So you have an idea for a physical product that you want to bring to life.
It’s your passion, your fire. You know it will work. You believe in it… but will everybody else?
This is where market testing comes in. But it can be expensive, right? And time consuming? And best handled by experts? Not necessarily…
There are so many different ways to test the market for your new product ideas, and even though your concept may be a physical product, many of the validation methods can still fit into your tight budget without a problem.
While so much of our blog content is dedicated to validating your business or product ideas using online tools and resources – this post provides a slight twist, focusing on how to validate a physical product in the real-world (i.e. locally).
Validate a Physical Product: Online vs. Real-World
The concept for this post came from a desire to expand upon my response to a recent inquiry received from a reader – here’s an excerpt from their original question:
“I plan to put up a site and test it … Since the products don’t exist yet, how can you give potential clients a good idea of the product when there is no photo or video?”
The following is an excerpt from my initial response – specifically as it pertains to testing online:
… This is where the process can get really fun. Since you don’t actually have the product yet (and shouldn’t, until it’s validated) – this is your opportunity to be creative.
What I would suggest is to begin searching other [retail] websites, to see how they display [their products].
Essentially what you’re looking for is examples of how you’d like to display your product and what you’d like your website to look like.
There’s no doubt that, if you are hoping to gauge market interest, you’ll need visuals – so you’ll need to create mock-products/prototypes. BUT you don’t actually have to physically make the [product]. You can have them mocked-up (via digital graphics, photoshop, etc.) for your website. There are tons of graphic designers who can do this for you at a very reasonable cost (e.g. on Fiverr).
As I noted above, begin to bookmark a few examples of websites and product pictures/models that you like, and you may even be able to use one of those for your mock-up.
Here is a post of mine that speaks to the process of finding inspiration for your prototyping: http://testingthemuse.com/giving-product-identity-branding/
The example is for an app, but the concept can easily be applied to a more physical product.
Essentially, the process to validate a physical product online would mimic the same steps necessary to test a virtual product or service online.
But online testing and validation aside – what if you actually have (or can produce) a prototype, early version or actual example of the physical product you want to validate?
Easy Ways to Validate a Physical Product in the Real-World
If you actually want to validate a physical product, which you already have in production, can create by hand, or at least can manufacture in fairly short order, use the following three easy (and affordable) techniques to gather valuable feedback before going full-steam into production:
Produce a Test Run
In order to know if your new product will fly, design and build a “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP) as a sample that people can physically hold and handle.
Humans are crafty.
Often times, you may be able to create by hand an early version of your product idea. If not you, what about that aunt who loves to scrapbook and makes doll clothing? Or your brother-in-law, constantly tinkering in his “workshop”. You may be surprised by the talents of the people around you (and their willingness to help).
Also, innovations in 3D printing have made prototype making a cinch, so you can get a few samples made that way. Even local libraries and colleges often provide public access to this technology.
Sell on Consignment
What better way to test how your product will sell than by actually selling it?
A small consignment shop is a microcosm of the greater market, and by selling your first test products, you can understand how they might perform.
Find a local place that serves customers in your target market, and then ask if they’ll put your product on their shelves.
Local businesses can be more open to local entrepreneurs, and in addition to what the sales numbers will tell you, the shop owners can even help you gauge their customers’ reactions to your product.
A variation on this method would be to display your physical products at a farmers market, flea market, swap meet, local fair, convention, or other type of gathering where you could get your concept in front of your potential audience.
Donate and Gather Feedback
Another underutilized source of product validation can be charities.
Similar to a consignment situation, donating some of your product to a charity can bring in very valuable feedback.
Be sure to include your contact information on the packaging so that you can gather the feedback from the end-users. Maybe offer a discount on further products or other special deals in exchange for their opinions on your product.
Having the idea is only a fraction of the entrepreneurial process.
The foundation for taking an idea to reality involves market research. Conducting this research doesn’t change, whether you product is physical or virtual, or whether you have a prototype or simply a sketch of what you have in mind.
Even though it seems difficult or scary, it’s worth it. You can get some independent help, look to your local community, or look to the global community on the internet for cost effective feedback on your physical product ideas.