NASHVILLE MARKETING BLOG: Insights on strategic branding, marketing management, general business and Nashville marketing topics. By Monica Powers, Vanderbilt MBA and marketing consultant in Nashville, TN.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Perils of Testing Your Product in the Market

The XYZ Company is readying for the launch of a brand new product. A Big One. Their Marketing Director is filled with anticipation, and quite frankly, she's also flat out terrified. The concepts were reviewed countless times, all the key executives signed off on the project---and a few client focus groups were thrown in for good measure. But was that enough? What if the Big Product (replace with "Campaign" or "Promotion" as needed) is still a flop?

While the product design process may be tried and true in large corporations where innovation is the lifeblood of the business, in a smaller company the head marketer and head idea person may be at odds about how and how much to test a new product in the market before it launches.

Idea-driven people: product designers, creatives, innovators, entrepreneurs, or whatever name they go by--sometimes fear their work will be tainted by too many pragmatic opinions, or that their brainchild's brilliance will somehow be minimized by a critical eye. They may cringe at the thought of presenting their concept before it's finished, before it's just right. Their worst fear is having to test the product with a customer who "just doesn't get it." I can relate. I don't want my creativity squelched, either.

On the other hand, results-driven marketers are much more comfortable with testing, re-testing, measuring, collecting feedback, and generally asking lots of questions. Marketers are less devoted to the concept and more devoted to the metrics--the expected performance of the product in the market. After all, if the product bombs, no one will know or care just how great the concept was. As good metrics-oriented marketers, we are often tempted to practice marketing by consensus, and we run the risk of beating a good idea to death in the process.

The goal of pre-launch product testing is finding a happy compromise--marrying the right idea with the right market at the right time. By all means, test your product (or campaign, or concept) early on, as much as you can, with all possible target audiences, to reduce your risk of flopping. Test to gain insights into your market. Test so you can learn how to improve your product, how to market it more effectively. Don't test to override your ideas, but to generate new ones. Testing can ensure your ideas have a safer flight out into the world.


Blogger argos said...

Good subject. Lots of battle lines are drawn here. Its often a tough challenge to get others to believe and, belief is critical. My coach used to say, "if you believe it, they will believe it." For better or for worse, this is often true.

One way to avoid terror is to bring some users with you to the table at the conceptual level. Terror has no place to stand if team members are brought into communion with the value of the offering and, see users in the channel with there own eyes. They believe. Still, I imagine that often metrics oriented marketers are the last to adopt.

It should be clear as to "flopping compared to what? Velocity?, Cash-flow?" Benchmarks are a necessity but many new products need to be nurtured out in the dynamics of the marketplace. Often, for smaller companies, it's not the product being tested, it's the infrastructure. Can we deliver? Can we scale? Can we perform?

May 30, 2006 7:08 AM

Blogger Monica Powers said...

Ah! You bring up the fascinating topic of defining and measuring success...what defines a flop? Choosing metrics, setting good benchmarks, different expectations for different stages.... We shall have to blog on that soon.

May 30, 2006 9:32 AM


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