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Popular Methods of Testing New Product Ideas

Testing assumptions about product features and customers is usually one of the main topics whenever I work with companies on their product and innovation strategy. Because eventually it all comes down to quickly getting feedback from the market to understand if the idea or prototype your are working on and the assumptions you are holding are either valid or invalid. The earlier the better.

It’s all about testing your assumptions and ideas.

Furtunately, different techniques and experimentation methods have evolved over the past years to act as a blueprint for testing ideas. Below you will find the most commong techniques for conducting experiments to easily and quickly gather insights about your customers and users with as little resources as possible.

 

The Smoke Test

Common question: Can I already get some early commitment for my idea?

The Smoke Test works exceptionally well for digital products, because setting up a landing page and measuring conversions – such as signups – is one of the most promising ways of understanding a product’s potential. Such landing page can contain text, images, graphics and even videos to explain a product that has not been built yet. To get people to visit your landing page, Goodle AdWords campaigns targetting relevant keywords can help doing so.

Before launching this test, I recommended performing customer research through interviews to get a basic understanding of the product features that are going to be promoted on the landing page. If such research is not possible due to limited knowledge of the market, I recommend taking a look at the Concierge Test below to better understand how product features need to be shaped.

Related: The Demo Pitch, creating a pitchdeck and sending it to prospects

Projects we tested at ⭕️ Hauser using the Smoke Test

A lawyer working in the USA told me about a problem he was facing that I wanted to better understand. Although I have little to no knowledge about attorneys and their work in the USA, I created a simple and admittedly vague landing page promoting a service that would help US attorneys to find law firms to partner with in other US states. The result can be seen at onAdvocate.com.

Prior to performing this test, I reached out to several lawyers in my network to help me better understanding if this idea is worth exploring or not. Eventually I performed a Smoke Test to gather data on the problem. In general, one of the big advantages of Smoke Tests is that they can be run very easily and cost efficient.

 

The Concierge Test

Common question: Are my customers interested in the idea (while I’m still figuring out the details)?

While the Concierge Test is one of the most labor-intensive tests to perform, it’s on the other side one that generates the most useful insights. Promoting a Concierge Test can take many forms and if it’s centered around a potential digital product, this could still involve a landing page to attract potential customers.

The difference with this test as opposed to the Smoke Test is that personal help is offered right away to fulfil customers’ needs. The processes that are done manually at this point help gaining deeper insights and help understanding what needs to be adapted. Once the processes are set up learning was gathered, they can be automated.

 

The Wizard of Oz Test

Common question: Are my customers interested in this specific product?

The Wizard of Oz Test is usually performed with digital products and differs from the Smoke Test and Concierge Test by letting customers believe that the product has already been built while in reality it has not been built yet. To perform this test, a deeper understanding of the product features and target audience is necessary.

For example, think of an online service that matches people based on their interests in order to get to know each other. Users would fill out a form and then wait to get matched ‘automatically.’ In reality, the matching process is done manually.

Projects we tested at ⭕️ Hauser using the Wizard of Oz Test

The example above was taken from an experiment that I was performing over the course of several months. The project’s title was Mate Mate Mate (www.matematemate.com) and its idea was to match people in tech in circles of three to build new connections and to get to know each other. Interested users would fill out a form on a landing page which would send over data to a Google Sheet, where I would match them with two others based on similar interests.

This experiment was covered in several articles at Bernie.Hauser.io: Creating a landing page without coding and a new branding for the project

 

The Pre-Sales Test

Common question: Are my customers willing to pay for a product I’m about to build?

The Pre-Sales Test for digital products can be seen as a supercharged Smoke Test with the strongest customer commitment possible, namely upfront payment. However, the Pre-Sales Test works especially well for non-digital products such as hardware-related products.

Crowdfunding is probably the most popular form of conducting a Pre-Sales Test. Instead of producing hundreds and thousands of products without getting substantial feedback from the market first, it allows to get strong customer commitment upfront to understand if the product is solving a specific customer problem or not.

 

The Paper Prototype or Click Prototype

Common question: Is it easy for my customers to interact with my product?

Creating a prototype works for both, digital and physical products. For example, if you are working on a physical device that you want to test with users, you would first create a prototype made of paper, wood and similar materials to see how customers react to it. Google did this with early Google Glass prototypes quite famously to better understand the form factor customers want (see this TED talk about Rapid Prototyping Google Glass).

For digital products, Click Prototypes are a great way to simulate websites and apps through static images that are linked to each other. Creating a Click Prototype takes little time but can gain incredibly valuable insights into how you want to build your product.

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