I love inventors. They are typically dreamers who feel they can change the world with their ideas. I truly have an appreciation for that confidence. However, there are some inventors who are so in love with their concepts that they feel once an idea launches everyone will buy it. Oh, if it were only that easy. Focus groups are what they need.
A Case for Focus Groups and Consumer Feedback
Anyone who has launched a new product will tell you that it is an expensive process. From due diligence on manufacturers (which often requires travel overseas) to materials to the cost of production, you can spend your entire life’s savings on your dream invention.
The overall investment in time and materials should make inventors leery enough to wonder, “Will anyone really want to buy my product?” But the confidence of ignorance often clouds the judgment of eager inventors and they rush to market with little or no consumer testing. This is can be a costly mistake.
A few years back, an inventor hired me to provide marketing support for her manufactured product that she had dumped her entire 401(k) into (roughly $700,000), none of which went toward focus groups or consumer product testing. Her invention, which was actually a really great cooking utensil, began to fail in the homes of some consumers.
She found herself sending replacements and providing refunds to disgruntled customers, which became a burdensome expense. To top it off, she had emptied all of her coffers on research, development, and production. That left her with a super-slim budget for marketing, a decision that ultimately became a death sentence for her product.
I was able to provide some marketing support to this inventor, but she was haunted by her product failures and had thousands of units of a product that she was no longer confident to sell. She ended up taking a major financial loss and went back into research and development to work out the kinks.
Focus Groups Provide the Clarity You Need to Move Forward
For those unfamiliar with the term, a focus group is a “demographically diverse group of people assembled to participate in a guided discussion about a particular product before it is launched, or to provide ongoing feedback on a political campaign, television series, etc.”
The goal of focus groups, consumer product testing, surveys, etc. is to find out if your target customers understand your product and whether they would buy it. While focus groups are interacting with your product in a controlled environment (often led by a third party you hire) you are privy to their reactions–the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Information derived from focus groups can reveal that you have a product that will succeed with your intended consumer, it needs work, or it will likely fail without changing. But the most significant piece of data that might come from this activity, especially if you do it early enough, is the feedback that can help you refine your product offering to suit what consumers really want.
This information can transform your product’s future from moderate success to a blockbuster. For some inventors, hearing consumers disparage their “pride and joy” invention cuts like a knife and it is the fear of these sour reviews that often prevents them from conducting focus groups. This is shortsighted thinking.
Fearless About Pre-Product Launch Focus Groups
Your invention is like giving birth to a baby and raising your offspring into an adult. But just as you would guide your own human child with advice, care and nurturing, you must do the same for your product. Consider the following:
Egos are Bad for Business
Remember your invention was never just about you, so keep your ego in check to alleviate fears of bruising it. You likely developed your product to fill a need or to solve a problem that many people have. Keep that in perspective and let those same people support your product launch.
Sell a Product Branded for the People, By the People
Branding is often mistakenly thought of as a strategy that is solely devised by a company. This is incorrect. Companies define a message that is conveyed to the public and it is the consumer that uses this information to define your brand. Focus groups offer informative insights into the perception of your product, giving you the opportunity before you invest in marketing strategies to develop brand messaging that will likely resonate with your target audience.
Sorry, Your Product May Actually Stink!
This is a tough pill to swallow, but stay with me. You just may be so close to your invention that you haven’t considered that no one else really wants or needs it. It may be a good idea to you, however consumers may not be willing to pay for it. At the end of the day, you should offer a product that people love so much they will buy it and tell everyone else they should buy one too.
Focus groups can reveal to you that you have a product no one wants, saving you potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars and relieving you of the burden of failure. It’s better to have the choice of walking away and cutting your losses or to go back to the proverbial “drawing board” than to invest in a product that will likely lead to personal heartbreak and zero profits.
Let’s be clear, launching a product is challenging, but a successful product launch is quite the reward. Give your product and profits a chance by letting the very people you hope to buy it, test drive it. Insights obtained from a focus group have the potential to change your life forever whether the response is positive or negative. Never miss the opportunity to learn from those who can help make your dreams come true.