I wrote an article called 5 steps to turn your idea into a business. There was a strong response so I’m going to further elaborate by posting an article on each of the 5 steps. Today’s post is about validated learning:
Put the squeeze on your idea
If you don’t, someone else will and it’ll end up costing a small fortune. It’s so easy to fall victim to an overly optimistic perspective that I recommend strategically identifying a small circle of friends that are pessimistic. This isn’t the group you surround yourself with on a regular basis. This is the group you present your ideas to and they do what they do best; shoot holes in your idea like it’s swiss cheese.
It’s important to remember not to take offense during this feedback process. We tend to hold our ideas (read: dreams) close to our chest and when a third party shoots it down it’s the equivalent of a sucker punch. Remind yourself that their criticism is improving your idea and they have your best interest at heart. If you can get this circle of friends to concur then you’re on the right path.
Create a framework to analyze your competitors
- Business Name
- Geo specific or online
- Domain Name
- Social presence
- Executive leadership
- Funding & partnerships
- Purpose and mission
- Products, services & pricing
- Key differentiators
- Accolades and trade associations
Use Microsoft Excel or Google Docs. Now that you have your framework start conducting research.
Follow these 10 steps to identify your customers and competition:
Never underestimate the power of search. The internet has turned into the greatest information resource mankind has ever known. Perform a Google search for industry terms and if you’re geo specific include city and state; ie. business consultants, scottsdale business consultants, phoenix consulting firms, Arizona business advisers, etc.
Allows users to analyze search volume between multiple terms. One of my favorite aspects of Google Trends is it’s ability to show news related to the search term and how it affected it’s popularity.
This is a little gem. I use Google Alerts for multiple reasons, but for the purpose of this article I’ll keep it focused. This feature allows you to stay apprised of the latest and greatest in Google results; web, news, etc. You can setup specific queries and frequency of updates. Set it up and sit back while Google delivers the data to you. Think of it as search on demand.
I received early access to Facebook’s new Graph Search and it’s been nothing short of amazeballs. Awesome for business research and a little scary if it falls into the hands of a stalker. Sign up for an invite and the Facebook team will roll it out when you’re eligible.
5. Twitter #Discover (Hashtag search)
I know my social media aficionados are loving this. Imagine a place where you can get hashtag happy and no one criticizes you. Imagine a place where hashtags actually serve a purpose. That place is called Twitter Discover and it does exactly that. Search for tweets by using a hashtag. ie. #ILoveHashTags found the following results:
Identify keywords your competitors are targeting. It’s intended purpose is for search engine marketing, but it’s also a great competitor analysis tool because it displays brand strategies; keywords, niches, adcopy, etc.
7. Become the customer
Purchase the services of your competitors, attend seminars, workshops and conferences. The Las Vegas Convention Center is a great resource for industry conferences and probably the quickest way to get a pulse on your industry.
Join social media groups and forums that specialize in your niche. Befriend would-be customers and ask questions. Share frustrations, find pain points and find a way to differentiate.
If you depend on any third party companies make sure you read the TOS (terms of services). I can’t stress this enough. If there is any confusion I recommend hiring a contract attorney. This can throw a wrench in your plans if you don’t do your due diligence.
The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing survey that provides data every year — giving communities the information they need to plan investments. Information from the survey generates data that helps determine how more than $400 billion in federal and state funds are distributed. With fierce debates in Washington that may or may not kill this program I recommend gaining access to the data you need before it’s gone.
Source of US economic statistics including national income and product accounts (NIPAs), gross domestic product (GDP) and related measures of national, regional, industry and international accounts. Use this tool to identify personal income for states, counties, metropolitan areas, micropolitan areas, metropolitan divisions and combined statistical areas.
Researching competition and validating your idea is important, but it’s equally significant to focus on building your business. Don’t believe me? Take it from Bob Parsons 16 rules for success; rule #11:
“Pay attention to your competitors, but pay more attention to what you’re doing.
When you look at your competitors, remember that everything looks perfect at a distance. Even the planet Earth, if you get far enough into space, looks like a peaceful place.”
The tools listed above are resources I visit frequently. I hope it helps you in your endeavors and look forward to reading about your favorite research tools in the comment section of this blog post.