Before opening a new business, it is always useful to check that the assumptions you made on your business model canvas are fact-based and reflect reality. On paper your business plan will seem to work perfectly, but you must prove everything you wrote through testing and investigation. This step allows you to find mistakes or wrong considerations before investing your money in the wrong direction.
You can use this article to learn how to investigate and test your business project.
If you have done a good job in designing your business plan, you should know exactly who your target customers are and why they want your product or service. But to be really sure they would buy it, you have to ask them.
To test your project, you can select people among your family members and friends who have a profile similar to that of your ideal customer and ask them questions. You can also get in touch with your network via telephone, email or by arranging face-to-face meetings. Also use social media to promote surveys or simple open questions and ensure that your content is shared with people of the target group you are looking for.
Investigation methods for your customers
You have several methods to get the information you need, and trying a mix of them will help you check if the answers you are collecting are leading you in the right direction. These are:
- Surveys: create a questionnaire with the information you need to check, make sure it is short, simple, understandable and that the person is able to complete it independently.
- Chats or interviews: imagine that you can conduct them on the phone or in person, set the time frame and state it initially, so that you know how much time you will have to ask questions to your interviewee.
- Questions on social media: use social media to launch polls, ask questions, create discussion around topics to gather the information you need.
There are people who are specialized in creating surveys and interviews. In fact, sometimes when we ask questions, we might unintentionally influence the person we are interviewing, thus invalidating our test. For this reason, you can ask someone to assist you during the interviews or when you are drafting the surveys (especially if you are not fluent in Italian), so that you can count on an objective opinion.
Partners can be an excellent source of information. It is not necessary to meet directly the specific partner you consider ideal for you - you can just have a chat with organizations similar to those you consider key partners. They can give you very important insights into the market and the needs your future partner might have. Since they are already operating on the market, they have probably already experimented, made mistakes and found solutions. This means that any suggestions can be helpful and you can make comparisons with all the other information you are gathering.
Forget the idea that someone can steal your business project. No one will, and the biggest mistake you can make is to keep everything secret, not gathering enough feedback to change fundamental parts of your project before you go into the market.
Knowing the costs you will incur is too important to be based simply on your personal estimation or information read here and there online. Therefore, you should get real quotes as if you were already in business.
For example, you can check real estate advertisements in the area where you want to open your physical shop and contact real estate agencies, or ask a web developer for a quotation of how much your online shop will cost.
You should also understand what kind of contracts you will have to make with suppliers, whether they have minimum quantities of what you will have to buy, what payment and invoicing methods you will use. Get quotes for everything you might need to run your business; from raw materials to energy consumption, or even the consultants you will need the support of.
Try to estimate the costs of labor as well, it is important to understand the difference between having a stable employee or working with freelancers just when you need ad hoc services from time to time. So that by the time you start looking for the expertise you need, you will already have a clear idea of what you will be able to ask for and how much to offer to the expert you are looking for.
Regarding both partners and suppliers, if you decide to contact them by email and have doubts about your Italian skills, you can ask someone to check and correct the text of your email. Sometimes grammatical errors can make the recipient of the email suspicious and make them consider your communication as spam emails or an attempt of phishing or fraud.
One more reason
The survey and test phases will be also useful to give credibility to your business project before any potential financiers.
Demonstrating that you have gathered feedback, fact-based opinions, a list of potential customers and interested partners, market data, quotes, and suppliers ready to serve you, will prove how much time you invested in your project and all the knowledge you acquired during the process. Therefore, you will give your possible financiers valuable proof and enough data to trust you and this will automatically provide validity to your business project.