Startup Advice : Survey Or Direct Presentation To Potential Customers?

One of my blog readers wrote the following and I asked him whether it's okay to reply to his questions via our Entrepreneurship / Startups section. He agreed. I'm posting his email below and my response in the reply -

I am a regular reader for your blog and am aware that you own a start-up. I actually need a suggestion or input. I have an idea and feel that if implemented and executed correctly, it can work. Its an online venture and will need a website built for user interaction. I can create a working prototype and can make website up and running. However, this effort will require some amount of dedication in terms of time. I personally feel that before jumping into all this, it will be wise to test and validate my idea to see if it really appeals the community for which I am trying to solve the problem. The couple of ways with which I can do this may be -

1. Creating some kind of survey and ask consumers about what they feel.
2. Talk directly to my prospective customers. May be I can present them my idea (without working prototype) and see what they feel.

I would like to know if this approach will work or I need to think of some other way ? If I go with approach# 2, then what are things that I need to keep in presentation that can make maximum impact on my customers. Do I need to present them my idea without revealing its finer details ?

Any thoughts/input on this will be of great help.


  • Kaustubh Katdare
    Kaustubh Katdare
    First of all, I like the serious thinking you are putting in your business idea. Not many people do it! You're on the right track. My response is purely based on the information you've provided and have no idea about the kind of service / product you are trying to build, what type of efforts will be required to build a prototype and what's your plan to hit the markets.

    1. My advice / experience is that surveys aren't a great a way to evaluate whether the product / service will be successful. People often do not know what they want. It's entrepreneur's job to make people aware of their needs / wants / problems and then offer a solution. Instead of letting people imagine about your products / service, put it in their hands and then ask them for a feedback.

    2. I'd suggest investing time in building a prototype first. Even if the prototype you take to the customers is just 20 - 30 % of what you want it to be. It's okay to take an imperfect product to the customers than PPT slides describing how cool the product is and how it solves their need. Your job will be to impress the customers with your half-done prototype and then make them excited about your product by telling them what you're working on now.

    Again, I'm assuming you'll be able to finish your working prototype in 2-3 months. I think that would be the time well invested in your business. A word of caution: Don't try perfecting your product before taking it to the customers / investors.

    I hope this helps. If you have questions, feel free to post them below.
  • Apurwa.Thakur
    Market already did lot of survey on goods and services.i thinks we can learn from that survey and analyses that what costumer want .If you want to start website ,you can check about popular websites.
    if you want to start a business of new product ,i think go on n take a risk.Who know on day it will be popular and you become branded .

    long year ago ,One man sold his hand making surf door to door .And in present he the owner of India's most popular detergent company.
  • Nayan Goenka
    Nayan Goenka
    You can also take help from online surverys which have been conducted by various researchers over time. You can look for your nearest matching one. Plus as #-Link-Snipped-# already said, People dont know what they need. You have to make them aware of it.

    So this leaves us with second type. if your customers are mass public, then it is good to let out a prototype working roughly 20-40% of actual idea. This can provide good advertisement on its own. If your audience is individual and selected group of people, then its better to present it via Videos or presentations or seminars. But again, if you are looking for INVESTORS to invest in your idea, then you better make a 60-70% prototype.
  • Abhijit Dey
    Abhijit Dey
    I believe that a prototype is the best way to survey what the consumers or your target market want. Steve Jobs had said during the keynote of the iPad launch that people don't know what they want. iPad was something that the people never thought could have become so useful in their lives.

    Prototypes have another advantage to which you can get more ideas from. People may use your prototype in another way you had not intended to do. With an example, Twitter was supposed to be a micro-blogging site but people turned it into a social networking site which made it more popular.

    As myself working on a startup, I really know how working on a prototype is important, especially when you're working on something that is already there in the market and you're trying to build a better one.

You are reading an archived discussion.

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