Get out there and talk to your potential customers. Regardless of how clever your business plan or how advanced your technology, the real test for any business is in the marketplace.
By all means bounce ideas around your team, conduct desk research, refine and develop your plans – but remember they are really just theories about how the market will respond. Perhaps stunningly original and well developed, but still theories nonetheless. And your success ultimately depends on how they work in practice…
In most cases, the "build it and they will come" approach exposes you to far greater risk and cost than is necessary. No point rushing to market with a product no-one wants, and finding out (by way of deafening silence) that maybe you should have done things differently.
It’s far better to get market feedback before you’ve committed your precious time and money. And it’s as simple as getting out and talking to people – especially your target customers and potential channel partners.
Before you do, take some time to clearly think through why you believe your business will succeed, and what key assumptions lie beneath your reasoning: e.g. customer segment X values convenience more than price; a Y% commission is reasonable; distribution channel Z will take on a new product at their standard trading terms; hosting costs will be less than $A; etc
This process gives you a list of things to test. Now get out there, talk to people in the market, and keep an open mind. Talking doesn’t mean pitching – it’s not about convincing them that you’re right, but about gathering evidence you can use to either support or to disprove your theories.
No-one (at least no-one I know) likes cold-calling. But a few hours of calling potential customers and business partners can do wonders for your new business. Very quickly you’ll find out which theories are well-supported, which are just plain wrong, and which ones are in a controversial grey zone of conflicting opinions.
Talk is cheap. But the insights you will get from pressure-testing your business concept can be priceless.