I have an equation written on the whiteboard at our offices: 15 minutes watching a real user with your product in their environment = 10 hours talking/planning at the office. This equation saved my company.

Pablo Fuentes, CEO and founder of Proven

Do you have a great idea for a new product or service? The beauty of the idea phase is that it is perfect (because there is no one yet to criticize) and cheap (because it is not yet built). To avoid wasting loads of time and cash in the next phase, here are a few tips for lean testing your great ideas:

  • Test first, build later. While it is enticing to design and construct your new product, do not build. Test concepts and prototypes (or MVPs minimal viable products) with real customers. While this may feel like more time and effort up front, in the long-term you will avoid many missteps.
  • You don’t get a vote. And your team, friends, family and start-up buddies likely don’t get votes either. The only people who’s opinions matter are those target customers that have a real need for your product, and…
  • Make sure there is a value exchange – meaning you get paid. Generally people want to be kind and encouraging. To avoid the deception of “false” positive feedback on your idea, make sure there is a value exchange. If you have a valuable product/service, customers will pay you with money or time (preferably money).
  • Simple sell. Whether you are selling a new app or a million dollar security software system, buyers have to “get” the benefit of your product in 30 seconds or less. This is a very long and tough process, but critical for future success.
  • Use the Cross-10 method. Described by entrepreneur Pablo Fuentes in his article above, this method send out 10 salespeople to interview 10 different potential buyers. This gets you to deep qualitative insights without the danger of being wrong-pathed by an outlier interviewer or respondent.
  • Start small. Nothing is ever as easy as it seems, especially with new products. Get to the core function that will solve a problem and then extend from there.
  • Focus on the few customer advocates, not the many passive trials. Customer advocates are those that love your product and want to see you succeed. They will be the ones to suffer through your awful first versions, and then act as your unpaid sales force, well before you have the money to hire one. Thousands of passive likes, clicks or trials may help prove your marketing is interesting, but they say nothing about the long-term viability of your new product.

How do you test new product ideas? Share in the Comments section below.

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