Too often, product launches get postponed again and again because the product isn’t perfect enough. There are bugs. The design requires tweaking. Last-minute testing reveals that payment processing doesn’t work.
If you test whether or not people want your product before you launch it, you’ll prevent yourself from entering the dreaded state of development hell — or, worse, from launching your product to crickets.
There’s only one way to test if there’s a market for your product. Try to market and sell it. You can and should do this before you start creating an MVP. If you don’t know if your idea is viable or not, the risk of spending a huge amount of money and time and failing is extremely high.
(Note: an MVP, in this case, is often understood as a minimal version of a software product, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be a service, for example — manual work that solves a problem that you do in exchange for money. This manual work can be automated with a software solution in the future.)
So, how do you test if people want your product? Just what you would do at product launch. Find your audience, reach out to them and convert them into paying customers. You can reach your customers either online or offline.
How to test the market
Here’s how you do it offline. If you’re creating an e-commerce store builder application for local store owners, the easiest thing to do is to visit local stores and present them with your service; offer to build them an e-commerce store for a small fee. If they’re interested, ask if you can sign them up to use the app. Tell them you’re adding final touches to the app and will reach out to them once you’re ready. Make sure that you keep in touch with them while building your MVP — they’ll be your early adopters, the ones who help you build an application that people actually need.
Online customer development can look something like this. Set up an ad that you would set up for your product at the time of launch. Target it to the audience you want to sell your product to and see what happens. You can point your ad to a simple landing page using a template and invite your audience to join a waitlist. Your goal at this point is just to measure their interest. Are people clicking the ad? Is anyone joining the waitlist?
Most likely, some percentage will click the ad, and no one will sign up for the waitlist unless your product really hits a nerve for people. But don’t worry. As soon as you see people clicking an ad, you can improve your landing page and create several variations of that ad.
Can you interview people to learn if they will buy your product? Yes. Absolutely. If you conduct your interviews in the right way.
How to interview
First of all, you don’t want to interview your friends and family. They love you and will tell you that your product is perfect…even if it isn’t.
Second of all, don’t just ask people what they think about your idea and if they would pay for it. Most interviewees don’t want to appear rude or disappoint you, so they’ll give you the answers that you want to hear whether or not they’re actually interested in the product. Instead, use ‘jobs to be done’ interview technique to learn what products people are using now, what they were using before and why and how they switched products.
You can also ask customers to buy your product right now. It may seem crazy for someone to pay for a product that doesn’t even exist, but if you offer to tailor the product to their needs and get them involved in the product development, they just might. I had a client who was able to pre-sell his SaaS in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, partially funding the development of his product.
These kinds of tests are great for measuring customer interest. They allow you to establish a group of people you will work with during the customer development phase, which will, in turn, allow you to build a product that people want instead of creating something that you have on your mind and trying to push it down people’s throats. Start by creating a list of customers and interacting with them often, updating where you are on your progress. Interview them, show them feature descriptions, mockups, and prototypes. Ask them if the product looks like something they would use.
Remember, there’s no guarantee that the feedback you receive in the customer development phase will be 100% reliable. But it’s sure better than having no feedback at all and launching your product to crickets.
Originally published on Medium