How to Test a New Product or Business Idea


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Have you ever had one of those ideas that made you think, “This idea is either brilliant or terrible, but I’m not sure which?” That could describe most of the products you see on infomercials, and some of these products see skyrocketing sales while others are complete flops.

How do you make sure you don’t end up with a flop? There are no guarantees, but concept testing can be a vital way to find out if your idea or product might have a future before you invest in fully formulating your idea, developing the product, and testing the market.

What Is Concept Testing?

Thorough product development involves several types of research and testing at various points in the process. Concept testing is a specific type of testing that happens early in the development process. In fact, it should be the first step you take after coming up with your idea and generally fleshing it out.

The idea of concept testing is simple: you’re surveying people about your idea to see if there is a need or a want for it in the market. There are a few goals in concept testing. First, you want to know if your idea is potentially viable. If it isn’t, you avoid moving forward and spending the money on product development, manufacturing, packaging, and more for a product that will never be profitable. The second goal is to gain early insights that you can use to improve your idea or guide your development.

Top Concept Testing Methods for Products or Business Ideas

It’s important to note that concept testing methods are different than product testing methods. Handing someone a prototype of your product is more in line with product testing than concept testing, which focuses more on the broad idea than the specifics.

With that in mind, there are a few general methods you can use for your concept testing.

Market Surveys

Online surveys are the most common method of concept testing. At the concept testing stage, you don’t have many concrete details about the finished product. Unlike other types of tests that may require prototypes of your products, surveys allow you to do concept testing with nothing more than a general idea. Surveys lend themselves well to gathering opinions and insights into broad concepts and ideas.

Surveys are also highly cost-effective and they allow you to gather information from a large number of consumers in a rather short amount of time. With a well-constructed survey, the insights you collect can be surprisingly in-depth and productive too.

Focus Groups

Though less common, some companies do perform concept testing with focus groups. To implement focus groups, you gather consumers in person in small groups, present them with an idea, and record their discussions and feedback about the idea. While you can get a lot of information from each focus group session, focus groups take considerably more time and money to conduct, so they may be a costly way to find out that your idea isn’t viable.

Concept Testing Best Practices to Consider

The value of concept testing lies in the execution. If you learn how to do concept testing well and execute it strategically, it can be a powerful tool that sets you up for infinite growth. If your survey is poorly constructed or if you aren’t surveying the right people, it could be a waste of money or, worse, a misleading exercise that turns you toward a costly mistake. No pressure, of course.

To make your concept testing as productive and lucrative as possible, follow these best practices and tips from our experts.

Choose Your Testing Subjects Wisely

There are few products or concepts out there that are equally applicable to everyone. If your survey largely includes people who would be unlikely customers for your product in any case, your results will be unreliably skewed.

For that reason, you need to curate your respondents well. You want them to largely reflect your potential customer base. That means you’ll generally want a mixture of genders or sexes, races, income levels, locations, ages, professions, and so on.

Keep in mind, though, that you don’t want to exclusively survey the types of people who would be most likely to buy into your idea. You might be surprised by the interest of some other groups of people too, who might see a use for your product that you didn’t anticipate.

Finally, be sure to include demographic questions in your survey. Even if you’re already screening respondents by certain criteria and ratios, you want to be able to compare the opinions of people who fit specific categories.

Put Technology to Work with AI Surveys

Old-fashioned static surveys, which just include a rigid set of multiple-choice questions for every respondent, are highly limited. You’re missing out on valuable insights that might go beyond the opinions you anticipated. That’s where AI surveys like Groupsolver® surveys become game-changers.

These surveys focus more on short-answer questions than multiple-choice, using AI behind the scenes to interpret the responses. It also changes the survey with each respondent, such as asking them if they agree or disagree with a certain response generated by other participants. The advanced AI technology is able to turn these fluid surveys into practical and applicable conclusions you can use to drive your product development.

Make It Visual

The success of your concept testing will partially rely on the participants’ ability to grasp the concepts you’re presenting and understand your questions. Whenever possible and helpful, try incorporating images to illustrate the point you’re trying to make. It could be a diagram or flowchart of your concept, or an early sketch of what your product or process might look like, for example. Anything to better explain your question will ensure that you’re getting more accurate results.

Making Your Concept Testing Simple

If you have an idea you want to take to the next step with concept testing, it doesn’t have to be a work-intensive or time-consuming process. Groupsolver is here to make it as simple as possible so you efficiently get the answers you need. Learn more or request a Groupsolver demo today.

Rastislav Ivanic
Rasto Ivanic is a co-founder and CEO of GroupSolver® - a market research tech company. GroupSolver has built an intelligent market research platform that helps businesses answer their burning why, how, and what questions. Before GroupSolver, Rasto was a strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company and later he led business development at Mendel Biotechnology. Rasto is a trained economist with a PhD in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, where he also received his MBA.


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