Jory MacKay
Jory is a writer, content strategist and award-winning editor of the Unsplash Book. He contributes to Inc., Fast Company, Quartz, and more.
September 27, 2022 · 10 min read

6 steps to validate your new product ideas

6 steps to validate your new product ideas

How hard is it to create a successful product? According to some studies, your chances of building a successful, revenue-generating product are only slightly better than your chances of being accepted to Harvard.

As a project or product leader, you’re ultimately responsible for building a great product. You need to do everything in your power to determine that you’re not only building in the most efficient and effective way possible, but also that you’re building the right product in the first place.

But how can you know for sure that you’re on the right path? (Without resorting to crystal balls and Tarot cards?)

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Validating new product ideas is one of the simplest ways to ensure you’re building something that users really need. The validation process allows you to get your ideas in front of real users early on and get a feel for how they’ll react to it.

Unfortunately, too many companies skip validation in the excitement of building something new. Yet unsurprisingly, focusing too much on what you’re going to build in the future takes away the chances of success for what you’re building today.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to find great product ideas, validate them with real users, and maximize your chances of product success from the beginning.

The importance of great product ideas (and where to find them)

In a world where everything is available at the click of a button, it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. It’s not an exaggeration to say that for many organizations — especially tech companies — a fantastic product is the difference between life and death.

The most successful companies in the world create products that beat their competition by being innovative and customer-focused. Specifically, those products have a genuine market need, providing a way to solve problems or create new capabilities.

The importance of great product ideas (and where to find them)

Take TikTok, for example. In a world saturated with social media, they made a new product to engage a younger generation of users in a fast, dynamic, and creative way. Even if you don’t use it, you have to admit that TikTok changed the social media landscape and forced massive incumbents like Instagram to scramble just to keep up.

Another great example is Apple’s AirPods. While wireless headphones were already an established product, users hated the design and opted for wired alternatives. Nowadays, AirPods are mainstream products, with 110 million pairs sold in 2020 alone.

But you’re not Apple or TikTok. So, how do these examples help you?

If you analyze them closely, both of these examples share the same critical elements of a great product. Here’s what we think separates a good product from a bad one:

Good product ideas… Bad product ideas…
Address a need. The best way to identify a great product is to fix a user's problem. Add no value. Products that don’t help the user achieve something provide no value.
Have a story to tell, often providing context to the problem they solve Confuse customers with their irrelevance.
Have a unique selling point (USP) that helps it stand out from the crowd of similar products. Offer nothing new. There’s no point simply doing what someone else has already done.
Create positive emotional reactions from their users, be that happiness, excitement, or relief. Are boring and unexciting for users, giving them no reason to engage with them.
Have profit potential for their organizations. Have no commercial opportunity because users simply won’t pay for them.

How to find great product ideas and develop “product sense”

Building great products starts with uncovering great product ideas. Luckily, “product sense” is something everyone can develop with time. If you’re looking to build your own TikTok or Airpods-level product, here are five ways you can start looking for innovative product ideas:

  1. Brainstorm within the team. The best place to start is to simply get together as a team and brainstorm some new ideas. Start by thinking about the pain points you have in life (relevant to a product theme) and go from there.
  2. Speak to your customers. Don’t be afraid to do the same with your customers. Simply asking them about their problems or what they’d like to do better/faster/more accurately may help you uncover a killer new product idea. For extra help, check out our guide to user research for product teams.
  3. Upsell & cross-sell. Take a look at your current products and see how you could create new spin-off products. For example, you could create a more premium upsell or a sideways cross-sell.
  4. Research upcoming trends. Keep up to date with current and future trends in your market to anticipate what’s coming next. Keeping your finger on the pulse is the best way to stay ahead of the competition and pick up on a killer idea before anyone else.
  5. Review old ideas. If this isn’t your first stab at coming up with new ideas, don’t forget to go back and review old ones. Look for hidden product idea treasure in your lessons learned or ideas from past sprint retrospectives. You and your company may be better positioned to kickstart an idea that wasn’t viable previously.

Over time, the best project or product managers develop a strong product sense capability. Product sense (also called product intuition or product judgment) is the aptitude to assess what makes a product great.

Product sense is a skill that takes time to build. As you cycle through more and more product ideas, you’ll develop an innate understanding of user pain points, how well your product can solve them, and the true profit-making potential of your product idea - skills that are critical to strategizing all stages of product development.

Most essential PM skills
Product sense is one of the most important — yet vague — project management skills. Source: Lenny Rachitsky

If you’re new to developing product ideas, here are some ways you can build your product sense muscles.

Market validation: 6 steps to validate your new product idea

Finding great product ideas is only half the battle. Even if you have the world’s best product sense, it pays to push your ego aside and validate your ideas with real people. Whatever you do, don’t just jump into development.

Here’s a six-step process you can use to nail market validation and ensure your product idea is as good as you think it is.

Market validation: 6 steps to validate your new product idea

1. Write down your goals, assumptions, and hypotheses

How can you sell an idea to your customers if you’re not clear on it yourself? Writing down the goals of your product is the first step in market validation. Be sure to also include any assumptions and hypotheses that underpin your product strategy to test those later on too.

How to do it: The easiest way to do this is to ask yourself a range of questions about your product. These could include:

Remember to use those around you to help answer these questions. It’s always good to have multiple perspectives to get rounded answers.

👀 What it looks like in action:

2. Align the product idea with your business strategy

Great products are one of the single most important aspects of a successful business. But businesses don’t just sell any product. You need to ensure your idea aligns with the business strategy to get endorsement and support to take it forward.

How to do it: This step is all about stakeholder management. It’s time to pitch your idea to senior individuals in your business who will approve it and sponsor its creation.

There are many templates out there for crafting your pitch, but we like to use our own free Planio Product Strategy template. This one-page document helps you clearly present how your product aligns with the market, user needs, and business goals.

Product Strategy Template

👀 What it looks like in action:

3. Assess the size of the market opportunity

To take your product idea to the next level, you need to assess the size and opportunity of the market. Ultimately, this is where you’ll find out whether your product will survive commercially and its likelihood of making a profit.

How to do it: This stage is all about research. You’ll want to gather as much information as possible to determine the size and shape of the market.

To do this, dig into the competitor landscape, including the current market share distribution. As well as focusing on the present, look out for future trends in your sector to identify any upcoming changes that could help or hinder your products' success.

👀 What it looks like in action:

4. Stress test the concept with real users

Now that you know you have a viable product, it’s time to validate the idea with real users. Whether you’re launching a completely new product or building on an existing one, you must confirm your users’ needs before committing any significant investment.

Stress test the concept with real users

How to do it: There are a range of tools and techniques project and product management can use to get real-life customer feedback. Here are some examples:

Whichever method you choose, it’s all about understanding the user’s pain points and validating that they think your product idea can solve them.

👀 What it looks like in action:

Even if you have the world’s best product sense, it pays to push your ego aside and validate your ideas with real people.

5. Create prototypes, mockups, and concepts

It’s now time to bring the product to life by creating real, interactive prototypes and mockups. Here you want to take the product from being an idea to something that users can actually see and use. This helps further validate the concept of your product and its value.

How to do it: In the software world, this is where UI/UX wireframes, no/low-code prototypes, and test sites come in.

The key here is to create something that can simulate the product without investing a large amount of development time. Users need to interact with these prototypes to test the concept and validate it works in practice.

👀 What it looks like in action:

6. Build, test, and iterate your MVP

Congratulations! You’ve finished the bulk of your product validation, and it’s time to start your development. In the spirit of good agile project management, remember to iteratively build your product roadmap based on continual feedback from your users.

How to do it: As you move into your development, it’s essential to keep track of everything using a central agile project management tool. This is where tools like Planio can help, bringing task management, team chat, document storage, and sprint planning together all in one place.

Planio Agile board colored according to priorities

To ensure you develop the best experience for your users, use techniques such as smoke tests, A/B testing, and usability testing to maximize your product’s value.

👀 What it looks like in action:

Don’t get stuck in these product validation black holes

The process of coming up with and validating new product ideas isn’t overly complicated. Yet, it’s still something that most product leaders struggle with.

Unfortunately, there are several reasons why you might be struggling to get your product ideas off the ground. As you go out there and come up with new ideas, try to recognize and avoid these common pitfalls:

Ultimately, don’t be afraid to take a good idea forward. It’s much better for an idea to fail quickly than for you to invest energy in it behind the scenes, only for it to fail later on.

The bottom line: Validate before you build

Coming up with new ideas is easy, but creating a market-winning product is much harder.

Most products fail because they don’t fully validate their idea with their target audience, jumping straight into developing something that simply has no value.

Too many companies skip validation in the excitement of building something new.

As a project or product manager, you’re on the hook if your product doesn’t succeed. But like many things in project management, if you follow a simple market validation process, you can align your product, business, and customers behind a single idea.

Don’t make things harder on yourself. Use a project management and planning tool like Planio to keep all of your product ideas, progress, and knowledge in one place. Planio combines features for task tracking, knowledge management, and team chat to make it the perfect platform to set the foundation of a new product idea before the ‘real’ work begins.

Build better products today. Try Planio free for 30 days!