Want to save yourself a ton of time, money, and headache? Then validate your idea and market fit before getting too tied to your specifics. Easy to say, harder to do, right?
I figured you might think that – because I’ve heard it before. Over and over. So here’s just one of several ways to start collecting some data to validate your product need (market problem), product features, customer interest, market demographics, and/or many other hypothesis that all entrepreneur develop in the early stages of their startups.
Have you heard of Google Surveys?
Google Surveys bills itself as “Easy answers for every business decision. Market research that’s fast and accurate.” and, yeah, I’d agree for the most part.
So let’s take a look at it because, while it is super-easy to kick off a survey, getting useful results takes just a bit more thought and work. Step 1, let’s get started…
From the main page just click either of the “create a survey” buttons to start the process. There are only a few steps and the online process makes it pretty easy to do.
In Step 2 you’ll name your survey (by default it names itself with the current day’s date – “2/11/16” seen in the next image). You can also now set some demographics information. If you aren’t use of your idea customer’s demographics just yet, then you might need to run a few different surveys to gauge responses across a group. Or you can leave the demographic information as vague as possible (like “general population” that I selected here). When you get the results it will allow you to do some segmentation for analysis.
If you don’t want “everyone” included, you can pick gender, age, country, and other factors to narrow down the results. Why not just use “general population” all the time to get the largest pool of people? Well, you pay per completed survey, so why waste the money? Ideally you want to narrow as much as possible so the people who are completing the survey are the mostly likely (at least as far as your current beliefs) to be ones who would be interested in your solution.
Select the demographic information and click Continue as highlighted above. The next step is where you define an actual question. Note that there are a good number of question types you can select from. Here is the format of the “single answer” option…
And here is what the “multiple answer” question format looks like…
And here is what a “rating scale” question format looks like…
There are others, and you should click around to check them and out see which best meets your need, but those three shown above are ones I’ve tended to use the most in the past when running surveys.
OK. In this example I’m selecting the single answer survey question format – at first. Something important to understand right now, is just how valuable it is (in saving you money avoiding bad responses) to narrow down your audience as mentioned above.
Besides demographics information, you should seriously consider a qualifier (aka “screening”) question. Let’s say your solution is going to be helping business owners get more customers. Not a great idea (way too vague) but it helps with this post. :) So… it could be men or women; it could be people of any age; etc. If I jump straight into the main question that I care about but only 10% of the people run businesses, I’ve wasted 90% of my survey money. So to avoid this I recommend a question that gets right to the point of things. In this example I’m asking “Do you currently own your own business?”. If they say “yes” – great, let’s then ask more questions. If they say “no”, then we don’t want to waste time or money on them.
Be sure to check the “screen with this question” box highlighted, and also check which of the answers you want to be a “screen in” (pass on to the next question) response.
Now, note that if you click “confirm” at this point (which I’ve done multiple times even though I know better) you’ll get an error message saying that a survey can’t included ONLY a screening question. If you have a screening question you are required to have another question that the people get passed to. So rather than “confirm” you need to click “add question” as highlighted above.
For this next question – starting to consider the data you really care about – you again are presented with the options to select the question type. So you can do “single answer” for screening (like I did above) and then something else, like “rating scale” (like I did below) for the next question. You have a lot of flexibility here in this process.
In this example, that is what I care about. I want to get an idea how many business owners have problems (or at least understand and admit that they have problems) getting new customers. I could just ask a yes-or-no question but maybe a rating scale would be better… because it can help reflect the level of pain related to the problem – and that is tremendously useful information!
After clicking “confirm” you get to the last page of the process. From here you will click “start test” as shown below. Note the text that I highlighted in red below – even after clicking start it will cost you nothing. Really.
Once confirmed, Google will start doing a little research on their own. They’ll make sure that they can get an accurate sample for you based on the information you entered. They’ll also determine an estimate of the number of survey responses that you can expect. Once they have that information they’ll let you know how much it will cost and let you decide whether you want to run the survey or not. If you aren’t happy with the results of their little bit of pre-research (say maybe the pool is too small, or the questions cost too much) then you have no obligation to start the survey – you can start the process over and change some of the options along the way to optimize the results.
I’ve used Google Surveys a number of times. I’ve used it in existing businesses to get some feedback on potential new features. I’ve used it to gauge customer preference to different package/payment options. I’ve used it to understand what genders and age groups have the largest concern with certain specific items/issues/topics.
In my experience I tend to spend about $500 for survey results. That’s really a small investment for something that can potentially keep you from spending months and many thousands of dollars moving down a path based on nothing more than a gut feel. Budgeting from a few hundred to even a couple thousand dollars to validate your idea, customer demographics, and more – is a great value and well worth the money. I have coached far too many people with great ideas but who never validated and then struggle with getting traction.
I hope this helps! I generally disable comments by default but I’ll enable them on this post for now in case anyone has a question or wants to share any thoughts. I always love to hear results from other people.