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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Market Research for Start-ups: Is My Baby Ugly?

Do you have a new company and perhaps a new product? Online surveys can be a great way to gather important information before you start marketing that product. Sure, you may think your baby is beautiful, but will everybody else? In your heart, you know you need a sanity check. You want a gauge on likelihood of success. And you may want to identify likely sales objections before you actually encounter them. Or, maybe you simply want to know if the product idea is easy to convey; will target customers embrace it readily, or is this going to be a long sales cycle? These are all great research goals.

Here are some examples of cool things you can do with online surveys before your reveal your new baby to the world.

Getting product concept feedback
In an online survey, you can describe a product and ask some follow up questions to get feedback. When you describe your product, keep in mind a few things: 
  • Keep the product description very brief, two to three sentences at most. Nobody wants to read a 100-word product description.
  • Make sure that your description is objective. This is not a sales pitch. If you want honest feedback, then you want to describe your product objectively. Instead of, "Hey we've invented the world's coolest widget; don't you want to buy one?” You want to say, “Here’s a description of a new widget. It has these features. It's different from other products in that it has feature Y.”

After the product description, you can ask some simple follow up questions. You might ask, “If this product were available today, how likely would you be to purchase it?” or perhaps, “How likely would you be to purchase this type of product in the next six months?” Notice that I am specifying time ranges. This is a way to keep it a little less hypothetical. If you simply say, “How likely are you to purchase this product?” It is very hypothetical: ever, in the next year, in the next five years, maybe? You get overly positive results that way, and you really do not want that. You want honest data. By putting in a timeframe, you will help mitigate that risk of getting overly rosy data.

Identifying Demand Drivers & Deterrents
You can also test possible demand drivers and deterrents. Use skip logic ( to have those people who indicate interest to answer a follow-up question and find out why they like the concept. Skip those who indicate little or no interest to a parallel question to measure demand deterrents. 

One approach is to simply ask, “Which of the following are reasons you are likely to purchase this product?” Now, you likely have some hypotheses to offer as answer options. You might have four different reasons for which people will buy this product:
  • I think it will save me time
  • I think it will look great in my home
  • I think that it will last longer than other similar products that I've own in the past
  • I like that it has feature X
  • Other (please specify)

In this example, your online survey would tell you what percent of people agree with each of those statements. Alternatively, you could have each of those items rated on a five-point scale.

Similarly, perhaps you have some hypotheses about what might prevent them from purchasing the product, such as:
§  My spouse wouldn’t want this in our house
§  It takes up too much space
§  It sounds hard to install
§  I don’t have time to use it
§  Other (please specify)
Measuring the prevalence of likely sales objections can be very helpful. Imagine if one of the objections can be addressed easily through modified packaging? Or, by adding or removing a simple feature or maybe just by describing the product differently? This kind of information could save many headaches.

So, Is Your Baby Ugly?

Hopefully not. But with a little customer insight, you will know how to dress your baby for the occasion.


  1. Nice, and thanks for sharing this info with us.
    Good Luck!

    Survey For Software

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