Marketing Center

The basic steps of test marketing

Testing a market can give you the insight to ensure your product or service will lead to business success.

Published: October 26, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2017

Test marketing is an essential step to determining the possibilities for your new product. This is where you have a chance to hone in on what's working with your new product or services, and correct what's not. Get started by familiarizing yourself with these four main phases of test marketing.

Choose: Idea, prototype, or marketing?

Decide whether you want to test your idea, prototype, marketing text and images, or all of the above.

A prototype test is an invaluable way to gain first-hand feedback before you invest in the full production of your product. It should be only as complete as necessary to show people the benefits it will offer — that's called a Minimal Viable Product (MVP). The MVP allows you to try out your idea without having to raise or spend the whole amount necessary for a complete final product. If you are testing your idea or the marketing strategy, you must develop the copy, images, layout, and any calls to action. Test it with your team and advisors first — that's the alpha stage. Gather feedback and refine it for release to your first level of ideal customers — that's the beta stage.

Pick your market

The purpose of market testing is to learn what products your target customers would buy. To do that, you have to identify these customers and talk to them. You can limit your market based on geography, demographics, psychographics, or behavior, depending on what matters most for the development of your product. Ideally, you want responses from at least 50 people who embody your ideal customer, depending on the amount of time and money at your disposal. To reach your target market, you can use these sources:

  • Existing customers

  • Your social media friends and followers

  • The friends and followers of your social media audience

  • Paid ads and search strategies through social media and search engines

  • Companies who will cull a market for you to survey

Craft the test

Once you know who you want to contact, decide what you will ask them and how. To connect with them, you can use:

  • A prototype or beta of your product or service

  • A microsite or a landing page on your site

  • Marketing material (aka collateral) like a brochure or an ad

You can deliver these via:

  • In-person focus groups

  • Online chat sessions

  • Online survey or a quiz

  • Email or snail mail

In addition to the formal focus groups, you can also pitch these materials in person at product demonstrations, soft launches, trade shows, rented kiosks, festival booths, or limited sales at one or more selected stores. Throw in some deal sweeteners like free offers, discounts, or early adopter status to attract responses.

Conduct and evaluate the test

The actual testing phase can take anywhere from a day to a few months. If you ask for feedback, make sure you explain that you want accurate, honest feedback. You need to learn what people believe are the strengths and weaknesses of your offering. After carefully reviewing the data, it's time to make decisions about whether you should move forward, what features of your product you should build on, and how you can improve your product or service. Make improvements to your offering and your marketing. Then consider doing it all again. You can test different versions to see what generates the most sign-ups, responses, social shares, and revenue.

If possible, don't go the test route alone. Seek out business advisors to help you through the ins and outs of the test marketing process.