Being an entrepreneur is hard work, incidentally, you as entrepreneurs prefer it the same way. The challenge of turning an idea into an actual startup can be exciting and spur you during those hectic times. But how do you know which startup idea should be pursued in the first place?
Identifying which idea to work on, is the single most important decision a founding team should make. Execution is important but is too elementary a concept to be a decision by itself. Team is important as well but once it is established, it remains constant.
Here are a few typical approaches to pick the right idea:
- Make something easy: Uber made it easy and convenient to hail a cab, even before you stepped onto the road. Social media tools like Facebook and LinkedIn made it easy to stay in contact with each other. Market size is not always a good potential for success. Instead, how your product makes your end-users or customers happy is the deciding factor. Fewer happy customers, in the beginning, will eventually pave the way for a bigger market.
- Make something cheap and accessible: Everyone cares about money and if your product facilitates it, then that’s a great value proposition. Technology companies like Apple and Samsung made most advanced technologies accessible to a consumer at an affordable price. But bear in mind, social software follows a different path than e-commerce. An Instagram would vastly differ from Amazon, for example. Social media will focus on user engagement and word of mouth, whereas e-commerce business will concentrate on using an already existing large user-base who can be monetized via customer lifestyle offerings and usage traffic ads.
- Make something that entertains: Music, gaming, video, and media companies fall into this category.
- Build on something which can empathize with your users: As an example, if you were already building software at your employer, you may still want to build it on your own from a specific perspective of a procurement officer or an IT manager.
Once you know WHAT to pick, here is HOW to pick the right idea:
- Maintain a log of stuff that ‘irritates’ you (as an end-user) throughout the day: As they say, the painful areas are the best places to look for a new line of business. Life has all sorts of inconveniences and this is where an idea like Uber or Ola takes root.
- Investigate your credit card or expense statements: Explore the opportunities of how to reduce your spends or recurring expenses.
- If you are employed, explore the biggest challenges that you face: Very often, corporates have their priorities and what makes your life difficult during your daily work-day, is low down the order of importance for your employer. And if your challenge is also faced by a handful like you, there might be an idea to click upon.
Brainstorm a particular idea for a couple of weeks or even months, before committing to it. Once you have figured out what you want to build, the next step would be to evaluate it from the user perspective. A common observation with most startups is that they tend to overlook user research as an essential tool and a skillset to build a usable, and hence saleable product.
Here are a few pointers as to how user research plays a vital role in business along with the corresponding challenges of keeping it at bay –
The most fundamental reason for doing user research is that it’s the only way to achieve an understanding of the end-users of your product and thus making the right ‘design’ decisions. As a technique, user research focuses on understanding user behavior, needs, and motivations through observation, analysis and other feedback to fuel the design process.
Here are some key objectives for user research and how it positively impacts your business:
- Build an empathetic, user-focused product that aligns business strategy with the core needs of users.
- Understand how people perform tasks, to design an effective user experience that increases user acquisition and retention.
- Create shorter development time upfront, with a clear vision of what you are trying to build.
- Avoid costly downstream fixes, after time, effort and money are invested in a less than ideal solution.
Many times the founders position themselves as the ‘user’ assuming that they ‘know’ what the user wants. The rationale is, it’s their product, their idea and hence they know what they are trying to solve within the market. But this highly flawed thinking – a founder will ‘never’ use a product with the same mindset as a user.
No business, irrespective of its size, is immune to product failure that stems from failing to understand what users want. User testing, observations, and recording user journeys can be key in unlocking what is working for your product’s look and feel, versus what isn’t. It will also enable you to make informed decisions and continuous improvements in your products. With an insight-driven design and development environment, you will ensure that your product is optimized for the user which, in turn, effectively optimizes your growth as a business.
What is the most effective User Research for my business?
Broadly there are two main types of user research, and for any business, these two have specific merits depending on the stage of your product life-cycle.
Quantitative research – is the form of research that can be measured numerically. This answers questions such as “how many people clicked here” or “what percentage of users can find the call to action?” It’s valuable in understanding the statistical probability of what is happening on a site or in an app. It gives an overview of where your design might not be working, However, this may not be the most useful type for startups.
Qualitative research – is where startups can extract more value while analyzing the user journey. The sole task of qualitative research is to observe design features and evaluate where they are successful. It answers questions like “why didn’t people see the call to action” and “what else did people notice on the page?” and is often driven via interviews or conversations with the end-users. The research can effectively help understand why people do, what they do. This is much more useful for a business getting a viable product to market, and then improving the conversion rate of successful customer journeys. Typically, qualitative research is:
- Ethnographic studies
- Participant observation & analyzing
- User feedback sessions
- Focus Group Discussions
Why do entrepreneurs hold back on user research?
Often startups are constrained by funding and have budget limitations, which can impose restrictions around conducting research. Below questions could facilitate your thinking on user research:
- Does the need for our product exist? How big is it is market potential?
- What competing products have already entered the market? How much market share have they gained?
- Who would we see as the customers for our product? What are they trying to accomplish? What pain points and motivations do they have? How do potential users currently solve their problems?
- How likely will they buy our product? How much would they pay?
- Does our product solve their problems? How intuitively can they use our product?
- How do they use it? How satisfied does it leave them? What features do they find the most important?
- How can we get more of them?
An effective strategy could be to look at building a valuable product and when it goes live, bring in user experience (UX) consultant (Benefits of on-boarding a start up advisor) for a few weeks to conduct wide-ranging user research (UR) processes to maximize the insight for your product.
Entrepreneurs tend to sometimes live in a bubble where, in their minds, the idea works perfectly. However, this may not be a reality. As entrepreneurs, it is essential to get out of your bubbles and talk to real customers. You must avoid talking about your solution, but ask potential customers about their problems, without biases.