Case Study: “Startup Idea” Validation and Signing my First 3 Clients

And it begins..

With the receiving of these e-mails — it’s official — my idea was viable. I’ve found a winner.

Time to deliver the service, and start scaling up.

This is a case study of..

How I identified, and validated the idea for my coaching service “startup”

In this guide, I’m going to talk about a simple 3-step framework I used that allowed me to test the validity of my idea within a week. This allowed me to avoid wasting months of time, or any money developing a service nobody wants to buy.

As a side note, I later turned this in-person coaching business into a small online, passive income e-course business. It’s generated over $60,000 in revenue to date — a side cash-cow if you will. The business specializes in teaching shy men how to dance at night clubs, weddings and social functions.

 

Back story:

Some time during 2013, after being a professional entertainer and dancer teacher for 5 years, I was starting to find myself in those “omg somebody kill me” moments more and more often. I was tired.. and itching for a change.

I was looking to build something of my own; not like a huge multi-national startup or nothing, but just something that involved my passion. It needed to provide enough cash to support my lifestyle of course.

I got the “hunch” for a business idea when I recalled back to a conversation I had few years prior during a car ride. I learned that my friend was a sort of “confidence coach” teaching successful businessmen how to dance. The idea sounded ridiculous at first, but now from hindsight, it makes perfect sense.

This specific market of businessmen spend most of the days on their business, and therefore, have little experience in the night-life scene. The problem they run into is that at some recent point, they found themselves in the unfamiliar nightlife environment.

They see people mingling and having fun on the dance floor, and they realize that they have not-a-CLUE what to do!

This is where my friend came in. He helped these businessmen learn the basic dance moves. This skill then becomes the vehicle that they get to use to join in on the fun in this unfamiliar nightlife environment.

(If you’ve seen the movie “Hitch”, then you’ve probably clued in to what the service is all about)

 

I pondered on the idea of creating a similar business for a few days.

I came to the conclusion that this was something I’d like to try validating and potentially turning into my own thing.

Mainly because it met these criteria:

  • It’s focused around dance; something I’m passionate about
  • It serves a market that’s not broke (this means that I wouldn’t have to struggle getting the target clients to PAY for the service)
  • There’s already a track record of this type of business being successful
  • I have some built-in affinity with the target clients — I’m a guy — not a female ballerina
  • Since it’s based on coaching, it would be quick to “start up” and profitable right away
  • Also, because it’s coaching, there would be little to no start up cost

 

Step 1: Identify target clients and their needs

I knew that these men are NOT like the typical dance students that are looking to learn. So instead of jumping in and coming up with cool “features” of the service, like “footwork moves” and “dance routines to popular songs”, I invested time in getting to know the target clients first.

This key step of “target client understanding” is the step that prevented me from finding myself in the aspiring-entrepreneur’s nightmare of having built something that nobody wants.

 

2 things I did:

First, I called up my friend who originally told me about the “teach men how to dance” idea. Since he had moved to Japan a year or two prior, I wouldn’t be stepping on his shoes and he was happy to help.

I dug deep and asked him detailed questions about the profile of the target clients. I was looking for their demographic information as well as their psychographic information; their desires, aspirations and burning frustrations.

 

This was the demographic information:

  • Men – 30-45
  • Soft-spoken personality
  • Businessmen, engineers — people that are typically career-oriented and the “logical” or “analytical” type
  • Some recent divorcees
Next, I placed myself inside the shoes of the target clients and simulated an ideal, problem-experience in my mind.
I envisioned myself stepping into a club or wedding reception party; into this unfamiliar, slightly intimidating environment.
The music is blaring; people everywhere. I envisioned myself fighting my way to the bar, grabbing a drink and then proceed to disappear into the nearest dark corner; somewhere I could hide and be out of sight.
I envisioned myself gawking at the party-people on the dance floor; being left out of the fun and ignored.
I tried to identify the heightened emotions, fears, and internal dialog that a the target clients would experience when they find themselves in this scenario.
After taking these 2 steps, the psychographic information of the target client emerged:
  • Fear of looking silly in public
  • Feeling like their being left out of the fun and ignored
  • Feeling self-conscious when attempting to dance in public
  • Being perceived as the “creep at the club” by the ladies
  • Feeling awkward in general on the dance floor
  • Fear of being perceived as “gay”

They say things like:

“I’ve tried watching people dance in club or dance situations. And trying to copy what I was watching. And mostly just feeling strange whenever I tried dancing”

“how do you move fluently? Not like a plank of wood and learn how to follow the music?”

“Sucks being the guy who stands in the back of the club, clutching a drink and looking like a creep”

 

Bottom line:

These are the “motivations” of the target clients:

  • They want to become comfortable on the dance floor, and have the ability to join in on the fun
  • They don’t want to look silly when they do start dancing
  • Also, instead of “standing out” they want to simply blend into the crowd

With some additional research, these are some information I found about my “competitors”:

The studios that teach adults to dance typically teach social dances that are too formal for the club, or instructions that are not suitable for men.

 

 

This meant that there are actually no suitable resources out there for these guys to the “casual dancing” that they really want to learn — good news for me.

It’s clear that there was an opportunity for a unique, fresh positioning:

Dance floor confidence for men

With this research, it was time to proceed to..

 

Step 2: Create prospective service based on research

The goal here is to create a prospective service with features that answer to the problems of the target clients. Additionally, you want to include features that answers to potential “sales objections”.

Here are the features and how they relate to the problems and potential objections:

Feature 1: Teach easy, casual dance moves that are versatile, quick-to-learn and FOR MEN ONLY

This would handle the target client’s problem of not having any casual dance moves for them to do at these social functions. With these dance moves, they would be able to join in on the fun and not feel out-of-place or “left out”.

Lastly, since the moves are for men only, the target clients would eliminate the possibility of being mistaken for something they’re er… not.

Feature 2: Teach lesson in a private environment on 1-on-1 basis

Learning something brand-new is already an uncomfortable experience. A public dance class — where you face the possibility of public humiliation — only makes things worse. A private class would allow the clients to escape the judgment of others COMPLETELY, which makes the learning experience un-intimidating.

Feature 3: Flexible schedule for the classes

Since the target clients are not jobless slobs, I would need to be mindful of their availability. By providing a flexible schedule, I get to make this service more accessible. More likely for them to sign up.

With the prospective service created and features determined, it’s time to gage interest.

Hit the pond and test out the bait so-to-speak.

 

Step 3: Gage interest – test and refine

I knew people were looking for dance lessons on Craigslist.org, so I thought I would market there to start.

I wrote an AD with a headline that addressed the target audience demographic.

Within the AD, I first addressed the frustrations of the target clients, then I continued by briefly talking about the skill that I possess for solving those frustrations. I re-addressed the problems again and ended off by listing out the features for solving those problems.

This was the AD:

From hindsight, there are many improvements that could’ve been made to this AD for increasing conversion — but it worked well enough as it is.

I submitted this craigslist AD. After a few hours, it went live.

I waited for a day.

— crickets.

But on the 3rd or 4th day after the AD went live, e-mails started to come in..

 

 

I responded to these inquiries by re-stating the benefits of the service. Since I did my research up-front — and the fact that the AD got the to respond — I knew that it wouldn’t take too much convincing for them to sign on. About half of these inquiries translated into sales.

I priced the lessons at $30 ~ $35 per session (depending on their location) — from hindsight, I could’ve charged way more!

And that was it; the beginning of my brand new coaching “startup”.

 

Scaling up and Automation

I coached in-person for a few months before deciding that I wanted to scale up.

As mentioned, I eventually moved the entire business online. I shifted my positioning to serve a younger audience and automated my service fulfillment.

I created simple YouTube videos teaching super basic dance moves — the type that guys would be able to see themselves doing. At the end of the videos, I would give a “call to action” for the viewer to come to my website to learn more. On my site, I offered a paid video-program that they could download and watch on their own for learning basic dance moves for social functions.

 

 

This system handled the lead generation, sales and service fulfillment. Simply put, it removed me from the entire business equation. And this meant that the income generated from this business is now “passive income”.

 

Recap of the steps:

Step 1: Identify target clients and their needs
Research the “demongraphic” and “psychographic” information of the target clients.

Step 2: Create prospective service based on research
Create the features for your prospective service based on the needs of your target clients

Step 3: Gage interest – test and refine
Communicate to the target clients the problem your service resolves and gage their interest. Refine the communication if the target clients don’t respond. Proceed with delivery of service if target clients “bite”.

 

By following through with these steps, you get to minimize the time between “coming up with the idea” to “validation of the idea”. You get to avoid the fear of “developing a business that turns out to be a dud”.

You get to either quickly invalidate your idea — and move on to the next, OR sign on your first clients from the beginning, which lights a fire under you to quickly establish the business and deliver the service.

One thought on “Case Study: “Startup Idea” Validation and Signing my First 3 Clients”

  1. Hello Brian,
    Its look easy Man.
    I love your work on start up.
    I am from india i want to teach small online business to the client.
    How can i validated the process.

    Thank yoo

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