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Start-up Advice

5 Ways To Validate A Business Idea, Right Now

Don’t let your day job or lack of capital stop you from finding and testing a business idea. Here’s how.

Ryan Robinson

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Last year, I embarked upon a personal challenge to validate a business idea in 30 days.

To make it even more difficult, it was a random idea chosen by my readers. They asked me to do it without using my existing website, traffic and business connections and without spending more than 20 hours per week on the project. On top of that, I limited myself to spending no more than $500 validating this idea.

The experiment was a success

In just two weeks, I built an email list of 565 subscribers without having an actual website. Then, I reached out to a handful of those subscribers and pre-sold 12 copies of a book that didn’t even exist yet, all in less than 30 days. I wrote about the experiment in real-time with in-depth weekly updates, successes, failures and lessons learned along the way, right here in my validation challenge.

Related: The 10 Best New-Age Business Ideas You Haven’t Heard About Yet

Today, I want to share with you the five most effective ways to validate a business idea – quickly and without breaking the bank, based on what I learned through this experiment and from building several other businesses over the years.

1Join an online community

online-community

All great business ideas come from solving your biggest frustrations; the ones are also facing with similar obstacles. Want to uncover which problems you could get paid to help people solve? Join a topically relevant group on Facebook, LinkedIn or Slack, where members all have a shared interest.

Start asking genuine questions. Determine what their biggest challenges are in your topic area. Through these conversations, you’ll hear first-hand from your target customers exactly what they want. This gives you an incredible opportunity to create something more valuable, effective and unique to satisfy their needs in ways that others currently are not.

2Guest posting

The logic behind guest posting is simple. Get a preview of your upcoming solution, the idea you want to validate, published and highlighted on a more popular website that already has your existing audience built-in.

Within your guest post on the same topic as the idea you want to validate, include links back to where readers can have the opportunity to learn more about what you’re building.

When I wanted to validate the idea for my first online course teaching people how to build a side business, I spent countless hours landing my first guest posts on blogs like Buffer, CreativeLive, The Daily Muse and other destinations, where I knew my audience was already reading.

Shortly after sending a cold email pitch to a writer at Buffer, my first guest post about finding meaningful work went live and in less than a week I’d amassed a couple hundred email subscribers that wanted updates on my course. The phone, email and Skype conversations I had with those early subscribers laid the foundation for the community I’ve grown and the products I’ve built.

Related: How To Recognise The Only Business Idea That’s Right For You To Start

3Facebook ads

facebook-ads

If you’re willing to allocate a budget of $100 to $200 for driving paid traffic to your landing page through Facebook Ads, you can expect to get upwards of a couple hundred highly targeted visitors to come check out the idea you’re working on.

With a previous business, my partner and I were able to validate a brand new product line before investing in it. We spent $100 on Facebook Ads, collecting leads by offering a free downloadable guide.

Then we transitioned into phone conversations with those potential customers, before landing our first $5,000 sale in less than two weeks. If you’re ready to try out your first Facebook Ads, get started and do it right.

4Giveaways

Choosing to run a contest or giveaway to help validate your idea can be massively successful in terms of growing your list of prospective customers, if you choose the right incentives to include in your giveaway. One of the most common mistake entrepreneurs make with hosting a giveaway, is awarding prizes that everybody would want to win.

Related: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!

If you run a giveaway, the prize needs to be very closely related to the solution you’re planning on building. That means no Amazon gift cards or iPhones. If you want to host a giveaway to validate your photography-related website idea, start by asking what photographers want most, which could be a free subscription to Adobe Lightroom, a new lens kit or a coaching session with a well-known photographer in their space.

Then, make sure you’re using the right giveaway platform to help incentivise entrants to share with their communities. If you can get each giveaway entrant to refer five of their friends, you can quickly go viral and build a large interest list. The Kingsumo Giveaways plugin for WordPress has this incentivised sharing feature built-in.

5Amazon reviewers

Amazon reviewers

Want to validate your product idea? Start by combing through reviews of related products on Amazon to see what existing customers like, dislike and complain about most. Focus on identifying the two and three star reviews, where the customers are somewhere between ecstatic and wildly unhappy with their purchase.

Then, click through to the reviewers profile and click the button that says show more; the vast majority of Amazon reviewers that don’t edit their default profile settings, so you’ll likely see an option to send them an email. Reference their review, briefly mention you’re building something similar that’s designed to improve upon the product they reviewed, and ask whether they’d be up for answering a few questions.

At the end of the day, to succeed in business you need to be helping real people solve real problems. More importantly, as serial entrepreneur and TED speaker Derek Sivers shared with me in a recent interview, “Start now, you don’t need funding. For an idea to get big, it has to be useful — and being useful doesn’t need funding.”

The psychological trap of needing more time, money, experience or other resources before starting to build a business holds many aspiring entrepreneurs back from ever achieving their dreams.

You have to work with what you’ve got. Start by simply validating your idea. The goal of validation is to give you relative certainty about the viability of your idea; it’s not a guarantee of success.

Related: How To Find Your Next Big Business Idea

Validating your idea today will help prove that you’ll have a growing, paying audience of customers for the solution you plan on building, before you go out and create a finished product or service.

Without validation, you run the risk of creating a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. Begin without grandiose expectations and just endeavour to be useful to people today. Help them overcome their challenges, document what works and see where it takes you.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Ryan Robinson is an entrepreneur, content marketer, and online educator, teaching people how to launch meaningful self-employed careers.

Start-up Advice

The Importance Of Being Organised For Your Start-up

If you are not convinced that it is an important aspect of owning a start-up, read on for reasons why being organised is important for your start-up.

Amy Galbraith

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So, you have decided to create a start-up. This is great news, especially if you have solid plans in place and have attainable business goals. However, if you are somewhat of a tidsoptimist or are disorganised, then your start-up could be something of a nightmare to begin with.

Being organised does not have to be difficult or take up too much time. But if you are not convinced that it is an important aspect of owning a start-up, read on for reasons why being organised is important for your start-up.

Schedules are crucial

Established business people understand how a schedule can significantly contribute to business success. You do not have to be at an executive level in order to follow an executive schedule, and setting one up for your start-up can work wonders for how your business grows.

You should take time on the weekends to plan out your week, writing down all obligations, meetings and tasks that you have to finish. Seeing your week written down in front of you will help you to stay on task and will make it easier for you to complete them on time.

Having a schedule is important, as you are the leader of your start-up and you need to stay organised and set an example for any staff you have.

Related: 4 Fundamentals To Successfully Jump-Start Your Start-up

It saves you time

Being organised saves you from rushing around, searching through paperwork to find that one invoice or bank statement. You can use business processing solutions to help you to capture and collect forms, as well as outsourced document collection to save you from having to chase clients for forms and documents.

You should invest in having a well-structured filing system, both in the office and digitally. Use neatly organised folders with clear and relevant names on them for all of your documents, bills and emails. By doing this, you can free up hours of the day to work on important tasks, such as drumming up more business through a new and exciting marketing strategy. You will also be setting an example for your team by having an organised office and computer.

Procrastination can be toxic

When tasks get put off due to disorganisation or procrastination, everyone fails. Not only will you feel bad for not completing a task on time but your clients and possible business partners will see you as unreliable, which is hugely damaging to any start-up. Many instances of procrastination can be linked to not being an organised business.

This is one of the major reasons why organisation in a start-up is essential. You will spend less time procrastinating and more time achieving goals and completing client tasks. Spend time every day organising your digital folders and your physical folders before you start working. This will ensure that there are no distractions throughout the day and you can complete all the important tasks on time and within budget.

Organisation keeps your employees on track

You cannot expect your employees to stick to their schedules and stay organised if the person at the top doesn’t do the same. As the leader of your start-up, you need to set an example for your staff, which means that you have to be the most organised person in the company. While it is important to ensure your employees follow suit, try not to be too overbearing about how they choose to organise their days.

By keeping your company organised, you will be better able to keep your employees on track, making it easier for them to finish tasks on time. This is because they will not be spending time searching for important documents that have been filed in the wrong folder (or not even filed at all) but rather focusing on completing tasks and building your profit as a company.

Related: How To Start Your Business With No Budget

You can improve customer service

By using organisation techniques, such as document processing solutions and an outsourced document collection service, you will be able to improve customer service. Problems with organisation can lead to a drop in customer service, which is highly detrimental to any start-up. Customer satisfaction is key to any return business, which is why you need to be organised.

If you have a poor billing system or are constantly losing invoices and important documents, soon your clients will move on to greener pastures (and more organised businesses). If you implement a strategy to become more organised, you will find your customer service improving. This will lead not only to return clients but to new business, as word-of-mouth travels about your professionalism and efficiency.

Keep ahead of the curve

As a start-up, you likely have a lot of competition in your industry. This means that you need to stay organised in order to keep ahead of the curve. By being more organised, you will be able to meet client briefs on time and keep to your schedule. Organisation is important for your start-up because it saves you time, stops you from procrastinating and keeps your employees on track. With improved customer service due to your efficiency, you will soon find your business growing in leaps and bounds.

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Start-up Advice

Want To Jump-Start Your Ecommerce Business? Try A Pop-up Shop

The first thing you need to know: A pop-up isn’t about stocking shelves and hoping people browse. It’s about attaining a ‘wow!’ status.

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Facebook talked a good game about its 3-D virtual-reality headset, Oculus Go, during the platform’s annual development conference, F8. Still, the social media behemoth knew that words alone couldn’t make anyone but early adopters fork over the dough.

Consequently, Mark Zuckerberg’s team made a bold, radical departure by opening an Oculus pop-up shop to showcase the company’s newest technology.

Interestingly, the Oculus pop-up was arranged, Foot Locker store-style, to give browsers the opportunity to try the device rather than instantly buy it. Sure, eMarketer predicts ecommerce will exceed the $4 trillion mark by 2020; but, as a Retail Dive survey showed, nearly two-thirds of consumers remain leery of this consumer channel. They want to physically experience merch before handing over their hard-earned cash.

Hence, Facebook gambled, not on its core platform but on the expectation that die-hard, wannabe Facebook and VR fanatics would share their experiences on social platforms, bringing awareness, hype and, eventually, sales, to an emerging product.

Not surprisingly, that was, and is, one smart bet.

We’ve come a long way, baby, but smell-o-vision still isn’t available

What makes a temporary pop-up store such a powerful differentiator? In a nutshell, it’s tactile products. Forget that people are buying stuff online; they still appreciate a solid in-person demo. Plus, a well-managed pop-up is an intriguing prospect: No basic retailer can match the energy, intensity or uniqueness of a fleeting pop-up that’s literally here today, gone tomorrow.

Besides, pop-ups make odd or brow-furrowing products easier to understand. For example: A beeswax alternative to Saran Wrap? It’s tough to envision that product’s inherent value unless you see it in action and get answers to your questions, face to face from an expert.

Ultimately, pop-up stores raise brand awareness and generate loyalty. At the same time, they aren’t the place to make sales – they’re marketing events engaging brand loyalists who love the company’s message and want to interact. Sure, new influencers are bound to stumble upon pop-ups, too, but the truest emotional connections come from people already knowledgeable about the product line.

For example, a Harry’s pop-up shop’s purpose wouldn’t be to introduce guys to its razors. How many would care? Even more important, why would they switch? The pop-up, instead, would be to magnify Harry’s branding by creating an experience for people curious about why they should use its products.

Related: Watch List: 15 SA eCommerce Entrepreneurs Who Have Built Successful Online Businesses

An ideal Harry’s pop-up would offer haircuts, shaves, hipster drinks and other memorable experiences. After getting the best shaves of their lives, super-fans would head online and do some organic referral work to spread the brand’s message.

In response, people who trust those influencers would head out to the pop-up sooner rather than later, worried they’d miss the fleeting chance to see the fuss. Their actions would be all-too-human, according to Shopify: Individuals routinely flock to scarce, novel opportunities. The reason: FOMO is a powerful force.

Eager to get started on your own pop-up adventure? One that gets tongues wagging and fingers swiping? Before you pitch a pop-up tent on the corner green next week, pull in the reins. Pop-up shops require some serious forethought and planning.

1. Choose a location that caters to your audience

When our company put up The Nest pop-up to showcase many of our clients’ brands, we picked a place where our target personas hung out: Abbot Kinney Boulevard, in Venice, Calif. It’s known nationally as one of the country’s most expensive retail streets, putting us in front of the sophisticated, high-end community our brands serve.

After picking the locale, we used the pop-up to highlight a series of rotating brands. At the same time, we kept the atmosphere fun by serving healthy vegan popsicles, playing great music and consistently engaging with visitors. The idea was to create a complete experience from beginning to end, catering solely to the people we wanted to impress.

Your pop-up should be similarly based on your ideal visitors’ profile, whether that might mean a twentysomething socialite or a hip baby boomer. When you know your audience, you can arrange a locale that fits. From that point, you should create landing pages and send emails to your hottest buyers. Take advantage of organic shares and ad-targeting, along with Facebook event-creation and retargeting. Your goal? Pack your launch party (and every day thereafter) with eager faces.

2. Ditch anything that doesn’t elicit a “wow!”

Say it with me: “experiential.” That’s the pop-up mantra. Your only job is to provide a huge, memorable experience. Forget about stocking shelves and hoping people browse – this isn’t How to Run a Lame Mall Kiosk 101.

For instance, when Target set up CityTarget, its Chicago Millennium Park pop-up, the store wasn’t like a typical suburban big box store: Instead, it offered commuters special CityTarget coffee and a few tchotchkes. One morning, CityTarget even set up a spin class. Another day, kids created CityTarget-logo-ed kites from scratch. Its final event? A launch for the full-store version of CityTarget for VIGs, or “very important guests.”

To attain “wow” status, map out every second of the pop-up flow (from the amplified, hyped launch party to the fireworks-inducing last moment). Keep the momentum going with live day events: Workshops, speakers and guest appearances keep the days hopping. Oh, and don’t forget to have a dedicated iPad to capture visitors’ emails and send instant welcome drips.

Related: 6 Steps To Building A Million-Dollar Ecommerce Site In 60 Days

3. Follow up after the pop-up becomes a memory

Pop-ups are temporary, but impressions are lasting if you re-engage your guests. The Nest lasted three months, and it wasn’t a profitable up-front endeavour. However, we set out to monetise it later by treating it as a marketing exercise to broaden our clients’ brand scopes and widths. By following up, we ultimately made money down the line.

Of course, some pop-ups buck this trend. Toms Shoes is a great example: It started as a fleeting project and ended up becoming a permanent hangout spot in Abbot Kinney. People hang out, work, drink coffee and occasionally buy Toms merch. Still, don’t rely on an immediate profit. The Marc Jacobs pop-up dedicated to its Daisy fragrance sure didn’t. To the contrary, it allowed people to use “social currency” in the form of #MJDaisyChain on Instagram and Twitter.

The way to make money is by taking the valuable connections you make and turning them into evangelists. Reach out via email and thank those who shared social photos. Then, send out coupons to anyone who missed your pop-up.

You don’t have to be Facebook or Target to get significant foot traffic and loyalist love from a pop-up store. All you need is the right location, a solid planning team and a strong after-event marketing plan. Now get out there and make some brag-worthy experiences for your target audience.

Read next: 3 Types Of Ecommerce Business Models

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Start-up Advice

5 Actionable Tips For Novice Entrepreneurs To Skyrocket Their Business

Just follow these tips and your business will certainly go a long way.

Neil Helson

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Trying to curate a listicle of suggestions that can be given to any newcomer in the entrepreneurial world is really a task. Even if there are already more than five or ten pointers in the list, they don’t seem to be enough. Myriad of changes can occur in a businessman’s journey from a startup to an entrepreneur. Still, here are some effective tips for you to get a strong foundation on which you can build a flourishing organization.

Just mix and match these ideas with your own thoughts. Finally, you will be able to overcome the obstacles that will come in your path of becoming a successful businessman.

1. Build a culture of learning around you

The businessmen who’ve already established themselves, understand that there will be loopholes in their knowledge and expertise. They never cultivate the feeling of self-content. Rather, they make sure to alleviate with a perfect commitment towards learning.

So, if you want to earn the same reputation and degree of stability in business, you must follow in their footsteps. One of the best approaches to do that could be investing in professional development training for the entire company. Try to make the most out of the resources around you like industry publications, professional network and so on.

Related: How To Start A Business With No Money

2. Co-operate with reliable partners

New business owners should never hesitate to choose who they want to work with or hire. If you are one amongst them, aim for a variation in your stakeholders and clients across different levels.

Wait! You are not supposed to look for a racial and gender diversity. Rather, it is all about a miscellany of experiences and backgrounds. You must work with reliable people.

3. Be constantly focused

You might be eager to grab every opportunity that you come across. Well, that’s not something you should be doing as a new entry in the business world. Be careful and always make sure that you are not losing track. If you end up juggling hundreds of ventures during the initial period, it will spread you thin. Finally, you will lose your efficacy and productiveness. Make a rule to deal with one thing perfectly rather than trying to manage twenty things poorly.

Wait! It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take up new projects. Of course, you must. All you need to take care of is the number of new works in your hand shouldn’t exceed your capability to accomplish them perfectly.

Related: 21 Steps To Start-Up Success

4. Work with a budget-friendly approach

Remember, you’ve started with a new thought amid millions of other ideas which are going strong for years. It is important for you to act strategically and smartly, especially when it comes to financing. You must create a business proposal which includes all the startup costs and expenses. However, make sure that you are not taking the first step with redundant expenses.

You must be clear with the idea of when it is the right time to throw the towel. Too much cash outflow can even cause bankruptcy. Before you open the doors to a new business, generating financial goals is a great idea. If you follow this tip, you will certainly be benefited.

5. Welcome failure with open hands

Of course, you’ve not gone into the business while expecting to fail, yet failure is a fact of life and every single one of us must bear it. There is no way to combat this reality.

In such a scenario, you must do what the biggest business tycoons have already done for years. Take every failure as a desired learning opportunity. It is pivotal to understand that setbacks bring a positive energy to fight back with a new enthusiasm. If everything goes on perfectly, you will not get a chance to learn something new and have new experiences. So, failure is important, make sure you to embrace it.

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