Now that you’ve gone through the process of honing in on your value proposition -- one that sits squarely in the sweet spot where high desirability and low noise intersect -- it’s tempting to race forward in warp drive. After all, you’ve done your due diligence and it feels like a winner, so why wait? But hang on -- before you rush to production based on your (admittedly well-researched) assumptions about your value proposition, dial it back to impulse power. It’s important to test the waters before you spend a lot of time and effort on an MVP, only to find out you were just shy of the target.
Testing your value proposition in the real world, after all, is the best and only reliable way to see if anyone would actually be interested in buying your big idea -- before you start building your product, conducting lifelike simulations, and digging deep in SLOW interviews with users. After all, what if no one is interested, no matter how great your idea seems to be? It’s better to find out now. And if you discover that no one cares, you can go back to the drawing board, having spent a relatively small investment of time or money, and start tweaking your idea until you get it right.
There are four main ways you can test out your underlying assumptions about your value proposition(s) to see whether there’s interest in your product : the strategic use of a honeypot site, advertising, the use of social media, and a quasi-sales process. No matter what method or combination of methods you decide to use, however, before doing anything you need to be clear about:
- Which value proposition(s) you’re testing
- Your assumptions and expectations regarding the need it will fill in the marketplace
- Your budget, including: how much you can spend on things like advertising and how much you will need to charge for this app to make it profitable
- The minimum features or information you need to include to determine if people will be interested
- The people you’re actually targeting -- i.e., who is the audience for your project? Marketing folks? The sales team? Management? Etc.
- Your measure of success - the measurement will vary according to the method, but you need to know what will constitute success to understand whether or not you have a viable product idea.
The 411 on Testing Your Value Proposition
A Honey Pot Site
A honey pot site is a perfect way to see if your idea is so compelling that people would actually plunk down money for it. Create a landing page and just enough features to determine if people would click through to a payment page. Of course you won't actually take their credit card information; instead, you’ll provide a variation of a “coming soon” message -- and you’ll get hard data as to how many people would actually see enough value in your product to buy it.
You also want to present only the minimum information you need to get your point across. Buffer for example, tweeted a link to a two-page product to see if people would be interested in paying for their app. Turns out they were interested, and when they clicked through to the payment page, they got a message telling them “Hello! You’ve caught us before we’re ready.” Prospective users were then instructed to enter their email address to get a notification when the service was ready to roll.
Advertising is a fairly straightforward way to test your value proposition, but there are still a few things to keep in mind in order to get the most accurate results. First and foremost, determine your budget. Next, do your research and place your ads based on the audience you’re trying to reach. Facebook ads vs. promoted content on Twitter, for example, may reach a different audience -- who are your future customers? You must understand both the potential reach of your ads as well as the people most likely to see and respond to them.
As with any method, define your measure of success from the outset -- how many click throughs are you looking for, for example?
One great advantage of using social media to test your value proposition? It’s free! Use Twitter to promote a link to your honey pot site (like Buffer did), and see how many clicks, likes, and retweets you get (but of course establish your measure of success first). Similarly, post your landing page with the value proposition on Pinterest and/or Instagram to see if you can hit a base number of likes and shares.
Remember, though, that different social media sites can reach different target audiences, so plan your tests accordingly.
Go through a quasi-sales process by reaching out to potential leads. This has the advantage of removing any uncertainty about reaching the actual audience you want to reach (vs., say, a Facebook ad where you can be fairly sure you’re getting in front of the right people ... but not 100 percent sure). Show a potential customers a one sheet with the value prop and the minimum features that you believe support that value proposition. If you end up making a sale, don’t sweat the fact that your product isn’t on the market yet! Pull a Wizard of Oz; i.e., custom build that feature “behind the curtain” for that particular customer until you have enough customers (and have done enough user testing) to actually release your product .
After testing your value proposition, if you determine you’ve got a potential success on your hands, then it’s time to move on to the next stages of your product’s journey -- prototyping and user testing. And if you determine you don’t have a winner on your hands, don’t despair: You just saved everyone a lot of time and effort. Go back to the drawing board and re-examine your assumption until you come up with a likely success.