Do you have an app idea?
First off, its fantastic that you are both thinking about starting something new and looking to ensure that your idea is a good one. If this is your first time, you should know straight off the bat, the tips below go a long way to mitigate your risk but in the end there is no way to know for sure whether your app idea will work. Sometimes everything just comes down to timing & luck.
Knowing that is the first part of the battle! The second is getting started. One thing that will guarantee your app idea doesn’t work is if you never actually get started. That doesn’t mean you have to put your life savings into it. Rather its just about putting in some time to validate your idea.
The steps below outline our best advice on where to start if you have an app idea. They are all things that you can do without spending money. These 8 validation tips are all about convincing you that its worth risking your money on. If you perform these 8 steps and are not convinced that your app idea is good enough to risk it, you have your decision and should put the idea to rest.
Realistically the below validation tips can be done in any order, I have just mapped them out in a way that logically works for me:
1. Does your App Idea Solve a Problem?
This one may seem obvious but you would be surprised by the amount of people that come through our door with an idea that isn’t solving a problem, at least for the masses. There are many ways to quantify this, including some of the below points. However I personally like to fill out a lean canvas, where you are guided through the process of defining:
- The problem(s) in your industry
- The solution(s) for said problem(s)
- Your USP
- Your target audience
Nir Eyal, entrepreneur and best-selling author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products has developed his own methodology, which is as simple as asking the following two questions:
- Would I use this product/service myself?
- Will it help users materially improve their lives?
Essentially you will need to answer at least one of these two questions positively, preferably both.
When it comes to solving a problem if you want to be truly successful in a B2B market you will need consider whether you pass the toothpaste rule: will your solution enable your clients to use your product two times a day? If the answer is yes then you are truly onto a winner.
2. Research the Market!
This problem is most easily solved by already being an expert in the market. This is usually achieved by applying your app idea to an industry that you have worked in for a number of years previously.
However some times you will come up with an idea that is in a market that you are not completely familiar with. Please don’t be put off if this scenario incorporates you because there are two solutions:
- Research your market — go out there and look for statistics that prove your app idea is a good one.
- Partner with a market leader — go find a partner, preferably someone who will become a board member, that has been in the industry for a long period of time.
To summarise: no matter how you achieve it, make sure a member of your team has intimate knowledge of the industry that you are looking to enter.
I order to get practical with your new found knowledge, I would perform a simple SWOT analysis. This should give you a fair picture of what your app idea looks like in context with the industry as a whole.
3. Look at Competition!
Performing a competitor analysis for your app idea is very much linked with the above. However its such a critical part of the research we decided to look at it separately.
There are many different theories/methods for completing this. However the summarised version of what we do when creating an app:
- Create a spreadsheet (preferably in Google Drive to make it easy to share and collaborate).
- Mine the important info: Web/app links; HQ location, Alexa Rankings, App ratings and so on.
- Find out what their monetisation models are.
- Come up with pertinent factors to compare with regards to your competitor features and those that you are considering.
- Highlight what your point of difference is compared to your potential competitors.
Remember having competitors is not a bad thing as long as you have a true Unique Selling Point (USP) that you can market to your users to give them a reason to use you instead of a competitor.
4. Understand Your Clients/Users!
Knowing your client is integral to making your new app idea a success. You should have already laid the ground work when you did the research above so now its more about drumming down into the details.
For this I suggest creating at least one if not multiple user profiles. This is important for any type of business but for app its absolutely critical. There are some great tools out there to help like Xtensio but at minimum you need to cover off the following points:
- Age Range
- Technical Vs Non-Tech
- Common interests
- Online habits
- Motivations to use your app
- Other apps used
- Likely channels to be found
This is not only helpful in ensuring you are building the app for the person and getting the design right etc. Its also so important when it comes to creating a marketing plan for your new app idea.
5. Go be a Fly on the Wall!
This idea is a bit left field but hear me out. In many cases when creating an app there is a very obvious user base. If this user base, for arguments sake lets say students, are in the habit of gathering in a particular place, lets say a university, you should go there and just generally be around them.
Doing this will allow you to truly see the proposed problem in action. This in turn will help you to internally validate whether you feel as though your app idea will actually solve the problem.
6. Talk to People!
I can tell you with certainty that one of the greatest reasons why apps fail is because the founder is so scared of talking about their idea that they end up going alone and risking it. Communicating with your peers and your proposed target market is crucial to understanding whether your app idea is good enough to make money or not.
In the early stages this should be contained to trusted members of your circle. However as the idea starts to take form you need to branch out with it, tracking down your perfect customer and industry experts. If you can convince them to be on your board at the same time your are killing two birds with one stone.
Now if you are too wary that your idea will be stolen and just don’t feel comfortable, here’s another option. Use something like Survey Monkey to ask a pertinent line of questioning without giving away too much.
7. Is it Financially Viable?
Here’s the boring part! I know not everyone has an accountant’s mind (luckily) but its still important to quantify the potential of your idea. This is best done with a simple set of financial projections, whereby you define your business model (i.e. how you will make money) and stick a finger in the air as to how many users you predict you will get onboard.
I also think that its important to understand your exit strategy from the beginning. You might for instance decide that you are not too worried about making any money in the first few years. Instead it might all be about user acquisition. In this case you have to have a target in mind and at least an idea of what you will do when you reach said target.
8. Will you be able to Market your App Idea?
Last but not least, please do NOT fall into the trap of many those before you. Do not put 100% focus into the app without having any idea on how to get it out to those user profiles we defined above.
Creating a marketing strategy is a whole topic in of itself. Yet I will tell you where to start. Use your financial model to give each customer profile an annual of lifetime value. When you know this value, you know how much money you can chuck at marketing your app idea. Remember you might have to “touch” 100 potential users to get 1 signed up and using your app. That means if your value per customer is $1000 then you should be spending less than $10 on each lead.