This article was contributed by our friends at Forbes.
In theory, building a successful startup is simple. All you have to do is build a product people need. In practice, this simple startup success formula can raise hundreds of questions starting with, how do I know what people need?
The reality is, not every entrepreneur is ready to answer this question right now. I believe that all entrepreneurs go through an observation stage, during which they immerse themselves in the entrepreneurial journey before they begin their ventures. This pre-execution stage is not necessarily a research or education phase. It’s living the life of an entrepreneur through the eyes of other founders. In it, we read, observe, dream and feel the entrepreneurial excitement that naturally pushes us to take action.
If you’re eager to start a startup but not ready yet, there are a few steps you can take that will give your startup a head start, even if you still don’t have a startup idea. Follow these three steps.
1. Interview Anyone You Can Learn From
One of the first stages of every new startup is a research phase. In it, you study the market and existing players to identify untapped opportunities and start forming your hypotheses about how you can solve those problems.
Interviewing the founders of the leading startups in your space is not only an opportunity to get inspired by new success stories but also, it’s a rare opportunity to ask potentially your future competitors about the market, customers and their needs.
If you know the space you are interested in, put a list and reach out to suppliers, sellers, influencers, experts, founders and virtually anyone you can learn from, including customers. Even if you don’t have an industry in mind, interviewing entrepreneurs, learning how they identified and captured their opportunities and asking them how you could do the same is the best investment you can make in this research and observation stage.
Every interview is an opportunity to build and nurture a new relationship. Those connections will play a significant role in your startup, whether you need guidance, partners, co-founders, customers, referrals, employees, or funding.
2. Share Your Journey
Create a blog to post the interviews and the lessons you learned along the way. The blog will help you build an audience. If you share value consistently, by the time you launch your product, you will have a group of customers and supporters ready to try your solution and help you spread the word.
Sharing your journey through a blog will also help you reach new interviewees. It will help you build credibility and trust. More importantly, it will keep you accountable, which will give you a sense of responsibility to your audience and connections. Every published conversation is a step forward. Those steps will quickly add up to a giant leap forward.
3. Ask Your Connections
With an audience and numerous opportunities to ask your interviewees, you can come up with startup ideas and run validation tests before building your product. Whether you are targeting businesses or consumers, one way you can test if buyers are interested in your product is by pre-selling your solution.
If you approach a stranger with an idea or a prototype and ask for their commitment, you may get instantly rejected. If you approach an audience you are connected with, even if they are not interested, they will take the time to share their feedback and reasons.
In conclusion, notice how the three steps above, which are designed to help you build entrepreneurial confidence, are exactly what every entrepreneur needs to do to build a successful startup. Understanding the market, speaking with key stakeholders, running validation experiments and involving the customer in the journey is how you can identify untapped opportunities and understand what people need.