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Rule #2: Test the market, then capitalize on findings

Start by designing a sales version of your web site using presentation tools like Microsoft PowerPoint, Freelance Graphics, Visio, or CorelDraw to provide a "mock-up" design of the site, and do some market-testing to see if you can verify an interest. The idea is to build the vision first, clarifying it through market-testing and customer interviews. Pre-sales marketing can involve focus groups, serial interviews of prospects, or even direct mail sampling of target markets. If the sample yields a high enough percentage of responses, be prepared to follow up with the publication of your pilot site. Or conversely, you could roll out the pilot version as a "proof of concept" to strengthen your case when you go to present it to potential customers, investors, and business partners.

Early marketing initiatives and market tests will yield valuable feedback, which can then be incorporated into the prototype and pilot for your web site. Prospects can also be surveyed to develop direct input to customer value models, which will prove invaluable in defining product pricing and versioning, a process for targeting customer segments with products tailored to their perceived needs and values.

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