Innovation Needs Action – A Quick Approach to Market Testing

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Got ideas for new products or services? Will other people buy them?

Test this as quickly, and as cheaply, as possible. Then, you can focus your resources on developing your most promising ideas.

Here’s a quick approach to market testing ideas, that we used recently with one of our clients.

We worked with a University department to help them grow their enterprise activities. They wanted to increase their paid consultancy work with industry. We ran a series of interactive activities with the department that:

  • identified their areas of expertise
  • translated their expertise into services that would be valuable for businesses
  • developed clear, concise ‘headlines’ to describe each service and the value it delivered

The university couldn’t develop all the services, so we had to focus on the most promising ones.

Which Services Would Companies Buy?

It would have been easy to survey potential customers by phone, online or via social media. Instead we decided to take a more targeted approach. We opted to engage with businesses attending a conference on a topic directly related to the departments area of expertise.

But the conference was a day of talks, posters and networking events, how could we get the attention of the conference attendees?

Getting Feedback from Busy People

We decided to use an ‘old school’ approach and give each conference attendee a postcard.

On one side of the postcard we put a clear, easy to understand infographic that described the activities of the department.

On the other side we put a series of check boxes so that people could select which services were most attractive to them and tell the us the best ways to deliver the services. There was space for respondents to leave their name, email and phone number.

And, we offered an incentive: one lucky respondent would get the opportunity to spend the day in the university department meeting the researchers and learning about their work.

Generating Actionable Data and Publicity

It was interesting to see that in the downtime between speakers (and occasionally during the talks!) people read the postcard, reflected on the infographic and completed their responses. The keynote speaker pulled the winning card out of the hat at the end of the conference. This focused people’s attention on the activities of the department. All valuable publicity for the university.

Clear, but unexpected, results

Almost 20% of the conference attendees completed a postcard – a very respectable outcome.

Best of all the results were clear. We identified the services that were of most interest to businesses working in the field.

Interestingly, these weren’t the ones that we, or the university, had predicted. We learned how to best engage with business to deliver the services. Often businesses wanted shorter, more concise formats than we had expected.

Thirty three companies were interested in engaging the university, including some very big names.

Other opportunities were identified: five companies offered to host students interns and 11 people were interested in Masters courses in the department.

Innovation Needs Action

Ideas are great. They are the start of innovation.

Yet, to become a successful innovator you need to develop your ideas and launch them in the marketplace.

Understanding your market, and testing your ideas in that market, are important activities. They help you move from being creative to becoming an innovator.


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