Idea Validation: Market demand, Willingness to pay

Physical Before Digital

Sell a physical version before creating its digital equivalent

Illustration of Physical Before Digital
Run a Physical Before Digital play

Also called: Analog/Physical

Difficulty: Easy

Evidence strength

Relevant metrics: Acquisition, Activation, Customer feedback, Cost

Validates: Feasibility, Viability, Desirability

How: Produce and sell a physical and analog version of your product to validate the value of your content rather than the form it's presented in. This is especially effective for information or data-based products such as how-to guides, study guides, industry reports, or customer lists.

Why: With expected interactivity and features, digital experiences can be expensive, cumbersome, and error-prone to build. To validate whether your content provides actual value, abstracted from form and function, start by selling it in the simplest form that a word processor and a printer can produce.

This experiment is part of the Validation Patterns printed card deck

A collection of 60 product experiments that will validate your idea in a matter of days, not months. They are regularly used by product builders at companies like Google, Facebook, Dropbox, and Amazon.

Get your deck!

Before the experiment

The first thing to do when planning any kind of test or experiment, is to figure out what you want to test. To make critical assumptions explicit, fill out an experiment sheet as you prepare your test. We created a sample sheet for you to get started. Download the Experiment Sheet.

Great for info-products

This method involves initially creating and marketing a physical version of a product before developing its digital equivalent. The primary advantage of this approach is that it allows businesses to test the market viability and user acceptance of the product in its most tangible form.

By starting with a physical product, companies can gather real-world feedback from users. This feedback is crucial as it provides insights into the user experience, preferences, and potential areas for improvement. Physical products offer a direct, hands-on experience that can reveal practical challenges and opportunities that might not be immediately apparent in a digital format.

Transitioning from a physical to a digital product allows companies to refine their offerings based on the insights gained from the physical product’s usage. This iterative process helps in fine-tuning the product’s features and usability. The goal is to ensure that the digital version not only replicates but also enhances the value provided by its physical predecessor.

This strategy is particularly effective for products where the value is derived from content or information, rather than the medium through which it is delivered. For example, educational materials, guides, and instructional content are prime candidates for the Physical Before Digital approach. The essence of the content can be validated physically first, ensuring that the core value proposition is solid before digital complexities are introduced.

After the experiment

To make sure you move forward, it is a good idea to systematically record your the insights you learned and what actions or decisions follow. We created a sample Learning Sheet, that will help you capture insights in the process of turning your product ideas successful. Download the Learning Sheet.


Validation Patterns card deck

Before developing a full masterclass on product discovery and experimentation, the Validation Patterns card deck was created and sold in pre-order to test market demand and to build a community. Several beta decks came before it to gather feedback.

Source: Learning Loop shop

Cliffs Notes

CliffsNotes began as physical study guides in 1958, validating demand with tangible products. Transitioning to digital, they preserved their core value while adapting to new technology, demonstrating the effectiveness of starting physically to build a strong foundation for digital expansion.

Source: Cliffs Notes


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