You’ve come up with what you think is a great idea. What’s the best way to test it? Whatever your idea is, start with research before you try to bring your idea to life. Go to trade shows, read trade magazines, scour the Web to learn all you can about the industry, potential customers and your competitors. Look at similar services, products or concepts and see how they are marketed, what prices they command and how they are distributed. After writing a business plan, if the idea still seems valid, a test market or beta test is fabulous if it is practical for your concept. You may find retailers who will carry the product to help you test it, target users to try your software…if it is possible to get it into the hands of people similar to those you target that is a great beginning.
Whatever you do, do not solicit your friends and family for their opinions. They love you (probably) and are not likely to give you solid criticism, constructive help or valid opinions. Talk to successful entrepreneurs in your field or a similar one, ask potential customers and consider working with a development consultant, after carefully checking his or her references.
After you do the legwork, follow your instincts and decide how to proceed after the test. Always remember that your first launch is only the beginning—you need a plan for the follow-up iterations, products or services that will keep your initial consumers engaged.
This article first appeared in the Wall Street Journal here.