You've got a great idea for a new store, app or restaurant. Your friends like it. Your cousin Mike that hates everything you do loves it too. That may be enough intel to try a new restaurant next weekend, but should you quit your job and invest in a Cosby Show paraphernalia shop before doing basic marketing research? It's amazing how many businesses are started on a hunch or feeling.
Instead, budget $400 in some general digital marketing tactics to test the waters out by doing the following:
1 - Create a 1-page website - Nothing fancy. This is your digital 'coming soon' sign. It has your business' name, purpose and a way to sign up for updates. Put some products up for pre-order if applicable. The key is to keep this at one or two pages.
You can write something like 'We are testing the waters to put up a Cosby Show paraphernalia store on Main St. If this interests you let us know! We'll start groundbreaking when we get 348 signups."
Services like LanderApp and Instapage let you build simple signup pages for free for 30-days, but there are tons of freelancers and companies that will do this for you for $150 or less. This is the trailer, not the movie.
2 - Count traffic - Count your conversions using Google Analytics or any other free website statistic tool. You should be able to know who is signing up, how they got to your site and their IP address/geographical location. Geography is important to brick and motor businesses like restaurants. Pay close attention to site visitors and signups on your page from Uptown Dallas if that is where you're planning your restaurant to be. Those signups count more than a signup from China since they live nowhere near the restaurant.
3 - Generate Interest - This can be done in many ways depending on the business. Tell people that love the Cosby Show all about the store you're planning. That means going online to Cosby Show forums and Facebook pages and getting the word out. This shouldn't cost you more than the time needed to tell as many as people as you can about your proposed store.
Consider spending $100 on Twitter and Google Ads each to increase website traffic. You may be lucky to score ad credit and try these for free. Target your advertisements based on the nature of your business. Use Google Product Listing Ads to promote your stock if you have an ecommerce business. Both organizations, Google and Twitter, have tons of free support to make sure you set this up properly.
4 - Review - Evaluate your signups or transactions. If you get a lot then you've validated your assumptions. You'll most likely get less than you expected. Don't worry. Your idea is still worth evaluating if you still get a lot of clicks, impressions or site views from people in the appropriate markets and demographics.
Proper planning can help you save money and find the right business to start. Put some effort into testing your idea and proving you have something before making any rash decisions. The best companies in the world test products and services at trade shows and in small markets before rolling them out to the masses and you should too. Fools rush in.
Just ask the Huxtables.
Sajeel Qureshi is the VP of Operations at Computan, a digital marketing and software company. Computan serves as the digital department for numerous businesses throughout the globe ranging from small businesses to multinationals.
He has a degree in Business Administration from St. Bonaventure University and MBA from Eastern Illinois University. Sajeel plays tennis well enough to convince the untrained eye that he knows what he is doing and poor enough that the trained eye submits him to a drug test.