Bouncing ideas off family and friends – low hanging fruit or approach with caution?
This post is timely, given we’re literally in the process of Testing the Muse for our real-time experiment. Advertisements are running right now, which are driving traffic to our product’s website, in hopes of converting casual visitors to potential buyers.
But after my last post, I received some feedback to the effect of: “Whoa, whoa, whoa! There’s a lot of detail here, it sounds like it takes too long. Why not just survey your friends to see if it’s a good idea, or if they’d buy your product?”
It’s actually a fair question, and a legitimate way to first test the waters. But don’t put too much weight on the responses you get – it could inadvertently lead to false hopes, or just as dangerous, the feeling of defeat before you’ve even started.
The Wealth of Your Existing Network
Before I shoot myself in the foot by going on about how listening to people you know closely is a terrible idea, I need to preface this by saying your existing network – friends, family and co-workers – are still the backbone of your support system.
When I recently released my first app, it was primarily through a soft launch by way of asking friends and family (via email and social media) to help me celebrate the release by downloading and leaving a positive review for the app. People responded in droves, and as a result, it’s now being downloaded around the world and has some stellar reviews, all 100% positive across global iTunes Stores* at the time of this writing.
*One related, interesting point of clarification: iTunes reviews are country specific, e.g. American reviews on iTunes don’t appear on the Canadian iTunes, and vice versa – it’s too bad they’re not aggregated.
Although few family and friends had an actual interest in the purpose of the app (e.g. they were not the target market), they came through to help me – firstly because I asked, and secondly because they wanted to support. That’s pretty amazing, and I am sincerely grateful.
You need these people in your corner.
So herein is the defining difference – they came through in a big way because I had already done the leg-work. I tested the waters, I crunched the numbers, I developed the product, and once I had something to show for it – they were happy to support and celebrate with me. Many were surprised that I was even working on such a project – bringing a product to market is something many want to do, but few complete.
But when it comes to early stages Testing the Muse – family or not – relying on biased opinions to guide your actions and determine your path has underlying conflicts of interest.
Here’s some cheap advice: the easiest way to test your idea is to ask people you already know for their feedback.
Sometimes you can save yourself a lot of time just by sharing your idea with others and getting their impression – either explicitly asking for their feedback, or passively, by observing how they react to your concept as you describe it and the conversation that unfolds.
We talked about this, and various other ways to brainstorm ideas – with people you know or otherwise – in this previous post.
But honestly, be cautious about relying too heavily on this method. People you know (e.g. friends and family, co-workers, etc.) have a tendency to either be too pleasing, praising your idea; or being too harsh, making you feel as if you’re dreaming, or that it’s been done before, so don’t bother.
Feedback from people close to you is too often influenced by their own emotions and/or relationship status with you directly. False positives (or negatives) can send you running in the wrong direction, especially if you’re confiding in someone you deeply love and/or respect.
Hey, these people love you. They don’t want to crush your dreams!
Alternatively, some people simply don’t want you to excel or see you surpass them in any area of life. Yikes, that sounds harsh – but it can be true! Although people with negative motives are less likely to be your closest loved ones, humans have a habit of projecting their envy or fear on others all the time – typically not out of spite, and oftentimes without even knowing it.
For these reasons, I always skip the step of bouncing ideas off family and friends – even if I’m knowingly missing out on some free advice that may save me time and money; the risk of it being skewed is too great to be worthwhile (in my opinion).
So what do I prefer?
Going directly to strangers, anonymously, on the web, via paid advertising.
You will pay for this (through additional time and money), and it will require more upfront work, but the quality of the data is much more rich and removed from biases. This is where you and your idea step into the real world and test the marketplace. This is how you find out:
- If your idea and messaging resonates with people, and if there is a willing market; or
- If there is little interest or no market for your product, and that your concept either needs to go back to the drawing board, or you should move on to your next idea.
Plain and simple, this is priceless. These signals will save you time, money and your sanity – reducing the time you spend spinning your wheels, day-dreaming, over-committing, etc.
Show and Prove
You may or may not relate to this personally, but I stopped sharing my ideas with friends and family years ago. It was a conscious decision, rooted primarily in how it made me feel:
- On the surface: I was worried that I started to sound crazy – the guy with one-too-many-ideas. Having a sounding-board for your hopes and dreams is extremely important to your growth, but being that person known for having “the next great idea” every other week felt like I was taking one too many withdraws from the relationship bank.
- Internally: There was a nagging feeling that, if I just keep brainstorming out loud, but kept hesitating to take action, people would stop listening. If people stopped listening, there would be even less reason to share, and an increased likelihood of not acting on ideas. Not a positive cycle to get stuck in.
- At its core: I feared that the satisfaction of sharing an idea, and getting the emotional validation from someone I care about, was enough. A legitimate concern that acknowledgement of a “good idea” was all I craved, and then I wouldn’t need to execute or move any further.
I didn’t want to get stuck in any of these mental traps that I could envision playing out. So I changed my approach.
As you can see, by virtue of this blog’s existence – I didn’t stop having ideas, or wanting to share them. I also didn’t stop getting excited or believing in my dreams. Nope, I just wanted to focus on action first, then share later. Show and prove.
I started this blog to talk about what an aspiring entrepreneur does, as I’m doing it – whether throughout the process, or after the fact – to provide inspiration and resources for those who want to elevate above just talking about their “great ideas”.