I am going to test a new product idea that I have. It is a side project, that is going to generate some passive income for me. I don’t have too much time to spend on creating the product. Lean startup techniques are awesome in the sense that they encourage you to ‘get out of the building’ and talk to real customers, but I am not quite ready to do even that. If you are, or have been, in my shoes, you’ll know what I mean.
So here are four techniques that I use to test my ideas. Enjoy and explore!
Step 1. Set up a very basic landing page. I have used wix.com and launchrock.co (you can get a free domain, but I suggest registering a cheap domain).
Step 2. Describe your offer in 3 ways: in a quote of 3 to 5 words, in a sentence, and in a paragraph. Your description should be informative, actionable and inspiring.
Here is an example from launchrock.co: “we get users”; “a platform for launching new companies”; “set up a ‘launching soon’ page in minutes. Collect interest, increase sharing and build your audience”. Do you feel like you know what they are, and what they are doing? It is informative and actionable. Combined with their visuals, it also looks quite inspiring. This gets us to step number 3.
Step 3. Get an image that illustrates your idea. If you are not a graphic artist, try your luck with free stock images or hire a freelance designer.
You can search for royalty-free images on Flickr. Select “commercial use allowed” through their filters. If you can’t find what you want, check out the websites fiverr.com and upwork.com, but remember, you are hiring a person. So, take it seriously, check references and read proposals.
Step 4. Set up a conversion mechanism. For example, you can encourage people to sign up to purchase, and set up auto responder to let them know that your product is coming to the market soon.
Step 5. Set up analytics and tracking for your landing page. You can use Google Analytics or Crazy Egg.
OK, now that the landing page and the offer are ready, unveil your product to the world!
Idea Market Test
Register a Google AdWords account and create several ads. Set up your ads carefully. They should be designed to test your assumptions about your product, and the demand for it. Things to test: your product name, your audience, your pitch, etc. If you have never created an ad before, search for your competitors and see what they are doing. Link your ads to your landing page.
Collect information for several days – or even weeks. You have a product when your ads convert well – and people sign up on your landing page. It really depends on your market, but you want to see anywhere between 5% and 25% conversion rate. This should be further discounted, because people who sign up may not necessarily become paying customers in the future.
Some products are very social and sharable in nature. If you are targeting a crowd that is particularly vocal online (cat lovers, new moms, gamers, etc.), it is a good idea to talk to them on their platform of choice.
Select a platform that your audience prefers. I find Quora and Reddit to be useful. You can then ask questions and gather opinions from your potential customers for free.
Submit your offer and a link to your landing page, to where you think it would be most relevant. Avoid presenting it as a sales pitch or advertisement. Engage in conversation.
Consider creating an eBay auction if your product is similar to those sold on eBay, Amazon, or similar marketplaces. In this case, people who are placing a bid on your product will be your actual, real customers, because they are prepared to pay once the auction is over. This is also a good way to test the potential price of your product.
Set up an auction using your offer and visuals. Set the minimum bid to be the lowest price you would accept from your customers.
Cancel the bid before the auction is over, to avoid actually providing the product.
If you are further along in the process of product development, you may already have polished your pitch, and developed all the visuals and promotional material. If you have a promo video, you might even be able to kick a crowdfunding campaign. I like Indiegogo.com or Kickstarter.com.
Research successful campaigns for similar products in your market, read news published during their crowdfunding campaign, note where they got their publicity, and review their gifts and FAQs.
Create your crowdfunding landing page.
Tell people about your upcoming campaign. Create a list of contacts: your family and friends, your acquaintances , and media such as bloggers and journalists. Make it easy for people to share about your campaign.
Gather all your data and review it carefully. Even if your numbers are not stunning, you may still give the product a go-ahead. Remember, this is just an experiment, not a scientific study. The purpose is customer discovery and product validation. Now you have to make an educated guess based on your rough estimations. Good luck!