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Ready to validate? Here's the first step.

If you haven't caught on - we believe that customer and market discovery should be the first pieces of the "building a startup" puzzle. Discovery gives you a better sense of your market, customers' needs, and the problem that needs to be solved, but it doesn't directly test your solution in the wild. The best discovery work doesn't discuss your concept at all! Discovery is just the beginning of a multi-faceted research approach. Identifying a problem and your customers' needs doesn't necessarily mean that you've created the right solution; that is where validation enters the scene.

In-market validation is an exciting time for many founders, as it is the first time the product gets into customers' hands and is introduced into the real world. It's like taking the training wheels off a long bicycle ride. The challenge with setting up a validation study is that there is no "one-size-fits-all" model to tell founders when to start validating or how to do it. The type of validation work needed depends on the product, the customer set, and the unique company KPIs used to measure its growth and success. Fortunately, qualitative work can be very similar across products and industries, which is where we will focus today.

Let's begin with the "when."

You should only start validating your product after the design and discovery phases of the research process. Why? The discovery process lets you hear exactly how your customers describe their needs, pain points, and blockers. You can then leverage this information to revamp the design of your product, be it the messaging, the leading value propositions, the format with which you reach out to customers, or your target audience. By completing the first two steps, you can take a relatively abstract idea and transform it into something that resonates with your customers on a deeper level. Trying to validate your concept before finishing these steps, which is what usually happens, actually takes much longer to complete, as you will inevitably be making the same changes, pivots, and decisions that should have happened during discovery.

Up next is the "how."

While you will inevitably need to conduct quantitative validation studies throughout the lifecycle of your build, you should always begin with qualitative research. Qualitative validation allows you to walk your customers through your product and gather in-depth feedback that would not be possible in a quantitative setting. Let's walk through a few core steps in conducting qualitative validation.

  1. Turn assumptions into hypotheses. At this stage, you need to validate the parts of your product that you believe in the most and those that you believe in the least. Don't be afraid to test the hard things! Here are a few examples of assumptions turned into hypotheses:

  2. Assumption: Our UX is the best on the market; hypothesis: users can self-navigate in our app without any intervention.

  3. Assumption: People understand what we offer; hypothesis: after visiting our website, our customers can concisely define what we do and how we do it.

  4. Create a learning plan. After identifying your hypotheses, you will list them in one place to create a learning plan. A learning plan keeps your study on track, allowing you to quickly identify which hypotheses are supported or need further testing.

  5. Draft your questions. For each learning objective, create 2-3 questions that you can discuss with your customer. At this stage, you can ask directly about your product and experience. Be direct but remain open-ended.

  6. Recruit participants. Reach out to the people you spoke to during discovery – you've got a great opportunity to show them that you heard their concerns!

  7. Talk to potential customers. These calls are shorter than discovery calls, usually 30-45 minutes, but you will likely have several rounds.

  8. Convert customers if possible: Towards the end of the call, give your participants a chance to become customers if they like. Ask for permission to add them to a waitlist, a research pool or gather their emails for future conversations.

  9. Synthesize your data. Revisit your learning plan and analyze the data accordingly! You should easily be able to sort the data if you did step 2!

  10. Pivot and Iterate: Use the data to change your product or company. Then kick off another round of testing until you can confidently say that you've addressed your customer needs!

The steps above are intended to help you conduct the research and have conversations consistently and scientifically; however, you will need to customize the approach for your company and product. You will have to decide how your customers will be exposed to your product (app walk-through, website, pre-work, etc.), how you will recruit them, and how you will use the information to further your company's evolution. If you're struggling to figure out how to make these decisions, reach out to us! Personalizing your research plan is our specialty!

Measure Twice, Launch Once. 🚀

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