Wednesday 29 December 2010 case study - 7 simple steps to test any idea or muse business

I talked in a previous post about our new venture, The Bulb Club. We're now bringing our first idea to life and it's called This time it's real light bulbs we're interested in rather than idea light bulbs!

I'd like to share with you the steps we've taken so that you can learn from our trial and error approach and hopefully be inspired to bring some of your own ideas to life rather than working on other people's ideas (i.e. having a job).

Who knows where any idea could take you, you could start a successful Muse Business, get your ticket to freedom and live your life to the absolute MAXIMUM! The important step is to take action and get your ideas out of your head and into the world. The Bulb Club project is trying to make this process as simple and repeatable as possible.

Our steps to date on the Bulbomatic idea are as follows:
  1. Brainstorm Idea - to find a problem that affects yourself or others
  2. Create Survey - a short SurveyMonkey form to explore the problem space
  3. Distribute Survey - via emails and social networks
  4. Analyse Responses - if you have sufficient data and a problem is verified continue otherwise go back to step 1 and iterate
  5. Initial Proposition - using the survey data to define the solution
  6. Create Demand Test Page - to see if there would be a demand for the initial solution
  7. Market Demand Test Page -  await response, if low then go back to step 5 and iterate
This is really a test run to go through the whole process, rapidly moving from identifying a problem, through to getting a solution out into the wild. We're using agile methodology which involves testing ideas quickly, getting a minimum viable product out as quickly as possible, then iterating quickly based on customer feedback. If we hit a brick wall at any point that's fine, we're just as interested in learning and creating a framework of easy steps as being successful with our initial attempts. We're also confident that there are plenty of other problems out there looking for creative solutions!

Here are the steps in more detail for those of you keen to learn more and TAKE ACTION:

1) Brainstorm Idea
Getting back to our Bulbomatic idea, the problem we originally identified was that many people find the whole subject of light bulbs incredibly confusing. We're quite geeky and even we found it confusing and so did almost everyone we spoke to about it. Our main gripe was that we'd bought the wrong bulbs and not taken them back, so we'd wasted money because of our confusion.

Sidenote - Finding problems to solve should come easy as the world is far from perfect. But if you're struggling keep your mind open and be as observant as possible in your own life. You'll soon come across things you or others find confusing or frustrating that will be ripe for your creative solutions.

2) Create Survey
We tested out our theory with a survey (which is free).

We asked 4 simple questions (the lower the effort, the higher the response rate):
  1. What do you do when one of your light bulbs breaks? (multichoice answer)
  2. Do you know how to identify the type of bulb when it breaks? (multichoice answer)
  3. Do you have spare bulbs in your house that don't fit any of your lights (you bought the wrong ones)? (multichoice answer)
  4. What's the most frustrating thing you find about buying light bulbs? (optional question)

3) Distribute Survey
We distributed the survey to everyone on our social networks and email lists. It's a really good idea to participate as much as you can in social networks. If/when you need people to give you feedback on an idea, you'll have a pool of people to speak with.

4) Survey Analysis
What we found is that 58% of our 62 respondents had bought the wrong bulb and had the wrong bulbs in their house (question 3). That seemed very high and suggested to us that there's a breakdown somewhere between initial identification of the bulb and the final purchase. It also suggested that people had bulbs lying around that they didn't want or need.

Looking at the market it does seem that the light bulb industry is not designed to be user friendly and if you look at leading light bulb sites you'll see just how confusing it is to find the right bulb and how overwhelming the choices are. So we thought it was worth proceeding further.

5) Initial Proposition
We then brainstormed an initial proposition that could solve the problems we'd identified. We also contacted a number of suppliers, distributors and retailers to discuss logistics of our idea. Our initial idea is a freemium model where anyone can use our bulb content and tools for free and monetisation comes from selling relevant light bulbs and related products to our user base.

6) Create Demand Test Page
The next step was testing out demand for our proposed solution. We created a page at:
to assess if there will be real demand for the services before we go into production. There are 2 reasons for this:
  1. To make sure we don't invest a stack of time and money into building something that nobody wants (it does happen!). 
  2. So that we can recruit a small group of early adopters who we can help us develop a service that is truly useful for them. Win-win!
The page was hand-coded in HTML/CSS using Textmate and a little guidance from @danpaulsmith (our friendly CSS guru). Data collection is handled using a free form. We also created an 'elevator pitch' in the form of a simple explanatory video using just Keynote and iMovie in the interest of speed until we get round to making a better one. The video is hosted on our (free) YouTube channel.

We reached this point with very little expense using mainly free or cheap tools. I strongly believe anyone who has an appetite to learn and get stuck-in can get to this stage and test out demand for an idea.

7) Market Demand Test Page
We've made the decision to initially use our existing social networks (email lists, Facebook and Twitter) to kickstart the marketing of but we may also run a test of Google Adwords if this isn't delivering enough traffic. We've also tried to optimise the page for SEO by looking at what keywords people search for (using Google Keywords tool) and adding these keywords into the page. Ideally we want a minimum of 1000 unique visitors to the page and a conversion rate of at least 10%, but as this is a test project we'd probably settle for 50 sign-ups before moving to the next stage.

What's next?
Whilst the demand test page is up and running we will be working on a usable prototype Bulbomatic identification tool. We'll launch the tool with our initial group as long as we get 50 requests for an invite within 6 weeks. If we don't then we're obviously doing something wrong and will need to step back and rework the proposition with help from interested users before investing too much time and money on the first prototype.

Do let us know what you think of our Bulbomatic idea and the approach we are using to bring it to life. And if you need any help bringing your own ideas to life then why not come along to one of our Bulb Club meetups.

All the best,
Michael (and The Bulb Club).

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for sharing Michael. What I liked most about it was actually your very true & encouraging sidenote. Good luck