Little-known ways to test your business idea

Customer Service Forum 2013 @ St George
Customer Service Forum 2013  (Photo credit: mylearning)

Low cost. Inexpensive. No cost. Magical words. Flop, failure. Unsuccessful. Not words anyone looking to start something on the side or even a would-be small business person would want to hear.

After selecting your most promising idea for a product or service and assessing its potential, next up is the important step of testing it in the market.

Leave out testing and your business idea could quickly go West.

The number one question you need to ask yourself is:

“Will customers open their wallets or purses and buy my product or service?”

Start-ups need to be as frugal as a pensioner, as sharp-eyed as an eagle to spot opportunities and as imaginative as a street seller pitching to tourists when they embark on the all-important step of product or service testing.

Here’s a few inexpensive ways to get your product or service in front of prospective customers to test demand:

– Make your prototype or first batch of your products. You’ve got to ensure that your first impression is good. Don’t let out a half-finished product. Customers will remember this.
– Try to wrangle a spot in a store that sells products where yours would be a good fit. Don’t let them have your stock on assignment. There’s little respect for something where the store owner has no skin in the game.
– Kiosks in shopping malls are an inexpensive way to test new business ideas.
– Mobile shopping carts with a decent-looking design are an even lower-cost way to test customer demand for your new product. This is especially suitable for someone who has not been in business before.
You can get out of a lousy location quickly.
– Demonstrate your product in a shopping mall at month-end. This requires no big investment. Don’t choose hi-end malls but those where rates are lower.
– Most trade shows these days have a section for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Select a show that fits with your product or service. This method will help you test interest among potential distributors.

As you get feedback from customers, refine and adjust your product or service. Listen to customer feedback on how the product works for them. Iron out any kinks.

When you’ve got a good feel for your sales potential, plan for your next step – full-scale implementation.

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