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Brand Strategy For Startups

How To Gauge Interest In A New Product Concept

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How To Gauge Interest In A New Product Concept

One of the biggest uncertainties surrounding any new offering is whether customers will even consider buying it. One of the first—and easiest—experiments to consider is simply asking. Especially in the B2B space, there’s little harm in calling a few existing customers to get a little feedback on your concept, including whether they find the idea appealing, how it might be improved, who would need to sign off on the purchase, and where it might fall in the organization’s existing list of budget priorities. Over time—as we’ll explore—you’ll want to conduct concept tests that can better estimate your penetration rate in the market, but a few early phone calls can go a long way in gauging interest and shaping the design of your new offering.

Regardless of how you conduct your concept tests, it’s important to have a story—something that customers can readily understand. Food and beverage executive Christine Dahm explained to us how one industry powerhouse was exceptionally good at coming up with new product ideas, yet struggled to get reliable consumer feedback prior to launch.

“When we tested the product ideas with consumers, we couldn’t re-create the emotional states that the products were responding to. Our tests ended up getting rational responses rather than the responses consumers would have given if they were actually living the experience. We partnered with a TV network to write concepts, and the difference was obvious. They’re storytellers, so naturally they were very good at turning our concepts into stories that resonated with the consumer.”

As Dahm suggests, it’s important that your concept tests help re-create the context in which a decision to purchase or use a product would be made. If you ask consumers about the most important parts of a car, you might well hear from many people that the brakes are most important. If you then ask whether they would be more likely to buy a car with better brakes, the answer would likely be a resounding yes. But when people actually go to buy a car, almost no one is actually making decisions based on brakes. In order for your concept tests to be meaningful, it’s essential to create the story that puts customers “in the moment.”

This continues to be true as you conduct more rigorous concept tests. As you try to get a better idea of how widely your new offering might be adopted, basic website development tools and unique link generators (such as Goo.gl) can provide an easy and inexpensive way to quantify interest in your concept. Once you’ve set up a basic web page that tells the story of your new offering, you can take to the streets to hand out cards or brochures with a link to the site, or you can email a list of potential customers and encourage them to learn more by visiting your site. You can track your overall response rate, and you can use unique links to the site to see whether one campaign had a better response rate than another. Beyond seeing who’s interested in learning more, your site can use a buy-now button to see how many customers are willing to actually make a purchase, even if (at this stage) the button only takes consumers to a page thanking them for their interest and giving them a chance to learn more when your offering is actually available.

In conducting these broader concept tests, it’s still important to pay attention to your experimental design. Remember to think about the number of variables you’re changing, the biases that may be in play, and the sample size for your test.

More of this approach is featured in my book JOBS TO BE DONE: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation.

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