Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

September 4, 1957- a fateful day in marketing history, as that was the day a brand new car debuted in showrooms across the country. Ads had predated the launch by months promising an exciting new car, one that would be different from all that had come before. This successful marketing campaign had generated so much buzz that people flocked to see the car of the future. What happened next came as a surprise to executives at Ford- no one was buying the new Edsel.

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There are numerous reasons why- it wasn’t a revolutionary new vehicle as promised; the launch date ensured that it was priced as a 1958 model, while competitors were slashing prices on their 1957 models so it was seen as overpriced; mostly, however, it wasn’t sold properly to the target audience. Ford had ignored all market research, and stubbornly stuck to their sales pitch despite the fact that it simply did not work.

How many of us today launch products and have this problem? Do we ignore what the market tells us because we know our products better than they do? Do we even test market our products in the first place?

Today we have a tremendous opportunity to test our ideas BEFORE we spend massive amounts of money turning those ideas into products. One of the most important, yet often overlooked, areas of testing is our sales pitch. 

How can we practically test out how we are going to sell a product before we have the product in our hands? Traditionally the answer would be to use focus groups. Focus groups, however, carry a number of inherent problems.

  • They can be prohibitively expensive
  • A small number of people are not necessarily representative of the market as a whole
  • That small group can give feedback that drastically changes the vision of the product, causing you end up with a watered down version of your radical idea
  • Focus groups rarely do a good job at testing whether people will buy an item based on a sales pitch

So what can we do if focus groups are not the solution?

Use the Internet.

We have a connection to millions of potential buyers, who often times are seeking out what it is we are thinking of creating.

So how do we connect with the people who are looking for the solution we may provide, and find out what works best to represent our potential products to them? Create a smaller version of your idea, offer that for sale on the web, and use Google AdWords to drive traffic to your site.

Let’s say you have an idea for a better mousetrap. You can create a document that describes all the problems with current mousetrap technology, and how your ideas will solve those problems. Make sure that it contains enough information to let them know what it is you are proposing to create. Put this document on a website, and ask for feedback from people who read it.

Now to get the document in front of those people out there interested in new mousetraps, you can use Google AdWords. To those unfamiliar with AdWords, they are the little ads that appear on the right side of the screen when you do a search on Google. You place these ads, and every time someone clicks on your ad to visit your website, you pay a small fee. The mechanics of setting up a successful AdWords campaign are beyond the scope of this article, but for more information,please e-mail me and I will refer you to some resources.

With our mousetrap example, you may want to get AdWords for the search term “better mousetrap”. This will allow you to drive a steady stream of traffic to your website of people who are interested in better mousetraps. Next comes the most important part- measure the results of what people do when they visit your website! Measure how many people view the main page, how many download your document, how many give you feedback, and make sure you gain their permission to contact them later with new developments. Now change the pitch you have on your site for this document about mousetrap technology. Change the text in your Ad on Google. Measure how those changes affect your traffic and your conversion rate. Continue to tweak the ads and sales pitch for maximum conversion rates. You may even get to a point where you can start to charge for your document!

Once you have optimized your site for maximum sales conversion, only then should you consider whether you should actually create the mousetrap! If you have been unsuccessful after 6 months at getting anyone excited enough to download your document, or your conversion rate is incredibly low no matter what you try, your idea may not fly with the market, and you should reconsider spending lots of time and money on your research and development. If you have a successful site, however, make your better mousetrap- you have an audience that is craving the item you want to produce, and you have honed your sales pitch well in advance. Now when you offer your product for sale, you know what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to motivating site visitors to become buyers. You also now have a large e-mail list of people who have had their appetite whetted for your new product. Let them know when it arrives, and you can thus help avoid being known as the manufacturer of the Edsel of mousetraps.

This article was written by sales technology specialist Matt Walker. For more information about what has been discussed, please e-mail him at mwalker@sbanetwork.org or call him at 714-269-4123.

Posted in Marketing Strategies, Uncategorized.

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