All the ideation and validation methods

I was working with a private coaching client recently, and it made sense for me to outline all the ideation and validation methods I know about for this client.

I’d like to share this list with you. If you want, I can elaborate on it a bit, perhaps via an email series or something like that. Just REPLY and let me know.

The overall theme is this: “Problems are markets” — Gary Bencivenga

In other words, you can remain a pseudo-generalist and simply focus on a market vertical (looking either for a head start or for interest/affinity). What we’re talking about here is a bit more advanced. A bit more ambitious. A bit more “find an expensive problem and become a self-made expert in that problem” kind of thing.


  • Look for patterns that point to an expensive problem from the vantage point of your current or past client work (find a head start)
  • Look for patterns that point to an expensive problem in a specific market vertical
    • “Watering hole” ethnographic research
    • Customer development research
  • Look for an expensive problem that’s more horizontal in nature
    • Problem might be driven by broad tech trends (iOT, mobile, etc; reference Gartner Hype Cycle RE: ideal timing, tone of marketing message, risk)
    • Problem might be linked to maturity of a particular tech platform (eg. information deficit)
    • Problem might be an evergreen business problem (lead gen, inventory mgmt, BI, etc.)

Problem Validation (most lean method)

  • “Watering hole” ethnographic research
  • Customer development
    • In-network (least outreach effort)
    • Ask for referrals
    • Cold outreach (most outreach effort)

Validation is identifying a pattern in the data gathered through research.

After completing this form of validation, you either move directly to Sales Validation, or if you are more risk-averse you might use Marketing Validation as an intermediate validation method.

Marketing Validation (less lean than pure research, more lean than sales validation)

  • Build content asset (email course, niche list, webinar)
    • Ad traffic -> content asset
    • Teach to borrowed audience (podcast guesting, webinar guest expert), CTA is to opt in to content asset

Validation is measured by opt-ins for content asset

Sales Validation (most “thick” method)

  • Define offer
    • Coaching (least up-front effort)
    • Done-for-you
    • Training (most up-front effort)
  • Write short email course
  • Get/adapt some social proof
  • Write & publish a landing page for the service
  • Hire an outbound lead gen agency ( or are good), or do the outbound work yourself

Validation is measured by sales and opt-ins for content asset

I hope you find this list helpful.

If you’d like help with this kind of ideation or validation, I’d be happy to help: