35% of startups fail because there was no market need for their product. This is alarming since there are a few simple things you can do to protect yourself from this before you even start building your idea.
Product validation is the process of finding customers who are willing to pay for your product, usually before you start building, or in the early stages of building. Here are some common ways founders validate their ideas before they start.
Quick Market Research
Google search your product's domain, plus "market size". For example, if you were building a WordPress plugin for all types of WordPress users, you might search "wordpress market size," and then click on the first few results. This can give you a good overview on the market you're trying to sell in. If the market seems too small, try searching in adjacent markets, or think about charging a higher price if you can.
You should also use sites like Reddit and Quora to find questions about your product idea. For example, if you were going to build a website hosting service exclusively for Drupal sites, you might search for "drupal hosting sucks" and then see why people think it sucks, and see if your idea can solve those problems.
Use Google's Keyword Planner (it's free) to look at search volume for terms related to your idea. If nothing comes up in those searches, but there is a high search volume, you might have found an under-served market that would pay to use your idea.
Lastly, look at reviews and online community posts of similar products or competitors. What are the common praises, complaints, and requests? Could your idea solve those problems?
Selling Without a Product
This is probably my favorite method of validation. It's quick, cheap, and gives you a clear answer on if there is an interest in your idea or not.
- Screenshot your prototype. Your prototype does not have to even work yet. If you don't have one, mock one up with a Figma template, or your design tool of choice.
- Create a single page website with whatever quick tool you like. I use Webflow. Include your screenshot and a "contact for pricing" or "notify me when this product is available" form.
- Launch it! Submit your site to be indexed by Google. Submit it to Product Hunt, Betalist, and any other sites that will allow listings for your SaaS's industry.
Ideally, you want to find your first 10 paying users before you get serious about building your final product. You also want to figure out what your potential customers are wiling to pay for your SaaS if you can. If not a lot of people fill out the form, don't waste your time building an idea no one wants!
If you have a beta version of your product available, make sure you're actually charging for it. We're validating whether or not users will pay for your SaaS, not whether or not they will use it for free. Free and paid customers are not always the same people. Don't worry if you don't have a login, or have to set things up manually for each client. Wistia didn't have a login for 4 years after they launched.
When in doubt, just ask! If you have freelance or agency clients, just ask them if a product like that would solve their problems, and what they might be willing to pay for it. In my experience, clients love giving their opinion on these kinds of things.
What If Validation Doesn't Go Well?
Sometimes you can often just change your target market to something similar. Maybe businesses don't want your software, but what about schools? YouTubers? Writers? There's loads of other markets out there, see if you can adapt to something else.
Make sure you're listening to all the feedback, complaints, and questions. Do you hear any common trend among them? Can you pivot your idea into something that works for those people?
Lastly, if all else fails, just move on to the next idea! You should be working with a large list of ideas, so it's no big deal if one doesn't pass validation.