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Don’t rest until you test!

So, you have a great new product or service that you and your associates love.  Early adopters should climb all over each other for a look.

But what have you done to test the concept against the realities of the marketplace?   Have you developed a prototype, alternate pricing schemes, even a PowerPoint mock-up to show to potential buyers?  I would be very, very nervous without testing the product in the market as early as possible, ready to make changes and enhancements before committing to production and release.

Even with a perfect product, is the market ready for this?  Will you have to be both the evangelist for the product and for its marketplace as well?  Few early stage companies have the resources to do both.

There are formal focus group organizations to help you, or you can attempt to test the market yourself by calling together a variety of potential users and asking a third party to facilitate a meeting where the product is exposed to the group and a conversation freely formed allowing the participants to agree with the premise or reject the product as useless to them, all without personalities getting in the way.

No matter how you plan to test, make that plan an integral part of the development cycle, as early as possible so changes will not be costly.  Do NOT rest until you test.

  • Kent Deines

    I couldn’t agree more. I have been embarrassed more than once. We always tested our products before we shipped them and still shipped product that didn’t work when the customer got it. Even though we tested and tested, we missed problems.

    Sometimes we took a shortcut that hid the problem. Often the shortcut is unrealized at the time. (Using a lab power supply and not the battery the customer used. Opps.) Other times we didn’t think to test it that way. (Shallow water and slow moving boat. Either one ok, together, no good.) Then there is a whole class of low probably issues. Most units don’t show the problem or nobody is aware of it. Sometimes it becomes easy to see only when you get a flash of understanding that allows you to carefully design the right experiment. Only then it becomes painfully obvious. A wonderful problem is when a customer dreams up a new application and an opps pops up.
    If you are lucky enough to have, what I call, Consenting-Adult-Customers, that that you can help test your product, it is wonderful. These are customers that you are comfortable showing your dirty, holey under ware to along with your products that don’t quite work the way they should. They will work with you to identify and fix your mistakes and not hold it against you and later become your advocate. They usually have experience that tells them, that, of course you are screwed up, but it is normal, human and ok. Treat these people very well.

    At screening meetings I ask, “What are you going to do when you find out that it doesn’t work on Thursdays when the moon is full?” You will have a disaster, I guarantee it. I want to see if they thought about it and have a plan for it. In the end, it is really all management can do.

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