Tom’s Shoes founder recommends putting the most simple iteration of your product into the market and seeing how people respond. He warns against wasting time with expensive market surveys and product development cycles. This is particularly true if you are a boot-strapping start-up entrepreneur who wants to see if your idea is any good and if people would buy it. More importantly you want to know if you should invest more time, energy and resources into development and marketing!
Tim Ferriss gave a great example of the disconnect between market surveys and reality. You could ask a room of ten people if they’d like to buy your new product (be it jewelry, photography, apparel or software) and many might say yes – for any number of reasons but primarily because people like to make other people happy in this type of situation. But if you said hold on a minute, went to your car, and came back with a box of the exact item for sale to these people, how many would actually buy it?
That’s why you shouldn’t waste time of surveys – just get a simple product offering together and put it out on the market to see if people will part with their hard-earned dollars to buy your item.
A jewelry designer did this by walking into jewelry stores with a single sample of her jewelry (the only one she had made) and asking if they would carry the product. Simple and effective and we’ve had a tremendously positive response. So much so that we decided to go ahead with manufacturing a small batch to see how they would sell.
A software maker who has been coding for the last eighteen months has gotten his product in front of a potential customer who agreed to work with the software and give useful feedback. Rather than developing the application behind closed doors, we are approaching other potential users with the simplest version of the software to see if they would pay to use it.
I think Tom and Tim were both right – it is best to get going and see if people will buy your product. This gives a start-up the most valuable information it needs about whether they have a marketable product.
Any success stories or advice about real market testing?