How to stop your new product or service failing

Launching a new product or service without testing the ‘idea’ first is like playing Russian roulette with your marketing budget!

When developing a new idea for a product or service your first instinct might be to jump right in and build a prototype or create a working service model. Even the most seasoned professional just seems to be consumed with getting it into the marketplace as quickly as possible. But let’s face it, an idea is just a fantasy until it has been properly validated!

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According to research conducted by Sea-gate International (2010)1, “organisations that are better able to identify and eliminate weak product concepts before the end of the product development process have a greater likelihood of having a higher percentage of successful new products.” In fact, as much as 95% of products fail in the market place because companies don’t think about the way consumers use products and services.2

To stand a chance of being successful in today’s marketplace you need to collaborate with a sample of your target audience (consumer target market).  Using innovative online consumer feedback and co- creation you have a greater chance of determining if a product or services solves a genuine problem and fulfills a real consumer need.

When things can go wrong!

You could pull together a group of consumers by commissioning a traditional face-to-face focus group. You might ask a group of prospective customers to touch, smell and talk about a prototype. They may tell you they would buy this new product or use this innovative service. But when it comes to the launch, after a few encouraging sales, it fails to go anywhere near the predicted sales targets. Within three months you decide to cut your losses, put the remaining stock in the bargain bin, and put the whole idea behind you.

A service that fails in the marketplace could leave you with a bigger problem. To avoid the losing money supporting a service which failed to reach break-even you will need to transition customers to an alternative or existing service.

Where did it all go wrong?

To answer that question let’s take a step back and look at the idea process. Ideas can be generated a number of ways. More often than not, they come about because there is some evidence to suggest a need is not being met, or being done badly. Before you invest the time and money in developing and testing a product or service, make the idea stage the first testing phase – just test the pen and paper idea.

Engage with the intended audience and ask them what they think about the idea and how it compares to what’s currently available. If they could create the product or service how would it look, feel, smell and why? The closer you can get into the minds of your consumers the more likely you will either validate or eliminate the idea. It’s cheaper to kill an idea than it is a first generation product or service.

Co-creation and validation to improve success.

If you have either a product or service idea which needs validating with your target market, you do not have to hand over a large amount of cash to find out if it is worth investing in. Thanks to new insights innovations there are faster and more cost effective ways of getting the answers you need. You might decide to go down the path of an online survey – just because its familiar. But is this always the best course of action?

Sure, if you know exactly what the market wants. But if you don’t yet know what the consumers will think of the idea, consider engaging with them in a conversation of co-creation. This is where consumers help you define a new product or service.

Involving the target market at the very beginning of product or service idea development does not have to be as costly as traditional research methods.

As an example, let’s consider a proposed ‘idea’ to improve the repeat sales on a gardening website. We want to include an offer in the mail order delivery for any gardening tool.

 In this example we need to test the following:

  1. Identify what consumers think about the offer and whether it would generate interest.
  2. Identify how consumers want to be informed and how the message should be framed.
  3. How effectively can we cross-sell some of the related products or services in the offer.
  4. Find out if it is actually worth investing more time and money in developing the idea. 

Using traditional market research methods it would take at least a few weeks, and sometimes months, to find out if this idea is worth investing in. With a very small budget at the idea stage of a product or service’s development, you don’t have the luxury of committing to a lengthy and potentially costly traditional market research project. Why? Simply because we just don’t know if the pen and paper idea is worth investing in yet.

However, thanks to smarter online consumer feedback and insight tools you can now combine the power of simple questioning (quantitative feedback) with creative consumer conversations (qualitative co-creation), and capture the answers you need right away. One way this can be done is by using online consumer discussion groups.

Online consumer discussions and mini-communities help you engage with the target audience in a way which nurtures product and service idea creation. By simply talking with consumers using a structured and secure discussion you can gain immediate validation and feedback about your idea.

In our garden tools website example above, we need ask a segment of consumers if, how and why our ‘idea’ would work. If the feedback is positive then we have something to work with. If the feedback is ambiguous then have the option of building upon the idea. But, if the feedback is overwhelmingly negative we know it’s not worth investing any more time, money or resources.

How to begin testing ideas?

The first thing you need to do is identify which target market (consumers) you want to speak to. Perhaps its one defined group, or maybe you need to speak to a number of people from several market segments. You will need to be able to connect with them, or recruit them for an online discussion.  An obvious way is to find out where they like to hang out online. Do they subscribe to a monthly newsletter? Do they like to spend time on your Facebook page? You may even need help finding people from your target audience.

Why not capture some visitors on your website and use a mix of returning and new website visitors to help validate your idea. At the very least you are looking for willing participants who match the profile of the consumers you are pitching the idea at.

For our gardening tools website example above, we are going to capture visitors from our gardening website and funnel them through a selection survey. Once in the survey we can ask them a set of questions to qualify them for our online idea discussion.

Step 1:

We add to our example gardening website what we call an intercept survey invitation. It can be a survey link or a pop up widget which you can create in the GroupQuality survey tool. An intercept widget is basically a pop up window which can be positioned to appear from different positions on your website. It is used to invite website visitors to participate in a short feedback survey or discussion . You could add this to a product order confirmation page, to a campaign landing page, or the website home page.

Offering an incentive of some kind will help improve the response rate. If you are engaging our GroupQuality team to recruit for you, we would generally use an incentive that is not tied to your product or service. If you offer a free product or service from your own organisation you may find that consumers will sway towards the positive. Participants will tend to be less critical of an idea if they know the incentive is closely related to the idea you are asking them to evaluate. This is not always the case, but it is wiser to offer a generic gift card. If you don’t have the budget to purchase external incentives then offer the incentive in the form of a credit voucher of a specified value, but not any specific product or service.

Step 2:

We take them to a short qualifying survey created using the GroupQuality survey tool. This survey needs a brief introduction clearly stating the kind of feedback you are seeking. The introduction should outline what you require from participants and what is on offer. The online survey instructions needs to make it clear they will be asked to participate in a secure online discussion and it will commence immediately after survey registration. Engaging participants in an online discussion right away will improve the level of contribution.

The GroupQuality survey tool comes complimentary with the community discussion board tool and includes a number of templates specifically designed to help you recruit participants. You will be able to copy the survey template and change it to match your needs.

Step 3:

Once we have determined if the website visitor qualifies for the discussion based on your consumer requirements (e.g. male or female, 25 to 45 and spend at least 5 hours a week gardening) the participating consumer adds their name and email address to the discussion registration form. Once submitted, participants receive the login details and can start contributing.

Now the tools to put it all together!

By watching this recording of a nine minute online webinar you will be able to experience the process of recruiting and contributing to an instant online discussion.

Testing the basis for an ‘idea’ is not only smart but an essential step in validating a new product or service. It can now be done quickly and easily. With GroupQuality there is no reason why you cannot cost effectively test and co-create multiple ideas at the same time.

1. [Edgett S. J. December 2010, “New Product Success, Failure and Kill Rates”, last accessed Sept 15 2014: “”] [↩]
2. [Nobel, C. HBS, Working Knowledge, February 14, 2011, last accessed Sept 15 2014:] [↩]

GroupQuality® is a cloud based customer feedback and insights software and service that helps you capture consumer insights, in less time, on smaller budgets and with fewer resources. If you need a fast and flexible tool to engage customers, employees and partners, to communicate, collaborate, ask questions and quickly capture the answers, then we are for you!

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