The First Step in Testing Marketing Deliverables for Your Startup or New Product Launch
The first marketing testing step for a start-up, the informal marketing test, put your startup sales copy— the story of your product—in front of a handful of actual prospects. The kinds of people in your market whom you must persuade to buy your products or services.
The informal market test relies upon your verbal presentation and personal question meaning of the individuals who receive your marketing deliverables, to flush out the constructive comments and response necessary to put your startup sales message into sharper focus.
Informal marketing testing can also be used in an established company launching new products in a new market, in advance of the actual product line.
This type of marketing test is in no way scientific. It requires no special research procedures or any other specialized skills of the market researchers trade. It does, however, require you to be very good— and discriminating—listener. Ask questions designed to elicit the constructive response you need.
You must listen very closely so you can separate the valuable signal. The information that can improve your marketing efforts. You must be able to separate the noise and superfluous comments and criticisms that can throw your sales message off in the wrong direction.
The quality of the results you receive from your initial marketing test will depend on:
- The quality, content, and level of detail of your tests marketing mix—brochure, ad sample, email content, and other printed pieces
- The questions you ask, and your skill and listening to and understanding the answers you receive
- Your own gut instincts, based on your own prior experience in dealing with people and selling situations
- Your ability to separate the information you can use from everything else you’ll be hearing, as you talk to test respondents
Informal Testing is Really Informal Selling
This informal marketing test has many of the earmarks of a sales presentation, except for the sales part. Like any good salesman on a sales call. You’ll be providing your prospects with your information and persuasive benefits on your company’s product. You’ll be listening very intently to the questions they ask you.
You must be alert to the offhand comments or observations that could cause you to make an important change in your product sales message, price structure, feature description, or promotion.
Your ad agencies account executive or the other marketing consultant you prepared the print sales material used for the test should also be participating in the phone or personal interviews you’ll be having with these informal test respondents.
Step 1: Finding Respondents for Your Startups Informal Marketing Test
During the period of your startup is operating under the radar. Your management team is developing your product or service that will eventually be sold by your startup. You should build your own informal network of people in and around the industry served by your company. You also want to put your test marketing materials in front of individuals who are representative of the prospects you are trying to reach. Do this by their job title and responsibilities, and who will be the most likely buyers of your company’s product or service.
Here are some good places to develop your own network of contacts for your informal marketing test:
- Trade association contacts. In addition to being an excellent all-round industry and market information resource for your startup, can refer you to almost any insider you need to contact at any company in the industries they serve.
- Trade media contacts. Such as space advertising sales reps and trade publications, can often put you in contact with other executives at companies you’re trying to reach in your marketplace. Ad sales reps get around your industry. So don’t disclose too much information on your startup and its products. Contacting a publications ad rep can be an excellent way to get referrals for your test.
- Social media platforms. These can be a great way to introduce yourself and your startup to a very targeted audience. LinkedIn is a great social media platform to begin networking with your ideal test audience.
- Second-tier company contacts at smaller companies in your market. They are your preferred contacts for your startup’s initial marketing test. For this initial test, you’ll be working with a rough draft of your products sales message. So you want to do your initial testing with prospects at smaller companies in your market, rather than industry leaders, to avoid the possibility of making a poor first impression on a major potential customer by showing him or her sales copy that may not be as persuasive, or as well developed, as the final version of your company’s marketing deliverables.
- Trade suppliers in your marketplace. They are another excellent source of contacts. Key vendors, contractors, and other trade suppliers are served your industry, such as part or component suppliers, or service providers, work every day with key contacts at the company’s you’re trying to reach.
Step 2: Preparing Marketing Deliverables for Your Informal Test
The production value for the printed marketing deliverables you and your Ad agency or marketing consulting prepare for the informal test don’t have to look as good as a final version. However, the more finish the pieces look the more credible the impression you make with test respondents.
With today’s digital printing and color copying technology, you can print very small runs for color brochures, flyers, and sales sheets for between $1 to $3 each. If your production schedule allows, take advantage of this technology and produce your test material and color, on paper stock.
Materials to Prepare for the Test
The materials to prepare for your marketing test should reflect your marketing media. Including the sales benefits, features, and other content your company plans to use and its marketing deliverables, based on the best marketing information available to you so far.
At a minimum, your marketing test should include a mock-up of your company’s large-format color brochure. And a sample of your company’s proposed advertising, if you’re planning to run a print display advertising campaign or even and digital online advertising campaign.
Step 3: Executing the Informal Marketing Test
By now, you should have your list of respondents assembled for this informal marketing test. Contact approximately 10 of these likely prospects for your test by phone. Tell them you and your company are in the process of launching your company’s product, and because they are a key executive in this market, you value their opinion. You want to hear their thoughts and comments on your product and how it’s being marketed. If they agree to review your test material, tell them you’ll be sending them out in today’s mail or FedEx.
In your conversation with him, it’s very important to let these contacts know they will be no selling pressure. All you are asking for our their opinions and constructive comments on your company’s marketing approach. They will be flattered that you’re asking for their help.
Step 4: Assessing the Results of Your Informal Marketing Tests, and Adapting Your Marketing Deliverables in the Marketing Plan
After you complete a handful of these interviews. You’ll begin to get a sense of whether the sales benefits you’ve presented in your marketing deliverables used are persuasive and understandable in your target market.
You’ll also find that people in your industry. These people must have a knack for discovering confusing sales copy, inaccuracies in your use of technical jargon, and other errors and omissions you’d never find on your own.
When you complete your interviews, the general pattern of the improvements, additions, and deletions you’ll have to make in your sales copy in your marketing deliverables become apparent. Your own common sense also helps you weed out the trivial responses that are not useful to your marketing program. Such as someone’s artistic criticism on the design of your test marketing deliverables, or other off-target comments.
Strategic Shift in Marketing Direction
In some cases, the final result of your conversation with marketing test respondents may give you strong impressions that your company must radically change the way it markets and sells its products.
For example, you might find that the executives you’ve contacted as likely prospects for your company’s product or either too low in the companies hire to make a purchasing decision. Or to technically focus to see the strategic business advantages of your company’s product.
This often occurs if your company is selling complex and technically oriented products or processes to technically focused executives. They may have some reason to block the adoption of your company’s exciting new approach to their field.
Your company’s product or process may also meet resistance because it requires a major change in the way the technical executive must run his or her operation. Your company’s product or process may suffer from the not invented here syndrome. This is prevalent in many large firms or may meet the resistance when a technically oriented prospect decides to nitpick your products unimportant technical details to death, or maybe resentful because he didn’t think of it first.
In these cases, shifting the marketing focus to get your company’s product in front of the prospects who have a more strategic, results-oriented vision of their company—by changing the point of contact from a VP of technology do a VP of business development or VP of marketing job responsibilities, for example—can often dramatically improve your startup sales results.
In the course of your testing, the other comments you receive from test respondents may put you on the path to some new and very exciting marketing opportunities for your startup.
For example, word of a major distributor might be a good prospect to carry your product or a large corporation that might be an important potential strategic partner. These two examples of exciting and potentially profitable new targets of opportunity. Smart marketing managers must aggressively pursue during their startup’s development stage, and which may necessitate additional new marketing efforts or even a shift in direction of your company’s marketing program.
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