I’m going to answer this in the way I answered it for a similar obstacle specifically for software business ideas on another forum.
Go ahead, read this, and be cynical in the comments and ask me questions.
Also, I’ll be dropping free services whenever I can, without linking to them so save this answer so you can refer back to it.
Pick Your Poison (Market)
If you don’t want to spend the rest of your life selling to alcoholics, don’t pick wine & spirits. Also, if it HAS to be a boring market, be ready to have an exciting hobby.
Btw, don’t be me and pick a market that has potentially awesome people, but no money to spend.
You know it’s a digital product, but not sure for whom. Do this:
Is your potential client already using some other software?
How approachable are the decision-makers (phone, email, social media)? The fellas over at Angel List VS CEOs at Fortune 500 companies;
Don’t go after your wantrepreneur friends at Amway, do go after like-minded people running their legit hustles (nothing less than $110K per year as a small business);
You’re able to extract a pain point within 10 minutes of your conversation (more on this as you scroll down).
The more of the above list items you can nod at, the better the chances of having selected a solid market.
Hit Them Up!
Start with your warm network, friends & family (but NO MULTI-LEVEL MARKETING drones ).
Let them know what market you’re after and if they’re growing their business too because you’re trying to learn more about their #1 pain point;
Go through your social networks (LinkedIn & Facebook groups specifically) and engage them at an authentic level to learn more about what keeps them awake at night.
You’re not selling anything, so listen;
Don’t be that guy. Ask genuine questions and find out more about it within your friends, family, and professional contacts;
Contact them with a simple message of who you are (your mutual friend), why you’re reaching out about, and if ANY of what you’re saying resonates with them, to hit reply and tell you what’s the BIGGEST OBSTACLE they’re currently facing in their business. If you have a list of 25 contacts, know right now that you won’t get 25 responses. Play the qualified numbers and look for patterns as the responses start to come in.
Rinse & repeat until you get about 50 responses (this is a rule-of-thumb, not the recipe) and look for patterns to close in on your niche.
I.E. Use this “ad-libs” email template as your initial message for people that share a mutual friend:
“Hi [LEAD NAME]. I’m [YOUR NAME] and our mutual friend, [MUTUAL FRIEND’S NAME] recommended I reach out to professionals in the [NICHE] market to learn more about their biggest obstacles right now and your name came up. I don’t have anything to sell. Is this something you’d be able to help me with? There are no wrong answers. If any of what I’m saying resonates with you right now, simply reply with “YES” and I’ll follow up with a link to my calendar to get on a 10-minute call to learn more about what’s keeping you up at night.”
Again, this is a TEMPLATE. You’ll find your own voice depending on your market and your style. The goal is to get a decision-maker ON THE PHONE with you.
Use a free service like calendly[dot]com to set up and connect your schedule to show your availability and let them do the work for you.
If you don’t want to give out your personal line, I recommend uberconference[dot]com to talk over an internet connection and you can give out the same URL or PIN number for them to connect with you. Skype works too, I guess.
You’re Talking with Them, Now What?
Dude, you’ve done the HARDEST part of this training, getting a decision-maker on the phone with you.
If you’re a weirdo over the phone, you’ll just have to practice this part. More or less, here’s the script, ask them and listen:
“Hi, [REITERATE WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU DO IN TEN BREATHS or fewer]”
“Can you tell me more about what you do on a daily basis?”
“Of those tasks, which one is the hardest and/or taking the longest to accomplish?”
“What is this costing your business?”
“If this obstacle were to be solved, what would it mean for you, both personally and at a professional level?”
“In an ideal scenario, what would your success look like?”
If you’ve read this far is because we both know your ideas suck. So LISTEN to THEIR problems and collect that information. You don’t have a business, logo, website, or friends (you don’t).
Here comes the secret sauce: YOU HAVE GATHERED PAIN POINTS FROM ACTUAL PROFESSIONALS WITH THE SAME/SIMILAR PROBLEM.
Right now I need you to get rid of your ego (and you should’ve long ago) and accept that THIS feedback is your business potential. Not YOUR STUPID IDEA(S).
What did they say?
How did they say it?
How big of a problem did they have?
Now, after you thanked each and every wonderful qualified business professional that agreed to talk to your sorry butt, let’s go back to the lab.
Do their problems make sense?
Can you see how bad they are?
If you know their problems at such an intimate level at this point, chances are, you can figure out the solution?
NOW, for those of you that DO have an answer to their BIGGEST obstacle. We’re going to sell them the solution WITHOUT HAVING IT AT HAND.
I don’t have time to explain it because this is about action over theory without the fluff.
The Anatomy of a Pre-Sales Offer:
Ok, before we dive into offering a solution that doesn’t yet exist, we need to figure out how much it’s going to cost. Developers are EXPENSIVE, the good ones, at least.
Find out how much it’s going to cost you to deliver the MVP (Most Valuable Product). Think of a penthouse suite, without the ‘pent’ or the ’suite’ and you get a ‘house’. What are the bare minimums you need to get this digital product to JUST WORK?
This is a weird part of my training because the answer could be anything. If you care to guess-n-test it, head on over to my Google search result:
howmuchtomakeanapp[dot]com and get a benchmark, but don’t get stuck on that number. This training is about momentum.
Now hold onto that number and figure out how many early investors you need to PAY YOU to get your web app to work and in beta. These guys will ask you why you’re asking for that much and you need to be HONEST and ready to say why you need to raise this much to get the ball rolling.
I won’t spend too much time on this part, because you already know what good can come out of this if you can solve their problems. You should, they TOLD YOU.
Now offer the solution and SWEETEN the deal:
Can you lock them at an “early investor” discount?
Can you offer them XX months free?
Can you provide extra TLC ‘round the clock?
Can you train them and their team for free?
Can you text them bedtime stories at 3 am whenever they ask you for one?
Sweeten the pot!
Ok, now this next part sounds a little prison-y. There’s a catch. This part is about what THEY CAN DO for YOU.
Access to their network (Referrals)
Understanding that your beta WILL have bugs, but you’re working them out.
Don’t let them forget that they’re part of a MOVEMENT. That they’re the early adopters that believe in you and you will NOT forget about them.
I won’t lie, this part is scary AF.
Tell your initial contacts that have been with you thus far that if you’re NOT able to deliver on your solution, you’ll give them their money back.
Get a lawyer before you say this, I don’t need your butt after me because you talked out of your butt due to a Quora answer you scrolled through.
Now, that we have that out of the way…seriously, put yourself in THEIR shoes, why should THEY give YOU money?
They want the results you’re offering, but they want to reduce risk as much as possible because you have NO track record.
Get that money!
That’s it. That’s how you get others to tell you their problems and convert that feedback into a business idea.