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How to Ensure and Validate the Right Start-up Idea

A start-up cannot start without an idea behind it – the reason for its existence. Coming up with an idea to base an entire business on means that it has to be right. From being viable to adding value to the community, it must encompass them all. 

What makes your start-up idea right is if it solves a problem that is real and present. If it does, the next step would be determining viability. Making sure the business can run is essential. Last, yet very important, is the way the idea would help you get fruitful returns and make money. 

Ideally, getting all this done by investing only what is absolute necessary would make any business-runner very happy. One common way to do this would be by creating a prototype, running it, and tabulating results and feedback. 

The downside of this is the high cost that the start-up would have to bear, which would burn a considerable hole in their starting budget. 

However, there are several other ways to find out if you are on the right track with your start-up idea. Here are four helpful steps to follow. 

Step 1: Clearly state what your product is and show it. This could be through your social media presence or website. It could even be via slides if the pitch is going to be face to face.

Step 2: Find your minimum viable segment (MVS). This is the audience who are facing the problem you intend to solve and who can be reached out to generally in the same way. Your product needs to be saleable enough to appeal to the big market segment and target audience you are looking at. 

The solution you are presenting has to be for your audience as a whole, not customised. A start-up cannot afford or maintain giving out tailor-made answers. 

Step 3: Get a gauge of the sales you could make. Target your MVS by getting your message out to them via social media and platforms which you feel they most actively follow. 

In the case of this method not working well, collecting contact information from future customers and assuring them that you will get in touch once your prototype is functional is a recommended alternative. Obtaining their numbers or emails is definitely easier than getting their money, however. 

For in-person sales, asking your customers a few questions to have some information to work with before pitching your product would be an effective technique. 

Step 4: One of the greatest assets you can have is feedback data, and interviews are the best way to go about collecting it. Bear in mind that there is a chance that the feedback you get is not the feedback you desire. 

In this case, repeat the process. Repeat the information you are presenting to your customers. Keep at it till you gather positive data that shows that your solution is necessary and solves a prevalent problem. 

You need to be flexible enough to be open to new learnings while following these steps. Do not strictly stick to what you think you know, and do not push your customers towards a solution that seems unnecessary to them. You need to constantly test and find new results to come to the most comprehensive and accurate conclusions. 

Now that you have the tools to ensure that your idea is right, you need the ones that will help validate it. Here are some guide points to look at to make sure you are on your desired path.

KYC – Know Your Competitor(s)

After successfully completing the first and most important step of making sure that your idea is a solution that solves an existing problem – but before implementing it – researching and studying your competition is crucial

Understand their brand and the solution they are offering. Only through a thorough comprehension of your competitors can you then think of how to set yourself apart – how to secure a solid unique selling point. 

Determine who the perfect buyer for you is 

Earlier I mentioned interviewing your potential customers to gain valuable market insights. You will notice – the more data you gather – that some information could be quite repetitive. These repeating nuggets are what form the personality of your ideal buyer. Not only does this help you eliminate most target markets, you will also find out which type of audience exactly to focus your efforts on. 

Know if your idea can be monetised 

Wanting to solve a prevalent problem is a noble thought, but you will not be doing yourself or your customers any favours if you have to shut down due to your inability to make money. 

To prevent this, make sure from the very start that you have a viable revenue model. You can do so by analysing the results from your initial qualitative and quantitative validation stages.

Develop and test your main features 

Imagine a Whatsapp where you could not send emojis, or even share a funny link you want to send to your family and friends. I cannot speak for you, but I definitely would turn to another texting platform if that were the case. 

Without these core features, the product fails to deliver what it promised, resulting in customers turning away from it.

Test your main functions to answer the questions you will most likely have about  your product’s functionality and viability. More importantly, use this stage to find out whether your product truly works as the solution to the problem you are trying to solve. 

Have a clear vision for your start-up

As time passes and your start-up progresses, your idea and vision may fluidly change form to adapt to everchanging dynamics. Hardly any companies have a clear map to follow from the get go, but with time, your goals will become more defined.

Once this happens, you will be able to create the path that will take your start-up to your desired level of achievement. The picture will become clearer once you start gaining traction. 

Though this article essentially only addresses two steps – making sure you have the right idea and validating it – there are several checkpoints that have to be ticked in order to make sure these steps are achieved satisfactorily. 

If you do not address these vital initial stages first, the rest of your start-up journey would be based on an unstable, underdeveloped foundation. Getting these down to perfection, however, would definitely prove as a great start to getting your start-up to the peaks of success.

A Start-up’s Struggles and One Way to Overcome Them

When you are a start-up that is just starting out in this highly competitive, overpopulated-with-competition world, it is tough. Becoming the next AirBnb or Uber comes with an entire set of challenges. 

Acquiring first customers

When a speaker gives a speech, the hook is crucial. Whether or not you manage to get your audience’s attention at the very beginning is what determines how effectively your message is ready to be received. 

The same applies for a product or service. Once it is developed and out there, promotional efforts come into play. Social media becomes a significant marketing tool. The content a company puts out becomes their hook. 

Facebook, Apple, Coca Cola; their initial marketing efforts contributed greatly to their significant success today. 

There are countless products which are out there in the market, with their existences fading even before being established in the first place. A company’s first customers are crucial, because they are the people who trusted the product enough to try it. If they are appeased, a happy-turned-loyal customer is the best spokesperson any company could ask for. 

Traction

Any good driver knows what traction is, but the definition changes up slightly in the business world. Here it means the progress and momentum growth of a company alongside the growth of its business. 

There can be several reasons as to why a start-up is not getting enough traction. Just building the product is not enough. It does not guarantee that a start-up is anywhere close to success. The key – and hurdle – is making sure the company branding is oriented around the product, while giving timely and strong support to its customer base. 

If a product does not solve a problem, address a need, or even make lives easier or more entertaining – chances are, customers will not pick it up. They may not have a need for the product or may simply not be interested in using it. 

Poor presentation could be yet another factor for lack of traction. This may not just be of the product, but even the company itself. 

For instance, poor website presentation – if you run a start-up and your company’s purpose, value, and problem-solving statement cannot be effortlessly found out from your website, it is high time for it to be upgraded to include all these. 

Without a clear reason of why your product exists, the website essentially serves no actual purpose. 

The same applies to the company’s social media platforms. The best content communicates with your target audience by – for starters – telling them who you are, what you do, and what is in it for them. 

It is crucial to maintain an active social media presence by regularly updating your customers (followers) and constantly trying to engage them in interaction. Several start-ups lack in the latter aspect on their social media platforms, which is why they hardly get any interaction despite having large numbers of followers. 

Small team

Any company, big or small, cannot function without the contribution of its team; its people. Each member plays a significant role, and this is magnified when it comes to a start-up. 

Since the number of employees in a start-up generally stays in the single-digit range, there is a lot more responsibility on each member. A great deal more effort, time, energy, creativity and brain power are required to get a start-up’s wheels turning. Without any of these, forget exponentially gaining momentum; even keeping up the momentum already gained will be a tough task. 

The worst part? Despite all this, more often than not, the employees’ hard work may not even be seen or acknowledged by outsiders. It could be customers not doing their hard work justice by constantly not responding to social media posts, or it could be investors shooting down pitches so easily it is almost dishearteningly dismissive. 

Apart from that, every member needs to have an in-depth knowledge of their job scope and probably even beyond. While start-ups offer large room for learning, the work scope can seem so vast to the small team that it induces pressure as well. 

If a conflict occurs within the members, the impact is felt greatly. In order to not let it snowball and eventually affect the quality of work, the team has to resolve their conflicts and work amicably. 

Lack of results

Despite the entire team’s efforts, the chances of there being no results is high. Even after countless campaigns, posts and promo codes, the response rate can be dejectedly low. 

This in turn can induce despair in employees, because any sort of response would have at least given them a sense of direction. Without feedback – positive or negative – the members would desperately be trying to figure out what they did wrong without knowing where to start from. 

So, instead of working on tweaking their current campaign according to obtained feedback, the members will be feeling lost, directionless, and may even be going around in circles trying to figure out where to focus their efforts. 

Deadly, harmful reviews

It is difficult enough for a start-up to get the ball rolling without any sort of feedback or response from customers. Now imagine having to make a reputation for your company amidst an influx of negative reviews. 

These deadly reviews can do serious damage to even established conglomerates, so you can only imagine the endeavours a poor start-up has to go through to try and battle the impact of all the negativity. 

Kudusto.com.au founder Paul Ryan once said that this negativity could “cripple” small companies such as start-ups. 

Start-ups need to respond with carefully and intricately-chosen words to get themselves out of this mess, so that their customer base is strengthened and they can channel their time and energy on other aspects as well. 

The Solution (one of them, at least)

Here is the thing, though. Despite all the struggles that a start-up faces, there is always a solution. If there was not, then Grab and Lazada would not be where they are today. 

For my company, PHIX, our most effective solution so far has been none other than the formidable social media. 

Singapore has one of the highest social media penetration rates in the world, with over 4.7 million people being active social media users as recently as last year. That amounts to nearly three-quarters of the population. 

These statistics are astounding, and should thrill any founder and marketing team worth their value. The possibilities of using social media to build a business identity are endless. 

That is what PHIX did. We lost momentum and traction after getting hit by Covid, and we tried several ways to regain them afterward and get back to the few thousand rapid downloads and hundreds of active users we had post-catastrophe. 

But the best solution for us turned out to be social media; more specifically, influencer outreach. We worked with social media influencers by offering them a complementary service of their choice from our app, and they posted their honest reviews about it along with videos or photos of them enjoying our service on their accounts. 

The results were fruitful; with our downloads, active users and number of bookings growing at pleasantly surprising rates and instilling a sense of euphoria in us. 

PHIX is continuing to grow today, and it is all because we made use of Singapore’s high social media usage rate. The network effect of social media is so widespread and effective that the impact was almost immediate. 

Now that we have found our solution, we are going to pivot towards and expand on this aspect to ensure continued growth and success for our future as well. 

If you work in a start-up and are finding a way to overcome your struggles, this would be a great platform to expand on. 

As I said earlier, there are endless possibilities. So, you could try it our way, or experiment and find your own ideal social media solution to make your start-up successful.