Test before you invest – practical ways to test the market

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The largemouth yellowfish or Vaal-Orange largemouth yellowfish (Labeobarbus kimberleyensis) is a ray-finned fish species in the family Cyprinidae.

An entrepreneur had developed a sunglasses holder for cars, manufactured several hundred products and secured placement in discount pharmacy stores as an impulse item near the checkouts. He got one sale in three months.

Your new idea for a product or service could turn into a nightmare if you fall in love with your fabulous dream idea and don’t test it beforehand in the marketplace. The most visible product failures are those involving physical product. Bedrooms, garages, studies and sheds can stay filled up with unsold product if you don’t do your homework. But the same applies to entrepreneurs who come up with smart phone apps – the only thing is you don’t get to see unused or unsold product. You won’t find a pile of unsold inventory for a new service because only the business owner will know how well his or her service is performing.

Would-be entrepreneurs are eager to get their new product or service onto the market as soon as possible so that they can rake in the money. But getting out of the starting blocks too quickly can prove fatal. Behind many successful products is careful market testing. Some entrepreneurs use this opportunity to tweak, refine and revise their product or service offering so that it creates improved value for their potential customers. Leaving out the product testing step when coming up with new business ideas can prove costly.

You can do some research and find a number of practical and low-cost ways to test your product before it’s even made and to make sure that a market exists for it. Some entrepreneurs check out what the competition is doing, run small Google advertisements to test demand online, visit niche forums and even set up test landing pages or websites.

Another practical way to test your product idea is to build a small-scale model that you can show people and gauge their interest. If you don’t have a prototype, you can even show people a picture or drawing of what your product will look like. This may be really doing it on the cheap but it does allow you to get some sort of response or reaction.

You may want to run a trial test for your services such as setting up an online store, driving traffic to your store and gauging interest. Zappos, the online footwear retailer, started this way.

Pop-up stores are being used to test products, especially in retail centres that have vacant shops. Recently the George UK clothing line tested their products in three or so stores in the country to see what sort of demand there is in South Africa. You might also organise an event for a local community organisation to test market your restaurant menu or food products.

One way entrepreneurs can test their products and services particularly if they are aiming for the B2B (business-to-business) market is to rent a stand at a tradeshow and display their product. It’s probably best to attend a few shows before you fork out money to do this. You can promote your product on the show and may even win a big fish such as finding a marketing company who wants to license your product. That sort of interest might be a strong indication of your product’s viability. You may want to flip things around and rather than let somebody else produce and market the product for you, go ahead and do it yourself.

In my forthcoming book, “Breakthrough Ideas”, I cover a step-by-step method to test market product or service using no-cost and low-cost practical, hands-on methods. If you would like to secure a copy for yourself, then send me an email and I will put your name on the waiting list.

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