Apr 20, 2018 - 01:18 AM
There are companies that have done this in the past. The one that comes to mind right now is a feature CDBaby built to recommend music based on their users' tastes. It touted this feature as algorithm based a la Pandora (music genome product) but in reality it was humans doing the recommendation manually "under the hood" at least initially--later they actually built the software.
It was so spot on that several investors invited Derek Sivers to dinner (IIRC) to find out what kind of technical wizardry he had developed but they were coy about their reasons for inviting him. You see, there were several competing companies trying to do this and they wanted to get his secret.
When I began my online marketing career I also 'sold' a fitness program that didn't yet exist, to test demand. I would immediately issue a refund when someone bought and told them we had run out of the product. I got about a dozen orders before we actually created the product--a fitness ebook--but when I did, I was sure there would be demand.
Apr 20, 2018 - 09:01 PM
Drive traffic to a basic sales page. This is the method Tim advocates in The 4-Hour Workweek. All you need to do is set up a sales page using Unbounce or WordPress, create a few ads to run on Google and/or Facebook, then evaluate your conversion rate for ad-clicks and collecting email addresses. This is how we launched Mint.com (see one of our original sales pages here). You are not looking for people to buy; you are simply gauging interest and gathering data.
[Note: With Facebook advertising, $100 can get you roughly 100,000 people viewing your ad, and about 80 people visiting your site and potentially giving you their email addresses.]
Email 10 people you know who would want your pseudo-product, then ask them to send payment via Paypal. This might sound a bit crazy, but you’re doing it to see what the overall response is like. If a few of them send payment, great! You now have validation and can build the product (or you can refund your friends and buy them all tacos for playing along). If they don’t bite, figure out why they don’t want your product. Again, the goal is to get validation for your product, not to rip off your friends.