Product Testing Is Unnecessary—And Other Related Myths
by Julie Trujillo
A revolutionary new product. An improved product. A problem product that’s been “fixed.” What do all of these have in common?The inventors, owners, or product managers—whether it’s their first or their 101st product launch—have poured their hearts and souls into them. They’ve all worked long and hard to make these products what they are, and now they’re ready to launch them into the world.
But that’s not all they have in common. All of these products also need to be tested.
Let me tell you a quick story.
An experienced product manager, with great excitement and much fanfare, launched a new product into the market. Over the next several months, he, along with his colleagues, management team, and investors watched as the product became a tremendous...flop. Not enough people tried it, and even fewer purchased it more than once. Lots of time and money was invested. Lots of money was lost. He and his team had spent lots of time working and reworking the product, tweaking and adjusting the design until it was perfected—or so they thought. So, what happened?
In the process of designing, building, and enhancing the product, the team forgot (or avoided) one critical element—the customer. This new product failure may have been avoidable had the team considered the customer and included product testing into the process.
The new product development cycle is not a straight and narrow path. Product development processes typically include a number of customer insights steps along the way such as early exploratory research, ideation, concept testing, and positioning and message testing. But if the product, itself, is never put into the hands of potential users, how strong are its chances to succeed? Although it seems like a logical step, product testing is all too often overlooked or cut out of the process. Here are a few reasons product managers and others give for letting product testing go by the wayside.
Myth #1: The product is “too big to fail.”
Heavy investment in product development will result in a product that is practically guaranteed to succeed. Much work has been done, and everyone on the team feels the product is great. All the marketing elements are in place, and it’s “good to go.”
Reframing the Myth: “The product is so big, that we can’t let it fail.”
A product test should be used to confirm or refute that the product, in which so much was invested, will meet customers’ needs and expectations. Is it a product people will buy? If not, what can we do to improve it to ensure its success?
Myth #2: The changes to the product are too small to really matter
Perhaps the product isn’t new to the world, but there has been a small enhancement or change made to that existing product. The change seems to be such a minor adjustment that it won’t change customers’ opinions or buying habits. However, small changes can have a big impact. One tweak can send things off course without any real warning signs.
Reframing the Myth: “The change is small, but every little adjustment really matters.”
Product testing should be used to make sure even the smallest change or enhancement improves the product in the eyes of the customer. Is it truly improved, or did the lab change some aspect of the product that users happened to love? The product team should give customers, both current and potential, the opportunity to experience, react to, and confirm that any changes or enhancements really are improvements and not new problems.
Myth #3: The problem has definitely been corrected
Fixing a product issue could mean making a minor tweak, a major overhaul, or anything in between. It may be that customers brought attention to the problem, or it could be an issue that was identified internally. Regardless of how the issue was raised, has it really been corrected, or could the “fix” have created another problem?
Reframing the Myth: “Users appreciate the correction.”
User evaluations can be leveraged to confirm with customers that the problem has been addressed in a way that fixes the issue for them, not just for the product engineering team. These tests should be used to verify that product quality has been maintained or raised and that no new problems have been created.
Product testing requires product managers to commit time and investment. But in turn, it rewards these teams with invaluable insight that can only be gained by putting the product into the hands of customers or potential customers. Once completed, product test results will either validate or get the team back on the product development path. Whether the team learned the product is ready to go to market or that there is still work to be done, they will be better informed about the potential of the product than they were before they started.
About the Author
Julie Trujillo (email@example.com) is a Vice President at Decision Analyst. She may be reached at 1-800-262-5974 or 1-817-640-6166.
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