Credit: Ron Rule
It’s 2:00 a.m. — you’re tired, but you can’t sleep because you just had the most profound idea an inventor could ever have. Your product is going to change the world and millions of people will buy it. You’re sure of it!
Then reality sets in.
Coming up with an idea was the easy part. Now you have to figure out how to actually make the thing. And once the high of being the person who thought of the next big thing starts to wear off, you realize that if you’re being honest, you don’t really know if people will actually buy it yet. So how do you find out for sure?
Focus groups are a nice idea, in theory, but anyone whose been in the consumer products space for any length of time will tell you there’s one big problem with them: they don’t work. What people say they will buy and what people actually buy are usually miles apart. The problem with things like focus groups, surveys, pre-registrations, and similar endeavors that attempt to gauge pre-market demand is that they’re always based on a logical problem/solution setting. Asking someone “Would you buy this?” when they know it isn’t available yet results in them thinking about it logically instead of emotionally. They’re viewing the item as something they might consider down the road. That isn’t a real commitment — thinking about it for later doesn’t mean they would actually hand you a fist full of cash for it right now.
I stopped bothering with non-committal feedback for new products about a decade ago. We launched a lot of products that failed after survey data indicated they would be a hit. We passed on a certain “blanket with sleeves” after all of the focus group and survey results viewed it unfavorably — another company took it on and ended up selling more than 30 million units.
At the end of the day, the data never matched real-world behavior when respondents didn’t have any skin in the game.
The only way to truly do market demand testing is to know if someone is going to fork over their hard-earned cash to buy your product is to get it in front of them. Traditionally, that meant you would need to create a prototype, spend a good bit of time testing and refining it, and eventually manufacture a small quantity. Unfortunately, this was the most expensive way to learn that people weren’t going to buy it.
But that was the old way. Today, we use a whole new method of testing market demand — and it’s so simple, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself before reading this. Here’s the process I currently use whenever I want to field test a new idea, without spending one cent on product development.
The first step is to come up with a name and logo. It doesn’t actually have to be permanent or your final choice, it just has to be unique enough to not be confused with anything else that’s already on the market. Go ahead and register the .com version of your brand as a domain name — I strongly recommend getting the .com over other TLDs. If it’s not available, try prefixing it with words like “buy” or “get.”
Have someone who knows what they’re doing in Photoshop create images of what your product would look like. You’ll need a few stand-alone product shots (product on white or transparent background) and some lifestyle shots showing your product being held by users or displayed in its intended settings. You can find plenty of people to do this for you on Fiverr.
I usually recommend using Shopify, but if you’re more comfortable with WordPress you can use an eCommerce plugin like WooCommerce. If you aren’t particularly web-savvy, you can find plenty of people on Fiverr who can help you set things up. Simple, minimalist templates are best (and usually free). Leave your payment processing in Test Mode — Your goal with this website is to present your product as though it already exists and is available for sale right now. You want people to be able to add your product to the cart and check out as if they were really buying it. The difference is that since your processor is in test mode, you aren’t actually charging their credit card.
If you’ve finished the above steps, you now have a website for a product, with great photos and a fully functional checkout, which people can buy (even though you secretly aren’t actually charging them). Now it’s time to get some traffic to it and see what happens. If you have an email list you can blast it out to, go ahead and start with that. Otherwise, the best way to test your product’s conversion rate is through Facebook ads. Create a Facebook page for your brand, create an ad for your product, and promote it. Personally, I would spend around $10,000 on a proper marketing test, but you can start with a lot less if you aren’t comfortable going that high right away. I do recommend spending at least $1,000 because you want to get enough clicks and conversions for the data to mean something — trust me, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to lose $1,000 on testing market demand than it is to lose tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars producing a product nobody wants.
Now it’s just a matter of digesting those numbers. Usually, marketing tests aren’t “profitable,” so don’t worry so much about the CPAs — in a proper marketing campaign, you would be refining your audience to get those down anyway. It does give you an idea of what you would be working with out of the gate so it’s something to keep in mind.
At this point, you can shut down the website and Facebook page so no additional “orders” come through. It isn’t necessary (or recommended) to reach out to the people who ordered and let them know it was a test. Since you never actually charged anyone’s credit cards, they haven’t made a purchase.
The main takeaway here is to gauge whether or not there’s at least some demand for your product concept, and the “Market it as if it were real” test is the best way to get those answers. A person who typed in their card number, believing they would be charged, made a real commitment to buying your product. Knowing how many people will do that is way more valuable than any survey or focus group. Best of all, you’ll probably have quite a few comments on your Facebook ad too. If your first ad doesn’t do well, that might give you an idea of what they didn’t like — that means you can go back to the drawing board, make a few changes, and test again until you find a winner. Contact a marketing agency to see how we can help you with your testing your products market demand and marketing your brand new products or email us at [email protected]