This is a conundrum that many entrepreneurs are faced with as they are developing their ideas and putting the business together. I hear “How do I test my product or service so that I can attract investors and the resources I need if I don’t HAVE the money or the resources to test my product?” You can actually do it all! Plan for milestones of beta-testing and validating every step of the way so you can continually attract the resources you need that will help build momentum. Momentum attracts investors and buyers.
Here are 10 things you can do during the planning process:
1. Start out by doing “dry testing” of your concept with live or online focus groups BEFORE you have an actual product to test. There are professional services for this but you can start by getting feedback from people you know who may volunteer for this. If you can validate the concept, move on to the next step.
2. Your product idea may need some major engineering before it’s ready for actual prototype creation and testing but you can prepare a non-working prototype sooner than later. Start doing “esthetics” testing with your groups to make sure people can appreciate it visually before you invest in a working prototype.
3. Get a panel of experts together who can mastermind with you to solve any issues you may have about product design, obsolescence, esthetics, marketability, etc. Document all participant credentials and any analysis made for possible inclusion into your quick business funding plan.
4. When a prototype is available, begin testing extensively with your customers (usually buyers) and end users (consumers) BEFORE you commit to full production. You could receive pre-orders at this stage.
5. Use your prototypes to acquire letters of intent and actual purchase orders from buyers or whoever would be purchasing large quantities of your product.
6. Create Joint Venture opportunities with individuals or organizations who have large mailing lists of potential clients for when you’re ready to launch.
7. As soon as possible, consider doing small manufacturing runs of your product for local or regional testing in a controlled market. When people start buying your product within that market, you have achieved “traction”.
8. Document in your business plan the various stages of testing and localized selling you have established to help build investor confidence.
9. During this timeframe, create activities which will build your database of prospective customers for a future launch. Offer pre-order discounts, host a contest, offer a newsletter or something else of value.
10. Want to sell into major retail stores? Consider meeting with local buyers in your desired markets to establish a time to do a “trunk show” or a short run in that store to test the product. It is much easier to achieve large national vendor contracts when you’ve had success in the local markets.