Low- or No-budget Test Marketing

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Product development is no place for guess work. These market testing methods can help you validate your ideas while minimizing risk and expense.

You might have plenty of ideas for new products and services, but unless you determine that a market exists for them, you’re out of luck. Unlike corporations with deep pockets and long R&D road maps, extensive market testing is a luxury that most small business entrepreneurs just can’t afford.

The good news is that you don’t need a big budget to conduct baseline market testing. In an article on Small Business Computing, Joe Taylor lays out several affordable methodologies that provide the testing information small business entrepreneurs need—at a fraction of the cost.

Validate Demand

The first thing you want to know when you have a new product idea is whether there’s any demand for it. A simple and affordable way to gauge consumer interest is to create a landing page or a sales letter that describe the product’s features and potential benefits. Post it on your website, or use a tool like LaunchRock to create a quick “launching soon” Web page. This platform helps you determine—through pre-orders or requests for notifications—if there’s sufficient demand for your product.

The Value of Bare Bones

Are you on the right track? Developing a bare-bones version of your product—a.k.a., the minimum viable product (MVP)—is the fastest way to elicit the feedback you need for the least amount of money. Don’t worry whether the product’s perfect: the MVP lets you concentrate on eliminating pain points and solving problems for your target market.

The amount of buzz a product generates isn’t as important as setting up solid metrics. The results can tell you whether you’re on track for profits or if you’re simply burning cash on a product that won’t deliver. For example, how many overall signups did you get? Compare that with the number of active users. That can help you determine whether your early adopters bailed or if you’re gaining ground.

Embrace and React to Change

During the testing period, you’ll take in a lot of data from early adopters and results from those metrics you set up. Based on that information, prepare to tweak your idea every few weeks until the formal launch—or even abandon it altogether.

Iteration based on customer feedback is essential, and pivoting away from the original idea isn’t failure—although it may feel that way. Rather it demonstrates focus on the long-term growth and success of your company.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of Small Business Computing. Follow Lauren on Twitter.

Adapted from Market Testing on a Shoestring, by Joe Taylor Jr. at Small Business Computing. Follow Small Business Computing on Twitter.