Measure Interest Before Building Products
Before you ever sell a product you should be marketing to everyone. Unlike traditional marketing, which includes branding, this is a different approach. You determine the interest of users before you ever try to sell your product.
Joel Gasgoine of Buffer did this before launching Buffer. He setup some simple landing pages to test the idea. Once the pages were created he sent out a tweet to create some traffic. These pages weren't created to sell something, They were used to gauge interest and gather emails. But, They didn't say, "If you're interested click this button," they were created to look like the product actually existed.
This is a great idea to test whether your product is valuable. It's promoted heavily in the lean startup method and I suggest doing it more than once. If you only test one idea, you have nothing to compare it against. Once you've done it a few times, you get faster with iteration and understand which product you should launch.
Be careful which one you choose. The product with the most traction may not be able to receive venture-based financing. Dan Martell talks about this when he pivoted FlowTown. His team tested three products and the one with the most traction wasn't the product they formed the company around.
It's hard to build anything that people care about and that is unique. Even though Timely was unique, grew, and people got it and it grew the best, even more so than the ambassador, which is the one we double downed on, there is also this element of creating a venture bankable business. I didn't feel that another Twitter tool or Facebook scheduling tool was the thing to bet the money on.
Product testing with landing pages can also be used with B2B businesses. Although B2B products serve niche markets, if they are needed, you can prove the demand with testing.
When testing B2B products, test against the user not the purchaser. It's common with B2B products that the purchaser isn't the actual user of the product. This is often why CEOs purchase software that is never used by the company. However, don't let this fool you. If you think getting a meeting with the CEO is the best way to test, you'd be wrong.
Seth Godin talks about starting in the middle rather than the top. He explains most people think it's important to get to the CEO, but it's not. If you get a meeting with the CEO, he will thank you for your time and then ask her team if it's a good purchasing decision. Seth and I are convinced starting in the middle is the right path to success.
You should be constantly marketing your product. But, you need to decide to do this initially, with intention. Start marketing the product before it's ever built. Utilize the marketing channel to gauge interest and identify the value propositions of the product.
Written: December 27, 2012