Testing, Testing: Tapping Customer Opinion

Tapping customer opinion is one of the best ways to find out if your idea for a new product or service will be successful. The trick to doing it right, however, demands flexibility, persistence and the ability to distill feedback into meaningful efforts to improve.

We look at a variety of ways to test out your ideas before investing too much time and money. By following these tips, you can pave the way for meaningful, actionable input.

1. Make Social Media Your Free Testing Ground

One of the quickest and least expensive ways to get direct feedback from consumers is to share your idea on social media. You’ll know in an instant if you’ve got traction (many comments or shares), or if you’re dead in the water (crickets, nada, zilch).

If you have the bandwidth, create a website for your idea and share a link on Facebook, Twitter and any other social platforms you use. The analytics will show whether people visited, bounced or completed your form to request for more information.

2. Get Input from Influencers

Feedback from potential customers is always good, but if they’re influencers, all the better. Search online for those who use products or services similar to what you’re developing and look for experts with many engaged followers. Ask them to try what you’re offering and encourage their honest opinion. If they like what they see you have a powerful advocate. If not, tap them for insights into how you could improve your offering.

3. Build an Early Version of Your Product

Instead of building out your product fully, which could cost you dearly if it’s not well received, build an early-development version. Make it minimal, and just enough for consumers to see what it might do and imagine its potential.

A 3D printer could be the key to building this, however, the cost of buying one could be prohibitive, if you don’t have $1,500 to $4,000 to shell out for an average 3D printer. You might prefer to rent one if the cost to purchase is prohibitive. In fact, UPS boasts a growing network of stores with 3D printers you can use for a fraction of the cost of buying one.

4. Ask Your Biggest Skeptics, Critics and Naysayers

When you’re building out ideas, sometimes the most fervent devil’s advocates can be angels in disguise. Why? Because they’ll pick apart your product faster and more efficiently than any focus group, which could save you countless hours—and many dollars—along the road to developing a winning widget.

If you’re looking to expand your restaurant’s footprint by branching out with food trucks, ask a critic to test your mobile menu. If you’re developing an app that aggregates local coupons, enlist a frugal friend or two to see if they’ll put it to use. The more negative the reviewer, the more honest, actionable feedback you’ll receive.

When you’re testing out something new, there are no wrong answers, and every piece of input has the potential to key success. The more ways you test, the better your chances of passing with flying colors.