Pay-Per-Click Rapid Market Validation: If You Build It, Will They Come?
Your consumer has a problem, and you believe you have the perfect product solution. However, before you throw resources into a prototype, you want to know whether there is a stable market for it.
You don’t have funds to go the traditional market validation route, which could take 60 days or more to have a consulting firm validate your product idea. If there is no market, you’ve just wasted thousands of dollars. Your dreams of being a successful solopreneur could be over.
If you're looking for a low-cost path for rapidly validating the market that could quickly place your product idea before potential consumers and give you the confirmation you need to develop and distribute your product, strategic pay-per-click (PPC) advertising may be your answer.
We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to validating your product idea via PPC advertising. While it draws inspiration from traditional market validation, it comes without the lengthy timeframe or the hefty investment.
Step-by-Step Guide to Validating Your Product Idea Via PPC
Step 1. Identify The Problem
You either have a problem or have witnessed a problem that needs solving. You have a product in mind that seems to be the ultimate solution, but you need a way to test and validate your idea before you build your prototype.
Chances are you are dealing with the problem, or know someone who is, and that is what generated the concept. However, you need more to rely on if you are going to be successful. You need to visualize the problem from a state of empathy.
The way to do this is to ask yourself a set of questions that allow you to dig deep into the consumers’ deepest pain points. You’ll then use these answers in Step 2 to clearly define how your product idea will bring resolution.
With that, ask yourself:
- What problem am I solving?
- What is the driving force behind it?
- What are risk factors involved?
- What does the consumer experience when the problem occurs?
- How is the problem currently resolved?
- Who is the person with the problem and what characteristics define them?
- Age range
- Financial status
- Geographical location
For reference, let’s see how these questions and consumer characteristics would play into problem identification if we were seeking to resolve a problem for a person with sun allergies:
- What is the problem?
- Sun allergies
- What is the driving force behind it?
- Sun exposure
- What are risk factors involved?
- Certain medications
- Exposure to chemicals
- Medical conditions
- Congenital (inherited)
- What does the consumer experience when the problem occurs?
- Physically (itchy red rash, crusting, scaling, bleeding, blisters or hives)
- Emotionally (embarrassment, frustration, anxiety, lack of confidence, etc)
- Other (refrains from going outside and engaging in outdoor activities during peak hours)
- How is the problem currently being resolved?
- Mild cases may clear up without treatment
- More severe cases may call for steroid creams or pills (dermatologist)
Now, what do we know about the people who are plagued with this problem? Here are some facts we found to help give us a full view of the consumer who has our problem:
- All races and ethnic groups can be affected, but Caucasians account for the majority of cases.
- An estimated 10% to 15% of people in the U.S. have sun allergies.
- Women are most likely to have sun allergies, and symptoms typically begin during young adult life
- Sun allergies are more common during the spring and summer months
- A variety of ages are susceptible due to the broad nature of the risk factors
- Symptoms may last for as little as 30 minutes or may persist year-round
Step 2. Define How You Can Solve The Problem
Take note of how you foresee your ideal product resolving the problem for consumers. Be specific as possible.
- How does your product solve the problem?
- What are the key features of the product?
- If there are a variety of consumers dealing with the problem and there are certain drivers that cause the problem, who is your product best suited for?
- Better put, whose pain point runs deepest?
If we are to refer back to our example, your idea for solving the problem could be designing a piece of fashionable, yet breathable sun-protective clothing with built-in sun protection factor of 50 or more and a broad spectrum of protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
Since chemicals can be avoided and perhaps medications could be swapped to prevent or reduce photosensitivity, your ideal customer would be someone whose sun allergies have been inherited or someone who has a medical condition (e.g. autoimmune disease) that causes it to be brought on.
The latter two, then, will always be at risk and may always have a need for a product that protects their skin from the sun.
Step 3. Conduct Interviews with Potential Consumers
As problem-solving as your product may feel to you, there is no guarantee consumers will agree. You need to conduct primary research to validate your assumptions about the problem and determine whether your product idea is valuable and, if not, what can make it valuable.
Rather than waste time building an audience organically—which could take weeks—join a forum or online support group specifically for people with the problem you are looking to solve. Bloggers or book authors who have written about the problem are also useful sources—for our example, we found a blog post from a woman who travels with a sun allergy, and she teaches others how to do it too.
The best thing about forums and online support groups, versus say social media platforms, is that they have built communities around the problem, and the people who engage in them are looking to share their stories and find solutions. But the biggest bonus: Should your product validate itself, these people could be your early adopters!
- First, explain your product idea and why you’re passionate about solving the problem. When potential consumers know you have an emotionally vested interest, they are more willing to comply and provide in-depth feedback.
- Next, ask open-ended questions to better understand the nature of the problem, how it affects different subsets of consumers, and what product solutions or features the majority agree would best resolve their problem.
- Last, take the answers you received and analyze them with one or more people in your trusted circle who are critical thinkers and can be the pair of eyes you need to point out potential barriers or concerns you may not see.
Here are some examples of open-ended questions you might ask:
- How would you describe your problem?
- How long have you been dealing with the problem?
- How old were you when the problem began?
- What is the cause of your problem?
- In what ways has the problem affected your life (physically, emotionally, mentally, etc)?
- Are you looking for a solution (or other solutions) to your problem?
- How are you currently solving your problem?
- If products, what are your likes and dislikes about these product solutions?
- Where do you purchase these products? How often and for how much?
- How do you use these products, and how often?
- How did you learn about these products?
- What marketing channels did you review before making the decision to purchase? (e.g. review boards, social media, etc.)
- How would your ideal product solution look and function?
- What specific features would it have?
- How would you envision yourself using it?
- Based on the description of my product, would it satisfy your needs?
- Could you use it as is or does it need improvements?
- How much would you be willing to spend on a product like mine (either as is or with modifications)?
- What would prevent you from purchasing?
These will elicit the broadest response, as the consumer is given the license to explain every facet of their problem, identify product features that matter most to them, and set product boundaries. But if you also want data to also fall into clearly-defined buckets, you’ll propose closed-ended questions as well—they allow the user a select number of options from which they can choose.
As to not overwhelm the interviewee and hurt your chances of getting them to comply, you should give some open-ended questions and others closed-ended questions.
Step 4. Map Out the Consumer Journey with Persona Story Maps
No matter the problem and its severity, every consumer has a buying journey. This means your potential consumers will be in different phases.
Before you test out your product idea with PPC advertising, you must know how to tailor your messaging so you attract consumers at every stage. For this, you need the aid of a persona story map.
Take the information you’ve gathered from Steps 1 through 3 and use it to build this 2-D map. The consumer and their problem will have more layering, providing you a visual of all the touch points, motivators, demotivators, and hurdles you buyer personas will face as they move through the buying process.
With everything before you, you’ll be able to:
- Surface and document how a consumer’s needs and wants change through their journey
- Understand how your consumers will make purchasing decisions
- Pull forward product features that matter the most
- Identify the touch points consumers come into contact with before making a purchasing decision
- Understand the emotional triggers that will drive your consumers to buy
- Create the right content/messaging to attract qualified leads
- Keep your product consumer-focused
- Learn what the consumer cares about in each phase of engagement
- Gain a holistic view of the consumer, not just a perspective on their interface
Step 5. Set the Stage for Your Product Idea
You might not have a product yet—you just have an idea—but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your idea legs by creating a quick website so you can house the landing page and signup page/waiting list you’ll use in Step 6 when you test your product idea in a real-world setting.
Sounds odd to set up a website without an actual product to display, yes, but many of today’s solopreneurs have learned that the idea is more valuable than the product.
What we mean by this is you could develop a product first and place it on a landing page on your website and drive traffic to it through PPC advertising. But later you could find out there is no market for the product. You’ve now spent money on developing a poorly received product that will live nowhere but on that landing page when you could have just presented the details of your product idea and seen what traction you received—at a fraction of the cost.
It was this smart thinking that paved the way for CheckMaid.com and Tailwind.
“We actually validated [the idea] without having any cleaners to do the cleanings. We threw up a site, a booking form, a phone number, and ran some [pay-per-click] ads through Google and Bing, and saw what the conversion rate would be had we actually had cleaners.” Alex Brola, co-founder, and president of CheckMaid.com.
“We stood up a signup page, bought some AdWords traffic, and people actually started offering to pay us! We didn’t actually charge them, but we learned we were onto something.” Danny Maloney, CEO, and co-founder of Tailwind, a Pinterest analytics tool.
Step 6. Test & Analyze Your Product Idea Using PPC Advertising
PPC advertising is a way to get your product idea in front of potential customers quickly, so you can confirm whether the market is truly receptive to your offer prior to investing money and time into sales, marketing, and product development.
As you’ve seen with Tailwind and CheckMaid.com, this advertising medium has expanded opportunities for solopreneurs, giving them an arena to test out and validate their ideas in the real world, using a small budget.
It is important to determine how much you plan to spend to test your product idea. Basically, how much is validation worth to you? Now, validation is worth a lot, but you have to be realistic and set budget parameters.
Remember, you are simply testing. So, an expected investment of $200 is reasonable and a sound investment at this stage.
Plan to run the campaign for at least 5 days and to set your maximum daily spend (which includes your default [maximum] bid) appropriately so it lasts over the length of the testing period.
You should also have a key performance indicator in mind, such as how many conversions you want to achieve—in your case, signups—or the number of visitors you want to attract to your landing page by the end of the campaign.
A sizeable amount of keyword research will help you align your ads with the right consumers and keep your budget parameters in check. Popular keywords are competitive and due to the amount of competition, the cost-per-click (CPC) associated with these keywords can easily blow your budget. Therefore, it is recommended you niche down your offer and use long-tail keywords, which have less competition and a lower CPC. But there is another purpose to long-tail keywords: their specificity means you’ll attract more serious buyers.
Another tip is to narrow your geographical location, as this will also reduce spending and target areas that are in most need of your product—for our sun allergy consumer, we would want to target areas where we know most people have photosensitivity.
Use AdWords’ analytics platform to identify your top 2-5 performing ads. You will want to assess CTR, clicks, impressions, reach, and conversion rates to determine which received the most attention and drew the largest amount of visitors to your test site.
With another $200, or whatever you’ve budgeted, set up Facebook ad campaigns using the top 2-5 performing ads you identified during your Google AdWords campaigns. This will allow you to see how your product idea measures up in another advertising channel.
Facebook is a platform that will allow you to place your product idea before specific demographics and interests. And because the objective of the people in this network is to engage, you will receive feedback and hopefully better, clicks and conversions.
Because you’ve already done the bulk of your testing with AdWords, you’ll only want to run these ads for an additional 2-4 days. You will be using Facebook primarily to finalize your understanding of market demand since you’ll have a much more scoped network.
Just like with your AdWords campaigns, you will want to set bid parameters and ensure your budget is able to last over the testing period.
Drop each one of your top performing ads directly into Facebook Ads. There should be very little to no tweaking at this stage since these ads have already proven to attract and the purpose of this exercise is to gauge their performance in another channel. Too many modifications could disrupt the results of the test, so keep the wording and calls to action as much the same as possible.
Just like you did with AdWords, look at your top performing ads and their metrics.
Step 7. Confirm Your Market
Based on your KPI, you will need to determine the statistical significance of the results of your advertising tests to validate your market. If you did not meet your conversion or CTR goals, it doesn’t necessarily mean your product idea was poor. What it may mean is you need to adjust your messaging.
Back to our example, people with sun allergies are concerned with more than just photosensitivity, they are concerned with wrinkles and skin cancer that could be brought on by overexposure to the sun. If you can capitalize on all of the benefits of your product idea while still sticking to its heart, it could turn the tide on demand.
If your product idea was confirmed and validated, woohoo! Now all that’s left to do is raise money so you can build your product, develop your operations, and launch—of course, testing and adjusting your marketing strategies along the way.