Friday, October 2, 2015

7 ways to prove your startup using lean concepts

By David Ronald

Although opinions differ about the merits of the lean startup philosophy, originally championed by Eric Reis, there can be little doubt that any entrepreneur will benefit from acquainting herself with its concepts.

The key principle behind this approach is to view your startup as a scientific experiment in search of a business model. This concept began as a new idea and then became so popular people now consider it common sense.

The lean method moves beyond favorable opinions and towards gathering valuable, usable evidence. Using it enables an entrepreneur to measure what works and what doesn’t. Think of lean as a scientific method, with change grounded in data from behavior, not whims.

Here are seven experiments, inspired by an article by David Teten, partner at ff Venture Capital, that you can conduct to test your business hypotheses.

Step I: Explore the market

1. Create surveys. Sending a questionnaire to your customer base is a great way to elicit feedback and discover needs. For instance, try evaluating response an incentive like: “$100 off our product when it first hits the market.” If people are eager to apply that discount to a product that doesn't even exist yet, it’s further validation of customer demand.

2. Collect pre-orders. Crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter have made it much easier to measure market demand for a product or service. By describing the product's features and offering it to the masses, entrepreneurs can get an idea of how the market outside of the crowdfunding platform would respond.

3. Run test ads. Utilize Google AdWords, Yahoo!, Bing and other platforms by creating ads that take viewers to a page soliciting email signups and possibly pre-orders. Test which ads are most effective and, instead of simply collecting emails, try to also collect data in the form of a mini survey. I suggest checking out QuickMVP, an all-in-one tool for building launch pages, driving traffic through Google AdWords and analyzing customer demand.

Step II: Explore the solution

4. Test multiple iterations of your website. Design and user experience definitely play a role in how the prospect views your startup and its offerings. So experiment with it. Launchrock is a great site for building launch pages and analyzing user data. Or try experimenting with different A/B testing campaigns using Optimizely.

5. Talk with real users of your beta product. Beta testers can potentially be your lifeline when launching a new product. To get people interested in testing out your startup, check out websites like, Erli Bird and

Step III: Explore the marketing 

6. Analyze which campaigns get the most traction. Just as you need to understand your end users, it’s also important to understand the behavior of the influencers who touch your end users. There are several social-media analysis tools out there that can help you with this, including Copromote and Bottlenose.

7. Analyze website usage. Testing what words get the most hits can give you insight into the target market. Drill down in Google Analytics, taking advantage of goal tracking, demographic information, interest segmentation and cohort analytics.

Remember, when it comes to going lean you can be a fan without being fanatical. Like all business approaches, nothing is set in stone. That’s the beauty of lean—it encourages constant analysis, adaptation and refinement.

Take as much or as little from it as you want.

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