I have an idea that I believe will benefit two target markets (don't we all). I have tried reaching out to one of the markets (food truck owners) online (email & Facebook): 4 in total so far. None of them responded. Is it because there's something wrong with my message to them? How do you get to the right people to validate your ideas? Do you try all sorts of methods before you finally give up? Is the lack of replies an indication that my idea won't work, am I executing my outreach the wrong way or do I just need to try to reach more people?
The art of the "cold pitch" is definitely something that needs to be worked on, and doesn't come naturally to everyone.
A couple of quick tips:
1. 4 is not a big enough target group, you've got to cast a bigger net. Try pitching 20, and aim to get 3-5 responses.
2. When sending a cold email, really think about what you are offering them. Whilst you'll get the odd good egg that simply wants to help - you can't expect entrepreneurs and small biz owners to take time out of their day to answer your questions. To counter, why not tell them you're conducting research in the space, and would be happy to send the finds/reports back to them in a nice format, which could in turn help their business.
3. Don't give up, keep hustling. Try changing around the emails slightly, track which emails convert into responses, and fine tune from there.
Good luck and feel free to book a call if you want to chat more.
I think that relying on just email will limit your range. Depending upon the type of message or idea, I would try all sorts of methods. Combine your email, social media, network meetings, etc. Without knowing your idea, here are some suggestions:
FIRST - focus your marketing message on the problem and the benefits of your solution. If your idea isn't solving an important problem to some niche market, then that could be the stumbling block.
1) Certinaly your cold message method on email and facebook should be included. But maybe revamp your message in a video or audio (more like an informercial).
2) Go where your target clients gather in one place: networking meetings, professional associations, trade shows, hobby shops, banks etc
3) Craft your message such that it is solving a particular problem and be willing to give away your solution for free (in order to get this feedback).
4) Write articles, give webinars and speaking presentations on "how to solve this problem" - and then incorporate your solution into your presentation.
5) Build a core team of experts on your team. You core team should be both familiar with the problem you are trying to solve and have also have a well-defined network of their own. Ask your network contacts to reach out to their contacts. Offer some type of reciprocation or free gift for people that refer your beta program or customer survey to others. You can even collaborate with these people to co-produce some informercials together that highlight both your product ideas. This allows you and your partner to expand your reach of influence, collaborative.
If you like some of these tips, I am available for additional one-on-one coaching on these ideas.
Hi, I'm not sure if you're aware of this but Facebook has a spam filter built into it. If you sent 4 emails to people that you don't know, they most likely ended up in that folder (which most people don't know about and never check). So most likely no one ever saw your message!
Also, 4 emails is also far too small a number to judge anything from. But more importantly, validation of your idea is usually an interactive exercise, and not something that you want to leave to an email.
If I were you, I would go out to the next and nearest food truck rally, and hang out there. Most food trucks are run by the owners, and there are always lulls in the day when they are not doing anything. That's when you should introduce yourself, say something very complimentary about their food, and then ask them if they have the problem that your idea solves. If they do, then, that gives you the opening to talk about your product/service. What you'll most likely find is that shall not only get feedback space on if your idea is good or not, but also refinements that will make it better.
And don't ask just a few… Make it your project to hit at least 80% of them there. After that you will have a better idea of what are your idea will work or not.
I think you're doing all the right things, and you're learning exactly what you set out to do. Unfortunately, the data is not telling you what you wanted to hear.
Keep in mind that running customer development experiments, it's ok to hope that your thesis is validated, the point of the experiment is to learn and iterate. If you just go looking for "proof" you'll find a "smoking gun" out of anything, but if you stay dispassionate, you'll find something worth pursuing.
Granted, 4 is a statistically insignificant sample-set but what you're learning is that food truck operators are busy operating their business and are going to be hard signing-up for any kind of service or app.
Your messaging might be wrong too, but based on some experience in this space, I think what you're finding out is your idea might just not be able to find traction here.
Look to your other market, experiment, be open-minded to the results and keep trying.
I'm happy to talk to you in a brief call to help you setup your experiments with a bit more clarity and talk about how you can do outreach to get a more meaningful sample/response rate.
I'd suggest polishing your in-person pitch and hitting venues where food trucks gather. These events happen weekly in major US cities. You should go one week to observe the customer lining up patterns and then pick an appropriate time the next week (maybe when the food trucks are wrapping up for the day) to approach the food trucks with your pitch.
Here's just one example of what I mean
Lots of great guidance so far. Here's what I will add/reinforce:
1) There's no substitute for talking to folks in-person. Their eyes dilate when they talk about what matters to them. You need to be there to see it happen.
2) When you're first talking to people, make sure you focus on them, not on your product. Understand their problems first before you even try to tell them about what you think might solve them.
3) Numbers are your friend. Talk to as many people as possible. Be methodical about it, test hypotheses systematically (see Steve Blank's stuff on this) and avoid leading questions.
4) Make sure you close every interview with an open-ended question like "What's the question I should have asked you, but didn't?"
5) As for finding ways to talk to people, personal connections are gold. Be shameless in asking friends through Facebook, Twitter and email for introductions to people that you want to talk to. Everyone wants to help a friend or a friend of a friend. No one wants to be pitched. Be clear and concise and clearly listening and always ask interviewees "Who else should I speak with to understand this problem?" If any person you talk to doesn't give you at least one new name and hopefully a handful, you messed something up (target market, interview style, interview length, or they felt it was a pitch).
I recommend being entrepreunarial and actually go in the streets. Go meet a food truck everyday. In a week, you'll have 7 conversations. Beats emails, phone or Facebook
Cold cold calling is stupid and takes forever. Either set up dummy site or info and share it then ask for feedback. Quickest way (that my son did to great success) setup in a coffee shop and put an ad on Craig's list and offer to pay $10 for anyone who will come by and see your demo and give feedback. In one day and hundred dollars you will have your answer more than you can believe.
One of the best ways to get some much-needed feedback is with a beautifully designed survey (because something that looks good is going to be better than random Facebook messages). It also shows you're committed to the idea and professional. You could send the survey link to business pros on LinkedIn (normally has high engagement), through email or even your personal social media pages.
An easy-to-use survey option is Fieldboom: http://www.fieldboom.com. Their site also gives tips on getting feedback and how to build a small business (once you really get started).
Hope that helps!