You’re finally holding your new product in hand. You’ve got inventory ready for a big launch. Emotionally speaking, you’re a ball of excitement, but nerves are creeping in. Your brain is bubbling up doubts and concerns, and maybe you’re wondering if you’ll be able to sell all your inventory. If you don’t, what will you do with it all? How will you make back all of the money you’ve invested into this product?
Worse, how will you deal with the time you’ve lost and having to start all over? Don’t worry. Instead, ease your fears with the ideas below. These clever tactics will give you opportunities to test your messaging to see if real living, breathing humans will actually trade their money for your product. And they’re relatively cheap too!
Before using these strategies, however, just remember that these ideas below are not meant to sell your full inventory or even get top dollar. They are just for helping you improve and test your messaging while verifying that people will buy what you’re selling.
People are selling all kinds of items on Craigslist.org all day, every day, and it’s free! All you need is an email address and you can sign up for an account.
Find the section of the site that relates most to your product. Before you list your product though, browse some of the other listings to get a sense for prices and what makes a good listing.
Next, you’re going to write your headline and your listing. Make sure you include pictures and a comparison to other products like it (to validate your price). The goal here is not to sell your item for top dollar, it’s to test whether people will buy it at all. Even if you get 10% of what it’s worth, it’s proof that people will pay money for what you’re selling.
2. Facebook Groups
In every city across the U.S.—and likely in other countries too—there are buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook. They are like digital flea markets or 24/7 yard sales in cyberspace.
Most of the groups are open to the public, so you just have to use the Facebook search function to find them. Try typing in “[your city] buy/sell/trade.” Some of them may be “closed,” and you need to click a button to join the group. This just means they are manually approving people.
Depending on what you are selling, there might even be specific groups related to your product. I’m a big freshwater aquarium fanatic, so I’m a member of several freshwater aquarium groups. In these groups, people are selling aquarium equipment—and even live fish—all the time.
The best part about Facebook groups is each “listing” has a comment thread. This is great for getting real market feedback. Imagine how much better your actual product launch will be now that you’ve got experience testing your messaging and getting real market feedback. Just like Craigslist, make sure you use a good headline, include pictures and use price comparisons.
All you do is create your account, so it knows your location. Then you take a picture of the item you’re selling, and include a description. You post it, then other users in your area will see your item in their feed as they browse local items for sale.
If they want to buy your item, they’ll send you a message through the app asking if the item is still for sale. It’s very much like an old-school newspaper classified ad, just updated for modern technology. Apps like these are a great way to quickly test whether people will buy your product, and you may even be able to get full price.
Be aware, however, just as with Craigslist and Facebook, people on these apps are usually looking for bargains.
4. Focus Group and Compliance Testing
If you want to glean genuine reactions from your target market, the best way to get those reactions may be up close and personal. That’s where focus groups come in. A conventional focus group includes bringing people into a meeting to view and use your product while you or an outside agency observes their reactions. In return, you or the agency might offer compensation in the form of cash or other means.
While running a focus group in a double-mirrored room would be expensive, consider reserving a room at a co-working space or library. You or someone from your marketing team can lead the discussion face-to-face, which may provide invaluable insight into the expectations and psychology of your target market. As for compensation, consider providing a catered meal, or perhaps a gift card to a local business.
5. Compliance Testing
This one might seem right out of left field, but it’s important. If you’re selling a product that has to adhere to certain compliance standards, such as a chemical, textile or toy, then your product must be in compliance when it’s offered to the public. If you release a product that isn’t compliant, you’re just leaving the door open to negligence lawsuits and all around bad press.
You don’t want lawsuits or bad press. To head them off, consider putting some money behind testing services. For example, Intertek says they have offices across the globe, and offer testing services on a wide variety of goods against compliance standards from around the world. This won’t be cheap, but you’ll thank yourself for pursuing it.
What If No One Buys Your Item?
As with selling anything, there is always the possibility that no one will buy your product. And that’s just part of the sales game.
Nonetheless, it’s better to crash and fail on these free testing platforms than it is to blow your big launch. By using these cheap market testing strategies, you can do all of your failing before the big launch. You can learn what didn’t work before doing it wrong becomes a very expensive lesson.
Then, once you’ve learned from your failure, you can arm yourself with better ideas for your actual launch. All around, it’s just a good idea to use these quick tests prior to launching. If you do, you’ll end up with a bigger and more successful launch in the long run.
Enjoy the process and try to have fun. And remember: there is no failure. There are only more opportunities to try again.