Friends and family
This can be a great source of feedback, with the added bonus that friends and family are trusted allies and unlikely to steal your idea. However, loved ones are not always as objective as they could be, so try to gain assessments from other sources as well.
Posting questions on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or your blog, can be a quick (and free) way of asking for feedback on particular aspects of your idea. Naturally, use your judgement and be wary about putting confidential information into the public domain. However, if you are looking for opinions on a potential logo, pricing, marketing campaign, or thoughts about a new or existing product or service, this can be a great way of gauging a response.
This can work wonders for established companies too. For instance, engaging with customers through its blogs and on Facebook has fuelled growth at Innocent Drinks, prompting the launch of new products such as Veg Pots and orange juice, as well as new smoothie flavours based on customer suggestions and requests.
The Startups forum is a-buzz with new and established entrepreneurs posting questions on every aspect of setting up a business, and there are many industry-specific alternatives.
Forums have the bonus of allowing you post anonymously if you wish, and even just reading other people’s posts can be a useful way of spotting trends and learning about grievances people have with your industry or competitors.
Tools such as Survey Monkey, Smart Survey and QuestionPro enable you to put together basic surveys for free, which you can then post a link to on Facebook, your website or your blog, or email out to contacts.
Think carefully about your aims and objectives and the specific information you’re looking for to ensure you’re asking the right questions and getting the most out of the exercise.
If you plan to raise external finance, pitching for investment is an excellent way of putting your idea through its paces. Investors tend to be successful and experienced businesspeople in their own right. Even if your pitch is unsuccessful, it will undoubtedly highlight weak spots in your offering and help you to strengthen your proposition.
Banks are increasingly adding extras such as advice on planning and marketing your business when you open a new business bank account. Shop around and look for the best deal.
Likewise, if you apply for a bank loan to start your business and you get turned down, ask why.
There are many networking events for budding entrepreneurs to attend (www.meetup.com will give you details of many upcoming events in your local area). Speaking to your peers in different sectors can be a great way of getting some useful feedback on your business idea.
Sites such as Kickstarter and Crowdcube enable entrepreneurs to showcase their business ideas and raise finance from the general public at the same time. However, telling thousands of people about your idea at an early stage can carry risk unless you have taken steps to protect your intellectual property.
This involves assembling a small group of people to have a detailed discussion led by a moderator, in order to glean their attitudes towards your product or service. Read our guide on how to get the most out of focus groups here.
The value of mentoring is undeniable. Who better to go to for feedback than an entrepreneur who has set up and run a successful business themselves?
You can find a mentor online on sites such as Horsesmouth, or Rockstar Mentoring Group.