I have been working on product called Virtual Dressing Room. But I have not validated the idea properly. Now I built the MVP and wants to sell it to retailers. But I have no idea how to approach them and I have never done marketing before, so I have cold-emailing lot of people but no response from them. Please advise me what should I do to reach next level?
First, a critique. Then I'll help. I am sorry to tell you it's not an MVP. This term unfortunately is incredibly misused and misunderstood, it's almost not worth using anymore. The original intent of a "minimal viable product" from the Lean Startup book is a mechanism for learning about the viability of your business model. It's not just a down-scoped version of your product. It has to do with the INTENT of measuring some customer effect BEFORE you start building it. You can't just build a small product and then later call it an MVP.
Now, scolding aside, moving on. You have a thing. You haven't validated it. You're not alone. Many do this. First, get used to the fact that your product probably is the wrong thing and you will very likely have to change it significantly, if you're lucky, and scrap it and start over, if you're not.
Second, stop building your Virtual Dressing Room. I am sure it's lovely, but you need to validate your business model before you invest any more time in it. Create a Business Model Canvas or Lean Canvas around your business idea. When you've figured out who your customers are, go and approach them any way you possibly can. Ask them to validate their problems (not whether they like your product).
Cold calling and emailing is only effective for sales and marketing when you've already validated what they want. It's not great for customer discovery. You need to go to where they are and approach them. Doing your canvas will help you brainstorm who they are, where they are, and what problems they might have that you can talk to them about.
As Steve Blank says, "Get out of the building!"
You have to convince them they win by merely interacting with you, regardless of the outcome.
What do you both want that you have in common, which you can immediately provide or facilitate? A fascinating report called "Study Results: Virtual dressing room payback for Retailers".
This report, not your app, is the bait. Try saying this: "I'm doing market research with a virtual dressing room app we developed, would you be interested in the results?"
"Yes? Could we test your customers with it?"
"No, what is the best way to send the report to you?"
Now you have a relationship and a point of contact that works.
Every company has a preferred mechanism for communication THAT WORKS (email is never it). Use it. If it's by phone (which it generally is)... it may take 7 phone calls before you're talking to the right person. Interference is part of the game ... If you're worth it you'll find your way through ... At least that's the theory. Many assistants consider it a badge of honor to be able to derail as many incoming requests as possible ... And it's their job on the line if they don't.
Fyi .. Retailers don't care how much money it brings it if they have to do nonretail stuff to make it happen. They do retail. Period. You need to provide all the expertise and manpower to make your solution work or they won't give you the time of day. That's retail.
Please get in touch. I could help with validation.
You need an advisor or a co-founder who really knows how to build a start-up business from scratch, and that specifically has strong skills and start-up experience in:
1) lean customers interview hack,
2) lean marketing,
3) customers growth hack,
4) business idea vetting,
5) how to detect early that an idea will fail,
6) how and when to pivot,
7) climbing the mvp mountain,
8) b2b and b2c sales best practice (because you have no business if you can't sell)
9) psychology of selling
10) financial modelling for startup (because you will need to check the likeliness of your business model to generate enough value and money to be financially sustainable)
You will also need to learn some specific skills related to business idea vetting.
Step 1 : sniff testing
This is the capacity to split your ideas into small parts and assess the likeliness of each part to be a contributor to the overall success of your future business without spending time and resources doing standard market research. It can help you identify winners and looser early and help you save precious time and resources.
Step 2 : customer development and market research
This is the capacity to identify the best people to talk to, the best places to find them, the best way to approach them, how to talk to them so that they are not getting bored, what to ask to get a comprehensive and useful insights for your business.
Step 3 : financial modelling for startup
This is the capacity to check whether or not your idea/customer/market align to generate enough value and money to build a sustainable business.
Other important skills :
- Capacity to generate back-up ideas or sub-ideas. As you move further and deeper in customer development, you will probably notice that the current version of your idea is a b*llsh*t. This can lead to panic if you don't have backups. You can be either disappointed and abandon (smart decision) or stubborn and continue (foolish decision).
- Capacity to identify early which part of your business idea is too weak to be pursed
Hope this helps.
Feel free to join me on LinkedIn or send me a private message here if you need further help.