CFGURLYGURL isn’t spammy, it highlights again the benefit of the solution, I give a price that’s a discount to redditors, and I make it easy for her to purchase my item.
Need More Help? Ready to Create Your Own Product?
So that’s it, those are my top 2 ways to validate an ecommerce product or any product/service for that matter. Those are the two that garnered the largest amount of presales for my own product.
And if you would like to learn the other techniques, as well as learn how to create your own physical product from inception to creation, check out Travis’ website. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact him at commercedudecourse[at]gmail.com. He will personally respond and help everyone that emails and needs help validating their product or idea. All the best!