6 ways to test out your business idea before spending money to officially start it

When I first had the thought seven years ago of starting a business where strangers could hire me to be their bridesmaid, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. So before putting any money down, I decided to figure out if people would actually hire a stranger for their wedding day.

I did competitor analysis and couldn’t find any similar businesses online, so I took it a step further and asked my potential audience. After posting an ad on Craigslist, I received hundreds of messages from people all over the world who wanted to hire a professional bridesmaid.

I decided to invest in making a website, build a business plan, and create a list of different services I offered. Fast-forward, I’m now running a successful business that works with hundreds of clients every single year. Here are six ways I recommend fellow aspiring entrepreneurs test out new business ideas.

1. Write out a business plan

Map out a business plan that includes details about your target audience, industry analysis and research, how you could scale the business in six months or a year, and what your competitive advantage would be.

As you go through this process, your idea might pivot as you find out about similar companies or emerging industry trends.If you’re not sure where to start, download a free business plan template and brainstorm how you’d fill in each section.

2. Figure out the problem

Ask yourself two questions: What problems does this business idea solve, and do people actually care enough to spend money to solve these problems?

This a brainstorming gut-check to see how urgent of a business idea you have.

For example, I was thinking about starting a business around a glove for carrying a cup of hot coffee, rather than a cardboard sleeve or a cup that traps the heat that may burn your hand. But after writing down my answers to the two questions, I realized it was unlikely people would buy something new like this when other solutions out there fixed the problem well enough.

3. Research industry trends

As you’re building your business idea, keep a pulse on what’s going on with the industry. What new technology is being introduced? What does customer behavior look like this quarter? What new companies are emerging?

Read industry blogs or publications weekly, subscribe to podcasts from industry experts, and set free Google Alerts to get a daily recap of what’s happening.

4. Eyeball potential competitors

When I was thinking about my coffee glove business, I made a list of competitors who were also solving the problem of coffee cups being too hot to hold.

I researched each company, noting things like their branding, marketing efforts and social media, user design flow on their website, and customer experience. I made a list of what each company did well, what they did that wasn’t so great, what my company could do that was better, and any other competitive advantages.

5. Ask questions to your audience

Getting feedback, suggestions, and even hearing excitement from your potential audience is a great way to gain perspective on your business idea.

Find where your potential audience is having conversations online and join in. For example, I use QuoraReddit, and Facebook groups to locate my audience, browse the questions they’re asking, and use that insight as a way to enhance my business.

6. Find beta testers to test out your idea

This step requires that you have something for people to test, whether it’s a sample of the product or a soft-launch of the website or mobile app you’re creating.

Set up a way for them to give real-time feedback during every step of the experience. This information will help you fix any holes in your process and get your business ready for more consumers to enjoy.

Having an idea for a business is a powerful and exciting moment. Before you put money behind the idea and launch it, spend time experimenting to see if it’s a viable business that will be as successful as you want it to be.

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Original source: Business Insider

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