At Qi3, we are privileged to work with some exceptionally clever new ideas, technologies, and services developed by our clients. Writing a value proposition for these is a joy, and testing new markets is often fascinating. However, the work also comes with a significant danger of being carried away by the brilliance of the idea.
To keep ourselves routed in reality, we often use the ‘So What’ question – ‘great idea but what does the user think it will actually do for them?’ Conceptually this is blindingly obvious, but it brings an interesting set of challenges in testing the real level of market traction.
First, interviewees normally want to help, so they will tend to give encouraging rather than objective responses. To combat this, it is crucial to encourage negative as well as positive responses. I do this by stressing the value of bad news as well as good, and asking if the idea is ‘great or barking mad’. Killing a non-viable idea can save a lot of time, money and heartache.
Second, it is essential to ‘look outside the box’. I hate that phrase. But it does succinctly capture the concept of what needs doing. Often the original target application or market is not very interested. Or the product concept is not well aligned with user needs. Evolve the concept to focus on real market needs or other markets with a stronger interest, and a brilliant idea with little market traction can be turned into a world beater.
And third, look for buying signals, which can often be quite subtle. On one project I spotted the buying signals when I had several consultant professors of Neurology at major US medical schools give me over an hour of their time on the phone and offer to provide further help. Follow the interest and the money; if there are no early buying signals, then there isn’t a market.
So, for your great new product or service, test the value proposition with real end users as soon as possible. Make sure you get bad news as well as good. Learn how the product or service can be changed to make it more attractive. If you get early buying signals then follow the money. If you don’t, stop and rethink, because you probably don’t have a commercial proposition.