Idea validation · B2B

How to validate a B2B idea?

Brahm Singh Eng Head - Deep Search at Quixey

June 8th, 2014

Context : I am working on a B2B idea in retail sector. I have an idea but I want to validate it.

What are the strategies that people take to validate a B2B idea? I know that for B2C ideas, say a photo sharing app, people test a prototype with some users, get feedback and iterate. However, in B2B it is difficult to find your first customer and businesses typically want to talk to people with finished products. But I am not sure of the techniques that people employ to get to those finished products. How do entrepreneurs get to the exact product idea without iterating? Some techniques I can think of are :
1. Incubators : If some company in your target sector has an incubator join it and build upon your idea under the guidance of the company.
2. Contacts : Know someone influential in the target company who can validate your idea and help you build the product.

Are there any other methods people have adopted?

VAIBHAV JAIN Founder @StartupFlux

July 17th, 2017

One Easy method I recommend is to see who else is doing the same or something similar in the Industry. Where are they doing it and how well is the company performing.

Chances are that someone is already doing what you're planning to do and if they are making any money, then they've already validated the idea. If not, talking to someone at one of the companies (potential direct/indirect competitors) will tell you the problems with your idea. Channels to communicate: Linkedin, Twitter, Email.

You can also discover their customers etc and talk to them.

B2B Market Research can get quite complex and I wrote a piece about it here:

How to Conduct B2B Market Research

You can pick up various tools mentioned in the article to start your research.

Mamie Stewart Founder & CEO at Meeteor, Speaker, Change-maker

June 9th, 2014

I started a B-2-B business just under a year ago and I took a few different approaches, some of which follow the lean start up method... The key to the whole thing is to know what you need to validate at each stage.

1. Test it manually to verify that there is acceptance of your product idea. Depending on the idea, you may be able to replicate the entire idea with a website 'facade' and manual back end. Your service time might be a bit slower, but you can set expectations for that. With my business, I wanted to test whether small businesses 'got' the process methodologies I was planning to build into a cloud software. So I tested them as a consultant and contracted with two organizations who would pay me to facilitate them through the process. At the end, I'd know if the process resonated or not and how I might need to tweak it.

2. Figure out the ideal (but not overdesigned/built) product and create a clickable prototype of that. (This can be done very cheaply and I can tell you more about that process if you want.) Then do "demos" for people in your network who fit the target audience. With a clickable prototype you can make it as sketchy or as finished looking as you like. But either way, in less than 30 minutes you can essentially demo the product and get initial feedback - does this resonate, is this something you'd consider using and why/not? I got great feedback this way. And there is no "ask" other than for up to 30 min of your time. Plus, you'll start to build up a list of people who are excited to learn more as you get to the next phase.

3. Build the skinniest MVP you can that will get you validation and provide value to the customer. Then pitch the hell out of it to anyone who will listen. Everyone in your network knows people who might be in the right business/industry for your product. I'd tell everyone what I'm working on and say that I'm looking for beta clients to partner with me in testing the first version. I was surprised by how many people made introductions to other people who they thought would benefit from my product. Some of those went nowhere, but I ended up securing 6 organizations to participate in my beta. In exchange for using the product for 6 weeks and providing specific feedback along the way, I gave them a personal onboarding, rolled out features they requested (that I agreed with) every week, and allowed them to use the product for free forever. I pitched (via web screen sharing) to about 15 orgs in order to get 6. 

Thats as far as I've gotten, but its worked really well for me thus far.

Dan Hubbard Founder, www.FocusedAgility.Solutions/

Last updated on April 5th, 2018

Stop thinking in terms of "B2B"!

B2B and B2C are dead terms, or at least should be, and are examples of thinking that lead to anti-behavior.

Everything you do, every decision you make, and every data point you have should be viewed through the Person to Person ("P2P") lens.

At the end of the day, every product and every service is consumed by a person. You are just a person asking a question about how to validate data.

Start with people, ask why from their perspective, and grow outwards from there.

Rob G

June 9th, 2014

Brahm;  The basic blocking and tackling of product/market fit and customer validation are no different for B2B than for B2C - Identify who you think are likely prospects, talk to them, get feedback on your idea, take that feedback and build a mockup/PPT presentation/MVP, present to them again, get feedback, iterate, rinse and repeat.  Remember, when you are dealing with a business you are still dealing with individual people.  Identify a company that you think would make an ideal customer - the best possible fit for your product.  this should be in an industry you know well.  then identify the type of user within that company that is the ideal representative of that company's needs for your product. For example, if you are an expert in the trucking industry (random idea) and you are planning to build the next best thing in tracking employee expenses, then identify the top 3-4 trucking companies you can think of who's employees travel a lot and for whom T&E expenses might be large.  Identify the department that should get the most value out of your product, but don't sweat this too hard, just get a meeting with someone, anyone in this dept. and they can help you narrow your search.  Make sure you are prepared to add value at every meeting/conversation - if you spend your time taking and not giving the door will close quickly.  If you are a developer and your's is a business solution then talk to the business people, avoid the temptation to talk with the IT people - you have to talk with the people who will ultimately make a decision to purchase from you or at least act as your champion. good luck. 

Matt Lawrence Founder, Shipper Hero

April 3rd, 2018

Mamie's advice is absolutely spot on. Validating the idea manually is the cheapest, easiest way to prove the concept. You'll also have much more leverage with investors once they see people are actually willing to pay for the service you want to automate. You can't go wrong developing a strategy based solely on the plan she laid out for you. Good luck!

John Sechrest

June 8th, 2014

the 9 mile labs incubator is currently taking applications. they work directly on B2B issues

Brahm Singh Eng Head - Deep Search at Quixey

June 8th, 2014

Thanks Gaurav and John! It would be very nice to get introduced to Sanjay Puri. My email is For some reason, my Founder Dating inbox is not working. Do they also have a branch in SF or are they only in Seattle? Incubators is definitely one way I am exploring. Have people also tried other ways of validating their ideas? It would be great to hear the experience of how people started their B2B ventures - from having the first idea to getting the first customer. ᐧ - Brahm

Brahm Singh Eng Head - Deep Search at Quixey

June 12th, 2014

Thanks Mamie and Rob! I think avoiding the trap of talking to IT people is something I have to focus on. The thing is that my expertise is not in enterprise businesses. Not even in the sector that I am targeting. However, I am thinking of working with advisors who have expertise in the sector I am targeting. Has such a setup worked for anyone in the past?

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

July 18th, 2017

There are a number of ways to get business customers to try your product, the most common being a waived license fee for scheduled, real feedback on the product (to make improvements). Validation is different that gaining test users, though sometimes what you're talking about is getting serious feedback for your beta product.

Gaurav Garg

June 8th, 2014

Talk to 9Milelabs; happy to introduce you to Sanjay Puri. Gaurav Garg