Market research · Idea validation

Customer development and market research

Michael Savoie

February 14th, 2014

What are some of the better methods/tactics for customer development and market research to validate my hardware idea?  I'm looking to get out and talk to people but not sure what are the better places and where I wouldn't get kicked out of.   I'm not quite sure if doing/paying for a Mechanical Turk or web type survey will get me enough to validate. 

Anand Ramachandran Founder & CEO at IdeaGPS

February 14th, 2014

Hi Michael,

  Steve Blank's book is a good start, though it tends to be a bit more relevant to software companies.  You'll have to take the lessons there and abstract it out for your hardware play. 

  In general, I like to think of validation more as a risk reduction game.  It's not pass/fail.  It's a question of 'how valid?' and 'to whom?'.  You're not only trying to get approval for what you currently have, but also discover what else you might be missing that could hint at a future opportunity or competitive risk.  In the early going.

  I identify and catalog the potential risks and uncertainties, decompose them as much as possible, and then look for the best methods to resolve each one.  It may take multiple methods to convince yourself that some aspect of your concept is indeed valid.

My 2 c...

Anand

Chris Morrison

February 14th, 2014

The gold standard for early customer and market development is Steve Blank's book, "Four Steps to the Epiphany".  It is very detail, sometimes overly regimented, but never-the-less dead on.

Douglas Ross Marketing Expert - Strategy - Implementation - Results

February 14th, 2014

Assuming you've narrowed down who your target customers are, there is nothing better that I know of than getting direct time in front of them.  Creating a brief discussion flow doc may be helpful along with a a simple way to demo your product/prototype/concept.   Having two people from your side can also help so one person can engage fully with your prospective customer and the other can observe and take notes.   One place to find people is at meet-ups (see meetup.com).  If they are a tight group (tribe), ask a member where they hangout physically or on-line and the best way to reach them for this type of validation.  You may want to provide them a quid pro quo for their time such as sharing new tech trends relevant to their field or similar.   I personally have not had great success with Mechanical Turk ( problem was finding people that were part of the tribe I was going after).  

Rick Nguyen Cofounder @ Spot Trender

February 14th, 2014

Michael, I found that Linkedin and your network are particularly useful. Research people who have the expertise and/or budget to buy what you're offering. Send inmail or cold call, whatever you're more comfortable. This script below worked for me:
-Hi my name is ____. I did some research on experts of the field X, and your name came up. I'm really impressed by your experience and I would love to ask you some question. Do you have a minute?

Make sure your prepare your questions in advanced. Don't waste their time and be super nice/humble. They'll respond.

Paul Ruderman

February 14th, 2014

Hi Michael,
I did a HUGE round of customer dev and market research before launching UpdateZen a couple months ago, and I just wrote about it here.
Among the many things that worked for me was using a service called Clarity.fm to reach out to and speak with totally objective people who fit my target market/user profile... people who I didn't know personally, and who didn't know me. It was invaluable guidance.
Best of luck,
Paul

Gaurav Chawla Founder

February 14th, 2014

Michael, Make a design/video and try selling it using trycelery.com. If people pay, you have direct customer validation. Or, just create a video of what you are selling, create a landing page and advertise using an Adwords campaign. Both ways you should be able to guage interest. First one is even better IMO. I have tried the second, but am in the process of trying the first step myself.  If the idea is patentable make sure you have a provisional patent first to protect your invention assuming it's something new. Cheers!

Chris Nicholson Head of Comms/Recruiting @FutureAdvisor

February 14th, 2014

Depends on your budget. There's a lot of stuff you can do online to test demand. I listed them in a recent piece on PandoDaily. A good pre-order software to take credit card information -- which is the essential test to know whether they'll buy -- is Celery

Anonymous

February 17th, 2014

P.S. For the second user type in my previous post, we just e-mailed people directly -- with a carefully composed e-mail using bullet points and boldface for easy readability. Have a good editor read your cover e-mail and comment.

Michael Savoie

February 17th, 2014

Thanks for all the input.  I was already reading Steve Blanks book, which spurred the question.  Since I had a hardware play, I knew I would have to get some tweaks to the methodology and I wasn't particularly convinced with web surveys.

Anonymous

February 17th, 2014

I tried a variety of things including LinkedIn ads, LinkedIn groups, posting on bulletin boards and e-mailing individuals I found online. I had two very specific user profiles.

For each profile we tried several strategies until we found one that worked. The successful approach was different for each of our user types. For one, I found an online bulletin board with an active membership (had to pay $20 to join) and one post produced about 8 e-mails from people with the profile I needed. You can also ask these recruits for referrals.

For the other, we found a niche professional role in higher education that was interested in one of the products I've designed. We also contacted smaller institutions. This combination of role and institutional profile worked for us.