How to figure out which idea worth to implement: a math approach

Published 25 May, 2020 in product
In this article we review our own techniques to estimate and validate SaaS and any other projects ideas.
SaaS Forge

Founder and author

If you are like us, you have a long list of ideas, written in a Google document, or stored as a spreadsheet or notes. And, as it happens to many of us, we are not always stuck to our current projects and look for something new. The problem is we don't want it to be wasting time. We want to validate and implement only those ideas which have a higher probability not to fail.

So, we introduced the 2-steps process helping to find an idea that would the most appealing from many points of view.

Step 1. Collecting and estimating ideas

First of all, download and save into your Google Docs this spreadsheet. It has 15 columns and the formula calculating the overall result. The first row has our ideal result (we are big fans of SaaS to picking up the app's idea than some content or blog website is more desired). But you can change the formula or remove some columns.

You add a new row and put a short description of your idea in the first column. Then, 100% bein honest with yourself, filling up all the columns for this idea. Usually 0 means less, or worse, and 10 - more, or better, but it may vary. Read carefully columns description. After you finish look at the result column. If the number is somewhere close to your ideal product (the more points the better), it's good but it doesn't mean that you have to pick up this idea right now. Ideally, you would add at least 5-6 products to see the difference, and why.

For the "ideal, non-realistic project" in row #3 it would be 384 points. Here is the formula:

=B3 * 5 + IF(C3 < 3, -C3 * 3, C3 * 3) + D3 * 2 + E3 * 4 + F3 * 4 + G3 * 5 + H3 * 5 + I3 * 2 +J3 * 5 + K3 * 4 + IF(OR(L3<3, L3>7), -L3 * 6, L3 * 6) + M3 * 1 + N3 * 2 + O3 * 4 + P3 * 3

Let's look at the formula closer. Every parameter has its own weight what are coefficients accompanied each parameter. You can change them (don't forget to copy the formula into other cells). Weight means the importance of the parameters.

  1. How easy to find first clients (0 - hard, 10 - easily, weight = 5) - it's critically you will able find first adopters as fast as possible.
  2. How easy to create a first working version (0 - very hard, 10 - easy, weight = 3) - if it's very hard to create a working product we will subtract points instead of adding.
  3. If it requires making regular content (0 - very often, 10 - rare, weight = 2) - all the product require creating at least marketing content but it's better when it's not required for the product itself (like for blogs or news websites)
  4. If it requires a lot of content as a product (0 - yes, a lot, 10 - no, weight = 4) - better not to be dependant on the content volume (like for learning courses)
  5. If I know the subject well and can create content easily and with a pleasure (0 - hard, 10 - easy, weight = 4) - you shouldn't pick the idea if you are unfamiliar with the subject
  6. Target audience ( 0 - very small, 10 - big or niche, weight = 5) - it will be harder to work with a smaller audience but a niche audience is good (on the assumption you know it).
  7. Is it easy to validate an idea (0 - very hard, 10 - very easy, weight = 5) - a landing page, survey, several phone calls or emails - if it's enough, it's good, else... don't pick the idea
  8. It's rather a program or service (10), but not a content website (0) , weight = 2 - we are fans of programs than content web sites.
  9. If I'm interested in the subject (0 - no, 10 - yes, weight = 5) - it's hard to work on something that you are really not interested in.
  10. Will I have a personal profit from it (0 - no, 10 - yes, weight = 4) - you have a chance to eat your own dog food and get profit from it.
  11. How many competitors (0 - empty market, 10 - a lot, weight = 6) - it's not good if there are no competitors at all (less than 3) or too many of them (more than 7) - so subtract in this cases, else add.
  12. Vitamin (0) or pain killer (10, weight = 1) - pain killer is always better.
  13. If it uses interesting, cool, modern technologies/approaches (0 - no, 10 - yes, weight = 2) - it may distract you but the point is you can use it as a good marketing trick.
  14. Do I have an idea how to monetize the product (0 - not at all, 10 - yes, in detail, weight = 4) - having a good plan of monetization is always better. We also recommend asking people if they are ready to pay during your validation process.
  15. How easy for others is to clone the product (0 - very easy, 10 - very hard, weight = 3) - if a product is easy to clone, maybe it's better to stay away from it. Another way to avoid competition is to pick up a narrow niche. After you're done, go to step 2.

Step 2. Validation of the selected idea

In this step you just pick up the idea that collected most points. And it's time to validate! There are several ways to do it:

  1. Buy a domain, create a simple landing page describing the product and collecting emails, then publish the post on Reddit (carefully!), IndieHackers, or BetaList
  2. Create a twitter account and start tweeting there, as well as tweeting personal accounts. Don't be annoying or aggressive.
  3. Ask questions on Quora, Facebook, or Reddit (carefully!).

Some pieces of advice:

  1. For fast creating a landing page you can use online services or create your own template and reuse it. We use our own product website template for creating this website and some other project, for example, this sound studios website.

  2. For conducting a survey, we found Google Forms very convenient. The only problem is how to make people to answer your questions? It's easy to solve: use a lottery. Select on Amazon one or two books and tell people that every response will participate in your lottery with this great prize. Note: the books or any other items should be pretty specific to your product and the niche to avoid "noisy users" that can't bring you value.

But it's not the end of the story. It's not enough to just post a landing page or tweet. You have ONLY 1 (ONE) WEEK and you have to collect as many as 200 (TWO HUNDRED) emails. So, in some cases you probably would use all ways to do it.

Don't use paid ads, friends, family. Talk only to strangers.

After one week, if you are able to gather 200 or more (or less but close) emails, congratulations! You probably would start implementing this idea. If not... try to understand why. Possible reasons:

  • you don't know your target audience and how to talk to them
  • you didn't find pain points or your "vitamin" doesn't solve any problems
  • you are too shy to inform the world about your idea
  • you are afraid your idea can be stolen
  • your project doesn't look realistic
  • you found the subject is out of your interests
  • you are very different from your target audience.

Anyway, if it's far from 200 emails, try to pick up the next idea. Or add a couple of more ideas into your list. At least, you spend only one week and $10 dollars for the domain name and it's not a big deal (unlike the situation when you created an MVP and failed).

Good luck!

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