How to Test Your Product Idea to Make Sure it Will Succeed Before Your Even Start

Have you ever started a business or created a product and it failed? Did you spend a lot of wasted time and money and got nowhere? It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s absolutely possible to launch your next product and have a huge  audience waiting to buy it from you. In this article you’ll learn how to make sure your next product idea will be successful and already have a fan base ready to buy it!

Have you ever started a business, side gig, or created some kind of product and then no one wanted it? There is nothing worse than working 6 months on something, releasing it, and then nothing... All that wasted time!

When I was in college, a friend and I started a little record label. Basically we worked with a local band to record an album and release the CD's. We agreed to split the profits with the band 50 / 50. So we spent all this time recording the band and then we purchased a production of about 1000 CD's. All in all we spent probably about 3 months recording and getting the album through production.

Once it was nearly ready we scheduled shows at the local venues, distributed the CD's to local CD stores, and attempted to locally market the band. The first week was great! We sold about 100 CD's. We thought, we've done it! The next week, sales dwindle to nothing...

The second delivery to the CD stores just sit.

What happened was, a group of friends and family of the band members bought up the CD's then nothing. No one else was really interested. We spent all this time on this product that no one outside of friends and family wanted! We spent the next 6 months paying off the loan we had taken out to have the CD's manufactured...

Needless to say it was a valuable lesson, always test your product idea before spending lots of time creating and marketing it.

 

Testing Your Product Idea

Your product should not be a failure. It doesn't need to be this way and shouldn't be this way. There is a way to find out long before you put all that time into your product whether it has a good chance to sell.

Don't waste the next 6 months on the chance that there are customers out there waiting to buy it! Test it before you even start.

When people do think about testing their product idea, they usually just go out and ask their mom, their friends, family, coworkers... DON'T do this!

I bet your mom likes you. At least I hope. I bet your friends, family, and coworkers all do as well. The last thing they want to do is upset you...

So, when you come along with an idea for a product, their opinion is probably pretty biased to tell you what you want to hear. Don't rely on people you know to test your idea!

So how do you do it then? Glad you asked! Let's get started.

BONUS - Want a list of all the tools I use to test new product ideas to be sure they are successful before I even start working on them? Enter your email below and you'll receive the list instantly!

 

Step #1 - Ask Your Customers What They Want

 

Now, I know this is not a luxury everybody has. If you're just starting out, this is not an option for you. No problem, continue on to step #2.

If you do already have them, don't be afraid to tell them about your new product idea. A lot of people think that they have to keep it a secret and not tell anyone. They may even have you sign a NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) to even look at it. They are deathly afraid someone is going to steal their idea.

Don't be afraid to tell people about your product idea.

I can't say this enough. It's not your product ideas that matter, but your execution on your product ideas.

Not many people can execute on an idea so you chances of someone stealing it is next to nothing. The benefit of telling people is far greater than the chance of someone stealing your product idea. The feedback is very valuable and can really help you to explore new ideas around your idea.

OK, so if you have an idea and already have a customer base, send them an email. Tell them you are thinking about creating a new product and would like to know if they are interested.

You could either ask for input or you could go as far as to actually ask them to sign up to be notified when the product is available with their email address. Both are great ways to get valuable feedback on whether they would be interested in it long before you even begin to make it.

If you want to learn about setting up sign ups, you'll get all kinds of great info in step #3.

If you're just looking for feedback. Do a survey. One the most popular tools is Survey Monkey. Setup a survey that asks them questions about your product idea.

  • Would they be interested in buying it?

  • For how much?

  • What would they like to see in the product?

  • What problem would it solve for them?

This will give you great insight from your very own customers as to whether you have a solid idea or not. If you get some good feedback and interest, then continue on to the next step otherwise go back to the drawing board. If you're own audience isn't interested it's most likely not going to be an easy sell once you've spent a lot of wasted time and money on it.

 

Step #2 - Estimate Interest Online

If you don't have an existing customer base, which is totally normal, this is where you would start.

Google

The first thing you should do is look for existing products online similar to your own product idea.  Do a google search. If you can find similar products make a list of all of them.

Sometimes there may be a lot and sometimes you can't find any. That's
OK. It may be a completely new product that hasn't been offered before. There are other ways to check and see if there is a  demand online for a product like that.

If you can find people selling similar products, these are your potential competitors or peers depending on how you look at it. You can use their sites to determine if there is a market for that type of product or service.

Create a spreadsheet to track the data you are about to gather in something like AirTable or Google Sheets. Create a column for all the people or companies you can find.

Next, create another column for Visits. We're going to use a tool to find out how many people are actually visiting that site per month. A good and free one to use is SimilarWeb.com.

Go to the site and and enter in the website of each of your competitors. It will give you a ton of great info, but for now, look at how many visitors the site gets in a month. In the spreadsheet at that number. This metric tells you how many people are actually coming to their site.

Do they have a large amount of traffic or not much at all? That helps you to see how much interest there is in that area.

Amazon

Next, do a search on Amazon to see if you can find any similar products. Create another sheet in your spreadsheet to track any products you find. Review the reviews. Does it have a lot of reviews? Does it have a lot of good reviews? Add the number of reviews on Amazon to your spreadsheet. If the product has thousands of reviews you know there is an interested market to sell to.

There can also be a lot of good information in the reviews. You can see what people like and don't like about a product. Add another column to take notes about positives and another about negatives. You can use this information to refine and polish your own product idea.

If someone else has a similar product but they have a lot of unsatisfied customers, that provides a market you can tap into by creating a better version. A lot of top companies do this. They take existing products but expand on them and make them the best they can be. Apple is a great example of this. They take existing products like computers and make their own well designed high quality version and sell at a premium.

Google Trends

Google has an awesome tool that let's you tap into their gold mine of search data. 

Create a new tab in your spreadsheet. Go to Google's Trend page now and begin entering search terms for your product idea. For each term you searched add a new line to your spreadsheet.

Narrow it down to the market you want to focus on selling to. For example, you may want to focus on the United States, a state, a city, or even South America. It's up to you and where you want to sell.

Next, choose your time frame. I like to look at the past 12 months and the past 5 years.

It will show you a graph of interest over time on a scale from 0 - 100. With 100 being the most interest and 0 being the lowest. You can begin to see trends in searches for your idea. Is it growing? It is declining? Does it a have a consistent but low amount. You can interpret this data to determine if there is a lot or little interest in your idea from searches on google.

In addition you can see related queries people are searching for to get more ideas by top or rising amounts.

Google Trends is a great tool and you definitely should be using to determine interest in your idea. For each search term document the amount of interest in your spreadsheet. After you've done some searching let's move on to the next tool.

Google Keyword Planner Tool

This tool is similar to Google Trends but shows the estimated search amounts for a term and the competition for it.

You should definitely sign up for Google Adwords and test this on your idea. You don't have to actually pay and start an ad campaign to use it.

Once you've setup an Adwords account, login and navigate to the Keyword Planner Tool. Search for new keyword and ad group ideas. Open up your spreadsheet and add another column for The Avg. Monthly Searches and how much competition there is for it.

As usual you want to see a lot of searches and even high or medium competition tells you there are a lot of people working in that market. More good signs that there is a market for your product idea.

Facebook Ad Tools

Another tool to determine if there is a large enough market out there is the Facebook Ad Tools. Just like the Google Trends tool, you can tap into the massive amount of data Facebook has to offer.

Think about the market for your idea. Who would want to buy it? Let's say you determine that your target market is Males, 25-35 years old, in New York City who like yoga. It will tell you an estimate of how many people on Facebook fit that profile!

It's an amazing resource! This information years ago would be much harder to get if available at all.

This is a great way to tell you if there is enough market out there to sell your product to. If there's only 10,000 people in your market it's going to be much harder to sell and market your product than if there was 10,000,000 people. Add this data to your spreadsheet.

At this point you've got some good data to determine if there is a market for your product idea. If it looks like you've got a good market and interest for your idea, then it's time to take it to the next step.

If you don't have much or interest or much of a market. No problem. Move onto a new idea and run through the steps again to determine if there is a market. You’ve just saved yourself a lot of time and money!

If you've got a product idea that looks like people are hungry for, let's move to the next test.

 

Step #3 - Put Your Product Idea in Front of People

This is my favorite part of testing a new product idea. At this point you can see that there is a market out there for your idea. Now let's really test it to see if they are interested in your product. We're going to create a quick and simple website for it and put it out there.

Not only will this really help you test your idea but it will also allow you to begin building your business by collecting potential customer emails and beginning to build brand awareness.

Setup Your Email List

If you haven't heard it yet, I'm telling you now, an email list is one the most important things you need to build in your business.

It allows you have a direct connection to the people interested in your products. I'll create a whole other guide on email lists and how to build them up later, but at this time just know you need one and it's time start one right now.

There are lots of email list services out there. I personally use Convert Kit, but just getting started you don't want to spend too much money yet so I would suggest starting out with a free starter service like Mailchimp.

You can sign up for a free account at www.mailchimp.com. Once you've created your account go ahead and login. Create an email list. Call it anything you would like. I called mine, Let's Automate Your Life Email List.

Once your email list is created let's move to the next step where we'll create a place to add people to that list.

Setup Your Landing Page

Now we're getting to some really fun stuff. We're going to create a landing page for your idea. A landing page is just a simple one page website that is meant to do one thing. Either get people to buy your product or sign up for your email list. That's it, so they aren't too complicated to create.

There is no need to learn website coding or hosting. There are too many great services out there that allow us to focus on our idea rather than trying to learn web development as well.

I've personally used LeadPages, Shopify, and Squarespace to do this depending on what I need. There are even more options out there, but for this article I want to focus on the cheaper and easier to use service, Squarespace. Don't get me wrong, Leadpages and Shopify are awesome, but you probably won't need all those great features just starting out and simply testing an idea. Keep them in mind for the future.

Go to www.squarespace.com and sign up for their cheapest plan. We're going to create a simple one page website.

Once you've signed up go ahead and login to your admin console. You'll have some preliminary setup questions from Squarespace, but once you configure your initial settings you'll be ready to create your landing page.

This takes a little more action on your part so I’m going to walk you through the steps as I create one as well.

  • From the left navigation bar click on Pages.

  • Click on the plus sign next to Not Linked.

  • Click on Cover Page.

You now have a basic landing page created for you! Now let's customize it a bit.

  • Click on Branding & Text.

  • First, put in your company name if you have one. If not use your own name. You can even paste in a logo if you have one created with a transparent background.

  • Next you’ll need to add the name of your idea or a hook. I created one for my upcoming Success and Productivity course. I chose to use a hook rather than the title. I put in, “Ready to make 2017 your most successful year yet?”

  • On the next line tell them what they are signing up for and what they’ll get. In my case I chose to allow them to opt in to be notified when the beta of the course is available with the line, “Sign up below to be notified when the beta version of the course is available!”

  • Finally, let’s make the button and connect it to your email list.

  • Click on the action button in the left navigation bar.

  • In the FORM field enter a call to action such as “Get Notified”.

  • Click on EDIT FORM

  • Remove all Fields other than Name and Email Address.

  • Click on Storage

  • Click on MailChimp.

  • Follow the steps to connect your MailChimp mailing list.

  • Click Save.

  • You can remove the original button by clicking on the trashcan next to it erasing the text.

  • Now let’s make this the homepage of your site.

  • Click on the gear next to the title of your landing page.

  • Click on SET AS HOMEPAGE at the bottom.

  • Click SAVE.

  • Click on the action button in the left navigation bar.

  • In the FORM field enter a call to action such as “Get Notified”.

  • Click on EDIT FORM.

  • Remove all Fields other than Name and Email Address.

  • Click on Storage.

  • Click on MailChimp.

  • Follow the steps to connect your MailChimp mailing list.

  • Click Save.

  • You can remove the original button by clicking on the trashcan next to it erasing the text.

  • Now let’s make this the homepage of your site.

  • Click on the gear next to the title of your landing page.

  • Click on SET AS HOMEPAGE at the bottom.

  • Click SAVE.

You now have a fully functioning landing page that will collect emails of people who are interested in your idea! This is a great way to test how interested people are and begin collecting emails at the same time.

Remember the link of your site. It should be something like. http://yourname.squarespace.com

Now we can share that landing page with as many people as possible.

Send to Everyone You Know    

The first place and often the easiest is to start sending it out to everyone you know.

Open up your email and start sending! Let everyone know briefly what your product idea is and ask them if they are in. Include the link to your landing page. If they are interested they will sign up. If not, don’t worry about it, this is a test to determine how interested people are in your idea.

Do the same thing with social media. Send out a message on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever other social media channel you use. If you have specific people you think would be interested, direct message them and ask them.

Test With People You Don’t Know

The real test comes from sending out to people you don’t even know. There is no bias, just your product idea. If people are interested they will sign up.

So how do you get it out in front of people you don’t know? Two of the best methods are Craigslist and Facebook.

Craigslist

If you have a service idea or a local idea, like tutoring or lawn care, Craigslist is a great place to post those.

Create a small ad for your idea in the appropriate section and link to your landing page. It’s that simple.

Facebook

Facebook ads are a great way to test your product idea and the demand of your market.

This option will cost money, but the cost of running an ad for a month is much less than pursuing a project that will ultimately never sell for months.

There are a lot of steps, but once you do it once it’s not that bad.

  • To create the ad go to Facebook. If you haven’t already you’ll need to create a business page on Facebook.

  • Click on the drop down menu at the top right and click Create Page. Choose the type that best fits what you are doing. For me I chose Artist, Band or Public Figure.

  • Next, choose the type. I chose Blogger. Choose your name. I just used my personal name, but for some a business name may be a better choice. As the face of Let’s Automate Your Life, using my own name seemed like a better fit and it is more approachable when the ad is displayed on timelines with a personal picture rather than a logo.

  • Click Get Started. Your Facebook page is created! Feel free to make it look good by updating the info, uploaded a picture, and adding some posts.
     

Now we can get started on the ad.

  • Click on the down arrow in the top right corner of Facebook and choose Create Ads.

  • Choose the option to create an ad to Collected leads for your business.

  • Continue to the next page and choose the Facebook Page you just created.

  • Next, choose your audience. You can break it down from countries, to cities, and even zip codes depending on who your audience would be.

  • Choose an age group for your audience and a gender.

  • Now you can choose the interests of someone who may be interested in your idea.

  • For my success and productivity course I chose people who like Lifehacker as a good potential audience. Think of any pages they may like or interests to narrow down your audience.

  • Choose where you want your ad to be placed. I’ve had the best results in the Mobile News Feed and the Desktop News Feed.

  • What is your budget going to be? I’d recommend $5.00 per day to start out and run for about a month to see how much interest you get.

  • Next you’ll need to tell them how you want to bid on the ad. Starting out I would definitely go with the Automatic option.

  • At this point leave everything else at default and continue to the next page.

  • Under Format choose a single image or video in your ads.

  • Under Media choose Images and upload a image for your product.

  • If you don’t have one you could always use the free stock images Facebook provides, but I highly suggests you create your own. If you're new to graphic design. A tool like Canva works great here. Remember to keep any text limited to 20% of the photo. That is a strict rule of Facebook ads.

  • Now let’s create some text.

  • You’ll need a headline and some body text. Focus on your headline.

  • I stuck with my previous headline which focuses on how it will benefit the customer. “Ready to make 2017 your most successful year yet?”

  • Next let’s create some body text.

  • “Inside this course I’ll show you my step-by-step process to 10x your productivity and achieving more success than ever before!”

  • What do you think? It’s telling them what the product is and how it will benefit them. If people are really interested in your product they are going to check it out.

  • Next let’s create the form. Click on Create Form.

  • Click New Form. Give it a name you will recognize.

  • Click on Not Now.

  • Email and name is all you need, no need to access any other fields unless you want to gather some extra information.

  • On the next page they require you to link to a private policy. Look at some templates online and create a page on your squarespace site for it. Add that link to the Link URL. Click Next.

  • You may not have a site for yourself or business yet, but if you did you can link to it here. Click Next.

  • Make any changes if necessary and click Create Form.

  • Lastly click Place Order.

Boom! You now have an ad on Facebook going out to thousands of people. Over the net month while this ad is running you are going to discover if people are interested in your idea. Not only that but if they are you have their email so when if and when you pursue your idea, you’ll have plenty of people to reach out to when you do launch.

 

Review Your Results. Will Your Product Idea Be a Success?

Now over the next month watch your results. Are you getting sign ups? If you are awesome! You have an idea.

If you’re not getting any interest then just go back to the drawing board. Don’t worry, a lot of ideas don’t work. Just try again until you find your idea that people want. If may take some time, but eventually you will find an idea. The most important thing is to never give up, Keep hustling and eventually you’ll get there!

 


ABOUT

David Shepherd is the founder of Let's Automate Your Life, lifestyle automation for personal finance, productivity, business, and much more.