The Problem

In this post, I want to explain why it is important to validate your business idea. You may recall that in my previous blog post in this series, I described the factors needed to select a product or service to offer future customers:

  • It's an area that you’re passionate about (or reflects your purpose),
  • You have expertise or skills to share,
  • There are customers with a problem to solve, and
  • The customers are willing and able to pay for the product or service.
Then ask friends and family for feedback. And discuss the idea with potential customers in your practice if it's a clinical topic.
However, there are hundreds of businesses that fail each year in spite of a good idea for a product or service. Ideally, you should validate the idea further by actually selling a product or service, even if it is a scaled down version.

Try Selling a Prototype or Presell a Course

This trial run does not necessarily have to be a fully developed product. Let's look at an example.

Imagine that you're a general pediatrician with an interest in attention deficit disorder, and you want to help parents take care of such children. Start to think of products to offer and a way to validate your nonclinical business idea.

You attend many conferences about ADD, and you've researched evidence-based medical treatments, and also nutrition, and behavioral methods. And you want to share your expertise with the parents of such children. So, it's an area that you are interested in, and there is a need for education of parents of children with ADD.

You still ought to verify the other two factors, that

  • there are parents of these children looking for online help, and
  • they’re willing to spend money to meet that need.

And, there's only one way to really know that someone is willing to invest in your product, and that's to sell them something.

Yes, you can talk to your friends, colleagues, and family members. You can send out a survey. And you can solicit feedback on Facebook and other social media sites. That can be encouraging, and sometimes useful.

However, until you've actually sold a prototype, or pre-sold something you’re making, you won’t have any proof it’s likely to succeed. And you don’t want to invest thousands of dollars and countless hours in something that won’t sell.

Validate Your Business Idea

You can do a small pilot. Let's say that there's a Facebook group for parents with children with ADD. Then you engage in the group, provide valuable information, and build a following. You see that there's some interest in what you have to say. Maybe you start a newsletter, which you can do basically for free. You might even use a funding platform like Kickstarter to presell a product.

You invite people to sign up for your email list in order to get some free information, like articles that you have written. Then you can create a small test of their willingness to buy in some small way. You might sell them a simple guide to ADD management. Or a short video course on the subject.

If you can demonstrate that someone's willing to pay for something along these lines, then you're going to know you're on the right track.

Examples in My Niche

I’ve since found that there are products and services that physicians are willing to purchase to expedite their career transitions. This became evident when I started helping with a Facebook group (Physician Nonclinical Career Hunters) devoted to nonclinical careers two years ago, which now has over 15,000 members.

I now recognize that there's a demand for coaching, mentoring, and training. Several books have been published on the subject of nonclinical careers. There is a growing interest in this niche. And I’ve started to sell my own products.

I created a course dedicated to finding a job as a medical science liaison. That sold fairly well. So, I created more courses. Since I planned to continue developing courses, I decided to accelerate that process and open a membership site. I started with a minimal viable product (in my mind that was 12 courses).

I was able to sell an encouraging number of memberships. Now I've put more time into improving the first 12, and have added 6 new courses. I've recruited several affiliate partners to sell my course to their followers. And I'm relaunching the Nonclinical Career Academy Membership program very soon.

Several physicians I have interviewed who are coaches have followed a similar path. They started with one-on-one coaching. After building a sufficient following, they added group coaching. Some of them later created a course developed from their coaching experiences, which scaled their business, while serving more clients.

Examples include:


As you plan your nonclinical online business, be sure to validate your business idea by confirming the demand for your product or service. Begin by looking for others who seem to be successful.

Then sell a prototype, or begin with a limited run of whatever you're selling. If you are a coach, sell a few discounted sessions to get going. Assess the response of your clients and the success of your coaching.

If you're creating a course – develop the first few lessons, then try to pre-sell the soon-to-be-finished course. But only finish creating it if there is interest confirmed by sales. Then use the feedback from your first few students to help direct future lessons.

Coming Next

In the next blog post, I will answer this question: What are the legal and business issues I should address before moving on?

Next Steps

Please add you're thoughts and questions in the Comments. I will respond to them all.

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Thanks for joining me.

Until next time.