How to Test the Market for a Product or Service Before Launching It

You’re naturally excited about your new product or service idea — but how do you know if anyone will actually buy it? You don’t have to sink a lot of money into it to test it out. Here’s how you can figure out before launch whether there’s a market for your product or service.

If you have an idea for an innovative new product or service, you probably have stars in your eyes. It’s fun to think about the reaction that your creation will receive once it is unleashed upon the world, and it’s even more fun to daydream about spending all of the theoretical money that your product or service will generate. Unfortunately, the rollout for these types of endeavors needs to be slow and meticulous. The last thing you want is to send your creation out into the world and have it land with a dud because you didn’t do your homework, misjudged the market or failed to advertise properly.

In order to give your new idea the best chance to succeed, you need to accurately test the market and plan your launch accordingly. While you could shell out a lot of money to consultants or marketing strategists, you can also study the market on your own, and this do-it-yourself approach may be easier and cheaper than you think.

Start With Friends and Family

The vast majority of market research starts with discussing the idea for your product or service with the people in your life. This conversation can be done informally, over a meal or in the car, or it could consist of a more targeted brainstorming session, trying to mine the best ideas to enhance your creation. In general, you just want to get a feel for whether or not your idea has legs. Do other people think that there is a need for it? Would they spend money on it? Is the product or service something you could deliver? Theoretically, the people in your life are going to be the most positive about your new endeavor, so if the answers to these questions aren’t generally “yes,” then you may have a problem right out of the gate.

Small Scale Testing

Once you decide you want to move forward with your idea, you’ll want to start market testing on a small scale. If you’re creating a physical product, have prototypes made so that people can test it out and give you feedback on its design and functionality. Alternatively, if you’re creating a service, online business or mobile app, make a simple, streamlined version and have people start doing beta testing, providing thoughts on the interface, ease of use and overall satisfaction. Use all of this feedback to your advantage. Don’t outright dismiss criticism without considering it, and remember that if multiple testers have the same complaint, it’s probably a problem worth solving.

At this stage, you’ll also want to move outside the sphere of your friends and family. You want to start getting the opinions of people with whom you don’t have a personal relationship. For this stage, you can have the people in your life enlist their friends and family to provide feedback, or you can use social media to recruit a list of volunteers. Hopefully, by getting these unvarnished opinions, you can start to refine your creation so that it’s suitable to be unveiled to the public at large.

Testing the Market Online

The Internet is a virtually limitless resource for testing the viability of your idea, and this research can be done in a number of different ways. One of the best places to start is with online forums that deal with topics that are related to your product or service. Check out the most popular forums on the topic, paying close attention to the number of members and the frequency of posts. These metrics will tell you how active the forum is, which will give you some idea of how much public interest there is in your product.

Additionally, online tools such as Google Insights, Google Trends and the Google Keyword Planner will show you how often people are searching for specific terms, where those customers are located and whether the topics are growing in popularity. To be sure, the data provided by these tools won’t perfectly predict the success of your product or service, but it can be incredibly useful as you start to strategize the best ways to brand and market your creation.

If you want to get more specialized information, sites such as Quantcast and Market Samurai can be invaluable resources. With Quantcast, you can get a demographic breakdown of your potential customers. Once you find a website for a product or service that is similar to yours, Quantcast can tell you a wide array of information about the visitors to that site, including age, gender and income level. Understanding these metrics will help you to better launch and advertise your idea. Additionally, Market Samurai can tell you how many customers are looking for the type of product or service that you’re offering, as well as how likely they are to spend money on it.

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Don’t Fear Competition

After you’ve come up with a brilliant idea for a new product, you may be disheartened to learn that there are already similar products on the market. Rest assured, you’re likely to encounter competition in one form or another, and the overall consumer marketplace is becoming increasingly crowded. In fact, according to one set of metrics, the iTunes App Store alone receives over 1,000 new app submissions every single day.

Far from being discouraged, however, you should actually be excited to discover that your creation has competition. The fact that there are already versions of your idea on the market means that there is a need and a desire for it among consumers. Additionally, a crowded marketplace should push you to be more creative and work harder on your own endeavor. In order to succeed, you just need to differentiate your product or service by branding it in a new and unique way, helping it to stand out from the crowd.

All of this market research may not sound particularly exciting, especially compared to the exhilaration you feel when you think about your new innovation. Remember, however, that testing the market is a necessary and important step. By taking the time to do your research and plan your launch accordingly, you can give your endeavor the best chance to succeed.

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