I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the process of creating a digital product to sell, and a while ago I blogged about the idea of creating a “Minimum Deliverable Product”, where you simplify as much as possible in order to get to the point of launching and not getting stuck forever in development.

But the idea of a “Minimum Viable Product” can be taken further. Many people use it to mean anythingthat helps you validate whether your idea will sell.

So a “coming soon” page can be an MVP. If you describe what you’ll build and let people sign up to be notified when it’s ready, you have a ready-made way of gauging how interesting people think your idea is, and how good you are at attracting visitors to your site.

If no one visits or signs up on your coming soon page that’s a sign that there’s either something wrong with your idea, or your strategy for generating web traffic.

The point is, you shouldn’t have to wait until you’ve committed months and months of effort to know whether your product idea is viable or not. If you’re going to fail, it’s important to fail fast. That way you can either abandon your idea, or re-think your strategy.

Of course, a coming soon page may not be enough to validate your idea. Maybe you want to go a bit further and offer a sample chapter of the ebook you’re writing, or a very stripped down demo of your application. By offering something concrete to download, you can often more easily gather email addresses of potential customers.

I had some good validation for Skype Voice Changer before I launched it. My open source free version had over 1 million downloads, and my “coming soon” page attracted well over 1000 sign-ups. I even got six pre-orders. So I knew that there were people interested in a paid version. And without that knowledge, I would not have bothered pushing the idea through to completion.

Now I’ll freely admit I haven’t been as successful as I’d like in converting all that interest into actual sales. But I suspect that’s more to do with my shortcomings as a copywriter / marketer, and perhaps also due to people finding it difficult to install and authorise the application.

So validating your idea isn’t a ticket to automatic success. But it’s still well worth doing as soon as possible, to avoid wasting a lot of time on a product idea that’s going nowhere.

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