If you have ever launched anything in your career then you have probably uttered the words, “Well, we will see how this goes.” But does it have to be this way? Do entrepreneurs always have to be flying blind? The answer, to cut to the chase, is absolutely not.
The idea of customer research, product prototyping, and piloting can seem daunting to any company outside the Fortune 500, due to the cost associated. But product/market testing does not have to be for only the rich. There is, in fact, a lean way.
Let’s take Zappos for instance. Before Zappos launched, the founder would go to Foot Locker, take pictures of the shoes and post them online. He then would wait to see if people would actually buy the shoes online versus simply trying them on. What they found was that customers were ready to jump in the deep end of the digital shopping pool. Thus, when they launched, there was no question on whether or not there was a market for their new model of shoe buying.
Another example is MXD, a local Atlanta startup. MXD is an online tool that allows musicians, filmmakers, and podcast producers to get their audio professionally mixed in 1/10th of the time at 1/10th the cost at 99% of the quality. The founders of MXD were not sure the market was ready for their technology so they tested it (even though they had no money for a market test). The team posted an ad on CraigsList that explained the technology and waited to see if it caught the attention of the audio community. In a mere 24 hours, they had over 10 orders and the team felt much more comfortable about the market’s desire for their product.
The point is this — almost any idea can be tested before heavily invested in because of the democratization of the internet. And to be clear, the idea cannot only be tested once, but continuously so. It can be prototyped until it is clear, through testing, that the market has a heavy demand for the product or service. With a little forethought and ingenuity, you can find yourself answering the ‘how this will go?’ question well before you ever launch.