Validate Your Message, Validate Your Business

Savana ter Burg
If you are not 100% certain that your audience understands what you are telling them when you pitch or explain your product or business, this one's for you!

If you are with a company - start-up or grown-up - and you are not 100% certain that your audience understands what you are telling them when you pitch or explain your product or business, then this one's for you!

You talk to people all the time and you proudly present your company and product. But do people get it? Do you measure the results and learn from it? Whether you’re looking to increase sales, or looking for new investment, we’ve developed a simple approach to help you dive deeper into what you have to say and how you say it. You might be surprised at what you uncover.

We often hear from start-ups that they’re unsure if people understand the concept they’re bringing to the table, especially with highly technical offerings intended to sell to all sorts of audiences. We’ve also seen the divide this creates within a company when the founders or people who know their field and jargon, defend ‘the pitch’. They know it to be correct.

There are plenty of reasons why you present your business the way you do. But the point at which you realize it doesn't matter if it makes sense to you if it is unclear to others, is the time to validate. And message validation is essentially an exact similar  process of product or offering validation. Until you achieve product-market fit, as suggested by Eric Ries in e.g. Lean Startup, success may not be in the cards for you.

Let's take a look at the validation framework approach and why it will help you gain the most from your conversations with potential clients.

The Validation Framework

To validate your messaging you need to talk to the people you want to reach with your product and company. You need them eventually on board with your vision. You can start using our framework and ask five potential customers to spend 30 minutes with you for a feedback session. As well as showing if your pitch resonates, or not and how to change it, asking people for feedback can be a great sales tool too because it levels any conversation and people appreciate it more than being sold to.

The framework below will help you get the most from those conversations.

If you'd like to download this visual as a PDF, please click here.


If relevant or appropriate, at the end of the conversations you can share the things you still want to discuss.

You could for example say: “The answer you gave me to xxx question was really helpful, because it’s clear we need to explain this part better. If you have 10 more minutes I can fill you in on what we actually mean when we say xxx?”

When talking about this method, some Q’s came up. We have some answers too:

How many people do I need to ask? When do you know you’re done?

You’re never done (or even 90% done), but we would advise you to undertake this exercise in feedback loops with five people. By maintaining this exercise regularly with potential customers, you can build it into your sales approach, and you prevent getting hung up on wording that people don’t even get. This way you sell, learn and build relationships instead of running one-way pitches.

Can multiple people conduct the interviews?

Yes, that can work, if you script out your pitch and are very clear with each other upfront which questions you’ll be asking, and how you’ll share and manage the outcomes.

What type of people do you ask? Is it important they are new to our product?

It doesn’t matter too much if some people have already heard about your company or product and others haven’t, but it’s important to be aware that you can compare apples to pears. It’s a different audience and it’s good to keep that in mind.

Doing this exercise with people that haven’t heard about you yet, will help you find out what people know and remember after the first encounter.

Doing this with people that do already know you, maybe even for a few months, will help you find out how hard your product and messaging is to understand, and if you’re using the right words or adapting your pitch successfully.

What if my test person doesn’t get it?

If your test person doesn’t get it, you might instinctively think they’re wrong or it’s their fault. Please try to stop that line of thought and stop being defensive all together. Through their honest feedback and reactions, you will learn everything you need to know about what is clear and what resonates with potential customers.

What if the test person asks questions in the part where I am interviewing them?

If they ask you a question in part B of the framework, then you should encourage them to use as many words as they can come up with themselves and you could say something like: “I am happy to tell you more about that later, but for me now it’s important to learn what you’ve understood and can take away from this.”

Do you have any questions about this framework or feedback after using it? What other message validation techniques do you use? We’d love to hear from you!

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