Build your app: Idea Validation
Building a mobile app involves a lot of work, a lot of sleepless nights and thousands of dollars spent on designers, developers, and marketing. It isn’t nice when at the end of the journey you end up with 30,000$ debt and 30 monthly users. So, let’s talk about some actions you can do to make sure your app has a potential of making you some good money.
But before we move forward, please remember this one rule I’m trying to sell through the entire series
The more work you put in early stages, the easier it’ll get later
I can’t stress this enough, as I constantly see teams rushing forward to build anything without too much preparation. I’m sure you can do better! Let me share some thoughts on how to validate your idea – in this step you’ll even start selling your app!
Talk to your friends and potential customers
When you browse through entrepreneur forums or Reddit you can notice a topic that regularly pops up:
How can I protect my idea, so that nobody steals it?
I think that these people want to get some tips on NDAs, patents, trademarks, copyrights, etc. All rubbish, because in the end, you can’t really protect your idea and you shouldn’t even consider that. There are plenty of startups who failed because they were building their products in the basement, without any interaction with their target customers. When they launch, they’re suddenly surprised that no one cares and people don’t need their 1-year worth of work. Don’t be one of them.
First, you should start by asking your friends what they think about your new app idea. By doing this you’ll practice your pitch, you’ll learn which questions to ask and which parts are not clear for others. Your friends will most likely like your idea and tap you on a back because that’s what friends are for, so don’t think your idea is validated just yet. This part is meant to prepare you for talking to total strangers, who won’t be so involved and won’t have too much time for you.
You need to reach out to your potential customers and learn as much as possible from them. If you’re trying to build a tennis court booking app, visit your local clubs and have a chat about the problem you’re seeking to solve. How do they deal with it currently? How big of a problem is it? You should also ask if they tried some other system and what they like & dislike about your competition. Basically, get early feedback on the app you’re designing.
Some of these people might reject your idea and criticize you, but don’t get discouraged – maybe they just don’t understand it yet, or it isn’t meant for them (try selling Snapchat to 40yr-olds). Look for constructive feedback and polish your concept, so that when you start building it, you’ll know that it’s something people need and are willing to pay for.
All these contacts will be very valuable once you are ready to launch and need few testers to make sure everything is working fine on a small scale. Quick tip: make sure to make notes and write down your thoughts after your meetings as otherwise they might get lost – never trust your brain to hold all the information.
Validate your idea
There’s a huge gap between people liking your idea and actually giving you the money. Before you spend thousands of dollars on building your app, you should consider doing these small tests which are called ‘idea validation’. There are plenty of resources on the subject, but let me share a great tip I learned from one lean startup courses I attended – no developer skills required.
Imagine you’d like to build this tennis court booking app for clubs, but you aren’t sure if anyone would pay for it. What you do is to create a landing page where you list all the benefits of the app, download buttons, fake client testimonials, plans & pricing options, etc. It has to look as if it’s a regular sales page. It’s quite easy to achieve with the help of some services like LeadPages.net.
Once you have this site up and running, you create a Facebook ad campaign for 50-100$ with a beautiful photo of a person with phone and good sales text like: ‘Book your court with one tap!’
It took me five minutes to create, but you get the picture!
With Facebook ads, you can target specific an audience (tennis players in Utah) and make sure the ad reaches your potential customers. Now you run the ads and observe at the stats – is anyone visiting your landing page? Do they click on the sign-up options or download app buttons? They’re fake, but you can set up the landing page, so it asks for users emails, and you can contact them once everything is ready.
With this simple trick, after one weekend of work you can both validate your idea and get a list of several customers who clicked on some actionable button. Let’s say you had 100 page views and 15 users clicked on download app link. That’s an excellent result which shows that your app has some potential in it and it’s worth doing.
There are certainly far more methods you can use to validate your product idea. What I can recommend here is a Will it fly book from Pat Flynn – author of SmartPassiveIncome.com. I’ll be honest here – I didn’t read the book yet, but I follow Pat’s work & listen to his podcasts on a regular basis so that I can recommend it blindly. To get some useful tips on idea validation you can read his post on the subject: 6 Ways to Validate a Product Idea Before You Waste Your Time and Money
The idea for the Mobingo app came from a friend, who once went to his dental technician lab just to find out that the power is down for a whole day. On that day, he had several doctors waiting for his work, so if he knew this was coming, he would stay up late to do the extra work.
Once I picked up the idea from him, I talked to some of my other friends about it, who gave me several other ideas like getting information about trash pickup schedule, or getting weekly announcements from their local church. This helped me to evolve the app idea to support multiple vendors who can target their users based on their location.
I must say that I didn’t do more validation at this point because my app has several other benefits like showing my potential customers detailed insights about my work (this blog post series). Additionally, I can play with few new technologies before I can implement them on paid projects – in this case, Xamarin for cross-platform development and Firebase for syncing data.
The other thing that assured me that there’s a market for it was the competition research phase – I saw that there are other apps, who didn’t work so well but still exist for several years now, so that’s a good sign as well. Oh, and Get Noticed contest started, so that was another push forward.
When I combined all of the above reasons, I decided that it’s finally time to start building it and commit fully to the project. Next step to come – Minimal Viable Product and app wireframes. Stay tuned.