Humans are limited by their own perspective, which is why we say "treat others as you want to be treated". Ideally, you'd treat others as they'd like to be treated but you have no way of knowing what that is. For entrepreneurs, your customer's perspective is very important. We know that, but it's a struggle for most founders to internalize this. Interviewing customers to get real and honest feedback is an art most have not mastered. One tool to aid entrepreneurs in getting honest feedback are prototypes. They can relatively cheaply communicate a vision that's a literal representation and possibly even take the entrepreneur's persuasion out of the equation.
Know your assumptions and questions when you design you prototype experiment. If you have a specific question in mind, it's easier to pick the most optimal prototype for your current problem and to look out for the interesting data points. Here are few types of prototypes and tools you can try when testing your next hypothesis:
1. Landing Page/Brochure
The landing page is the web version of a brochure.
It presents the offer your product or service is making to see how many potential customers want to subscribe or order it. Make sure to include a 'buy now' button, telephone number, or order form to see how far your users are willing to go. Depending on whether you are finding your customers on twitter or at the DMV, you might pick the digital or the print version.
Templates are great for saving time on making a professional looking offer (no one will respond if it doesn't look legitimate). Some online tools provide even more support for getting your landing page out quickly, including tools to report back metrics.
The concierge prototype is especially great for automated services. You don't have to have the full process ready to see whether it's what people want. Do the legwork yourself first and benefit from learning the intricacies of it. This doesn't scale, but it works for the first few customers. Ideally, scale and automation will come through necessity.
email, phone, paper, cash
If you want to convey an experience, you can mimic it through a step by step wizard. This is great for getting user feedback on a feature that will differentiate your product from the competition. Best way to execute on this prototype is by providing a script with directions for the end user to help them walk through the process you intend to simulate.
Dropbox before creating its' product, conveyed the magic behind their simple solution in a video. In their case it was simple to illustrate what they wanted to do but much harder to implement. A video was a perfect way to trick people into thinking it exists to see whether they'd be willing to buy it.
5. Raise funds from customers
Another strong validation tool is raising funds from your customers. Whether you do a crowdfunding campaign or tell potential customers about your product in person, if they are willing to give you money to build it, you know they really want it!
Your funders can also become some of your best advocates. Just beware of the quality of your funders; what are their motives? Did they fund your KickStarter because they want to help you or because they love your product?
There you have it! 5 simple prototypes to get your business ideas validated before making the big leap. If you're interested in testing your idea, we can help! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.