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Effective Steps to Test New Products on Real Customers

planning new product designs

You have a new product and you're ready to roll it out for the world to see. Hold on – before you launch it, you'll want to know if there's a demand for your latest creation. It's crucial to do pre-market testing to determine the best way to present your new product to the masses.

Where do you start? Follow these steps to help you determine how to know if a product will sell:

Craft a Prototype

Devising a brilliant idea is great in theory, but can your grand vision actually be produced? Begin by crafting a prototype (or several) of your concept. Consider that Apple tested dozens of prototypes before they released the iPhone. In fact, according to Wired, "Six months before the first iPhone landed into the eager hands of the buying public, all Apple had was a glitzy demo of a product that, in reality, barely existed." That plan may have worked for Steve Jobs, but we're not all turtleneck-wearing tech geniuses. Rather than risk a disastrous release, tinker and test your prototype until it's as good as it can get.

Build the Product

Before developing a test marketing strategy, you need something tangible to show prospective buyers. Build a working model you can test out on a specific market. Having a physical mockup of the product helps to test new products, so customers not only understand what a product does but also appreciate the value it offers. Keep that in mind as you construct your Widget 1.0.

Determine a Price

It's difficult to ask potential customers what they're willing to pay for a product they aren't familiar with and for which you haven't established a value. While conducting your market testing, ask testers what value they see in the product and what they would be willing to pay. This input will help you later when setting a concrete price.

Ask for Feedback

Do some quick test market research by eliciting constructive criticism from friends, family, or professional connections. There are various ways in which you can prompt valuable feedback:

  • Conduct surveys.
    Ask a panel potential customers to test and critique your product. Your target group should reflect the type of buyer likely to buy a similar product.
  • Conduct man-on-the-street interviews.
    Collect honest, on-the-spot opinions and reactions of random individuals on the street.
  • Solicit expert advice.
    Develop a list of expert users you think may have an interest in your product. Reach out, asking for their input and thoughts. Remember, key stakeholders might be instrumental in seeing the value in your idea, and possibly financing it. Be sure to prepare a solid and cohesive elevator pitch.

Go Digital to Scale Feedback Gathering

Maximize your product testing techniques through the use of online tools and product testing services such as SurveyMonkey or Google Survey. You'll reach more potential clients and discover how to find out the market size of a product. These steps will help you compose a meaningful and successful survey:

  • Clearly define the purpose of the study.
  • Keep it concise. The longer the process, the more likely takers won't complete it.
  • Take your survey for a test drive by sharing it with coworkers and friends to address any typos or confusing questions.
  • Consider your audience and when they're most likely to respond. SurveyMonkey recommends Mondays, Fridays, and Sundays as the best days to send out a survey.
  • Send a friendly reminder. Don't be overbearing, but a simple nudge can help.
  • Offer an incentive. The best way to garner participation is to offer something in return for their time and feedback, such as a gift card or fun giveaway featuring your company or product name.

Tweak and Adjust

Once you've gathered the necessary market research, use this information to determine how to validate market demand. These findings may mean making adjustments to the product itself or the way you promote it. There's no point in surveying prospective customers if you aren't willing to listen to their honest feedback. Study the results for areas of concern or where questions arose. A follow-up survey may be necessary to resolve and clarify these issues.

Develop Your Marketing Plan

If your product has been well received and endured the rigors of rounds of market testing, the next step is to create a concrete marketing plan – and stick with it. The launch of your product is critical to its future success, so carefully consider these factors:

  • Establish specific goals, such as how many units you intend to sell, which publications you'd like to be featured in, and whether word-of-mouth or traditional advertising will better serve you.
  • Outline definitive strategies to reach these goals.
  • Create messaging to support your market research and develop an advertising campaign.
  • Set a budget that makes sense for your business.

Now apply everything you've learned from your market testing to share your new product with the world. Keep in mind that experimenting doesn't end once you've launched your product. You'll want to continue to gather feedback, make necessary adjustments, and potentially implement additional testing.