Done with your Want Ad? Great. Now it’s time to build your prototype.
Your goal is to build this prototype today. The trick here is that it doesn’t have to work any more than what’s necessary to get feedback on it.
You heard that right: you don’t have to build a working (or even real!) prototype.
Too often, we spend a lot of time building something only then to see if anyone wants to buy it. You Economy businesses strive to do both at the same time. This saves you headaches, time, and boatloads of money.
You start out with a guess. Then create a hypothesis in the form of a prototype – or as we called it yesterday, minimum viable product. And then test that hypothesis immediately with real live customers.
With each test, you get closer & closer to what actual flesh & blood customers want to buy.
The real goal here is not to have a finished product. The goal is to have just enough to get the feedback you need.
The big question of our time is not Can it be built? but Should it be built?
— Eric Ries, author of The Learn Startup
Types of Prototypes
To get your brain thinking about prototypes, here are some suggestions. Just keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive.
- Blog Post – Yes, a blog post can be a prototype. Test out your idea by writing about it. Don’t tell people that you may be working on product, instead, showcase the problem you’re trying to solve or big idea. Let your potential customers give you feedback in the form of comments or social shares.
- Sales Page – Set up a sales page for your new service that highlights the problem or struggle you’re addressing, expected outcomes, and process. Instead of a “buy now” button, include an email optin form as a way to generate leads based on actual interest.
- Virtual Rendering – Did you know that the guys behind Dropbox didn’t build it before they pitched it to investors? Nope, they mocked everything up in Photoshop and explained how it worked. You can do the same with anything from a t-shirt design to an iPhone app to a kitchen table. Show what you come up with to real people & then gauge interest with email optins or surveys.
- Free Product – If you’re developing an information product, starting out with a free ebook is a great way to go. Create just enough to explore the topic or choose a very narrow scope and explore it fully.
How else could you prototype your next big idea?
If what you’re prototyping happens to be a service – maybe a new coaching package or custom logo offering, for example, you might only need a sales page. Just enough copy to explain why you created it, what need it’s filling for your customer, and how your customer’s experience will be improved because of it.
If what you’re prototyping happens to be a product – maybe a new t-shirt design or an app for categorizing your music library by mood, you’ll probably want some visuals in addition to a short product description or sales page. You don’t actually need to create the finished product, though. A photoshop rendering or a nice sketch is probably all you need.
In creating your prototype, you’ll be tempted to include every bell & whistle, to try to account for every detail. This kind of perfectionism is flat out unprofitable.
Concentrate on the 1 or 2 features of your product or service that make it truly powerful for your customer. Is it the quality of the materials? Is it the signature process? Is it the fresh language or flashy color palette? Your key features could be anything.
Consider what is truly valuable to your most ready-to-buy customers and leave out anything that’s just “nice.”
Enough talk, it’s time to “build.” Create your first prototype today and we’ll start testing it tomorrow.