As many of you may know, we are currently gearing up for our “Market Test” where we will be giving our jeans away to dozens of men (many of whom follow this blog) in hopes we get great feedback on how we’ve done with our product development and how we can make our product even better before launch.
I wanted to write a little bit about the test because, sadly, several of our vendors have said we are the only ones they’ve known to plan such a test. Many brands launch their designs straight to market, having already invested large amounts in inventory and marketing before gaining trial and consumer feedback. We wanted to take a more conservative approach so we could maximize our product’s efficacy from the very beginning.
Admittedly, pre-market product testing is not a new idea. Apparently though, it’s not something done in the apparel industry. Yet It seemed like a natural and vital first step to me. You see, I had spent considerable time in the hair care product industry; an industry that relied heavily on trial and pre-market product testing. So I was familiar with their benefits.
The company I used to work for made hair care products featuring natural ingredients such as olive oil, coconut oil, paprika, nettle, and many others.. The company borrowed its inspiration for ingredients from the food industry and the burgeoning popularity of natural and organic foods. In order to gain initial trial of its products, the company created small “fish bowls” filled with sample size shampoo, conditioners and styling products, and placed them next to their full-size versions on store shelves. Armed with a big sticker on the front of the fish bowls saying “Try Me for Free,” consumers often emptied out the free samples within a week or two. With startling regularity, those consumers would come back to those stores to purchase the full sizes and the company grew quickly from there. Our test, in a smaller but equally impactful way, will also give us the opportunity to gain a few enthusiastic consumers prior to our full launch.
In addition to encouraging early trial, we want our testers to give us valuable feedback so we can make our product as good as it can be at launch. Again, I leaned on my experience in consumer packaged goods where it was customary to test market products with panels of consumers, tracking their responses as they used the product. We even had a “company beauty salon” where we tested prototypes daily, getting data not only from consumers from the stylists as well. The salon was even next to Research & Development so product input could get directly to development chemists in real time.
It goes without saying, that when you are working in the product business, user input is critical in the product development process. Without that valuable outside feedback, you could be developing something you love but your consumer doesn’t. And in this age of social media, where user feedback is instant and broadcast, optimizing a product before it gets to market is critical to the life of the product.
Besides, assuming you’ve done your job well before going to test, you will get a positive reception and gain brand ambassadors – always a vital marketing tool.
These are the reasons behind our market test but what are yours? What have you done with your brand in order to either gain consumer feedback or gain trial? I would love to hear your stories so we can give our readers a few examples of what they can do with their start-ups. Whatever you do, the important thing is to have a way to let people evaluate your product prior to launch. One of the last things you want is to invest thousands of dollars into inventory that will sit on shelves or in warehouses. Perhaps, those few changes you make could mean the difference between breaking even or breaking the bank.
This is a photo of our apartment when we first moved to California. As you can see, it was pretty barren. We had a dining room table and some fold out lawn chairs as our dining room chairs for the first few weeks. As we prepare to go back home to Chicago, I have been reflecting on our time here. This trip, in many ways, has been a true test for both my wife and I and it is one that we are grateful for. Since being here, we have tested new careers, a new state to live in and we have tested and expanded our own personal expectations and goals. We have grown tremendously and we have this one big “test” to thank for it.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2 ESV