Arnold Kling  

Test-Marketing

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I asked, "If we had a product that allowed us to put questions and answers on your Web site, and this product wouold make all the e-mails go away, would you buy it?" Now here's a good lesson in bootstrapping: I did all of this before I had a product. When I asked if they would buy it, they said no. Better to find that out early on! I then asked companies why they said no, wrote their answers down, and moved on to the next phone call. In just one month, which is how long it took me to make those 400 phone calls, I knew exactly what customers would buy. That's when I went and built the initial product, in just 45 days, because I didn't want to build a huge application, just the pieces I knew customer wanted.
This is Greg Gianforte, interviewed in the book Bootstrapping by Sramana Mitra. As a naive entrepreneur, your intuition might be, "Develop the product, then take it to market." Your chance of success is much greater if you reverse the order of those two steps.

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COMMENTS (4 to date)
cm writes:

You mean you should listen to people and provide them with what they want instead of telling them what they want? And he's presenting this as some sort of miracle insight?

Pete writes:

IIRC, Jeff Bezos did the opposite and seems to have done fairly well. I suspect there are a reasonable number of cases of both types that work out just fine for folks. It's a good thought, though.

Greg writes:

Depends on the product. Those where the value proposition is unclear need more validation. Selling books online is pretty straightforward, so you can get away with less initial testing. I'm sure Amazon has done an amazing amount of usability testing in the meantime.

Like so many things, this approach sounds like common sense, yet many, many products fail because no one did it. Such is life.

Nancy writes:

In response to cm, you imply that marketers jobs have nothing to do with telling people what they want. I think in some cases consumers don't always know what they want until they are presented with something that they don't have, and it's then they feel like they have to own it.

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