When Steve Blank wrote the book “The Four Steps to the Epiphany”, he brought a sea change in the way technology entrepreneurs do business. Rather than plow ahead with a technology-led process, most entrepreneurs have embraced “customer development”. Getting out of the building and doing primary market research has saved a great many startups from solving the wrong problems, and repeating the mistakes of projects like Google Glass.
You don’t know what you don’t know
When you are just getting started, the first thing to do is to admit that you don’t know what you don’t know. You have hypotheses about your target market and end users, but you don’t know if your intuition is right.
What you need to do at this stage is “problem research”. This is the phase in primary market research where you try to understand the problem. The technique that is central to the Lean Startup movement, MVP (minimum viable product) testing, is all about “solution research”, which I will cover in a separate post.
In 2005, I was shopping for an acoustic piano. Back then, piano shopping worked like this: Go to a showroom. Play every instrument. Pick one, and negotiate a price. Have it shipped to your house. Everyone understood that a piano store does not maintain much inventory on site.
Apparel shopping was completely different. Shoppers went to the store, tried things on, then paid and left with their purchase in a shopping bag.
Not too long ago, robots were giant, caged things, mainly found in automotive manufacturing lines. Social robotics was a new field of research pursued by the best and brightest in university research labs.
In the past few years, however, it seems that social robots have finally come of age. All of a sudden, the market is teeming with products. Some are distinctly humanoid.
The rise of social robots
Softbank Robotics’ Nao, Pepper and Romeo all have a head and two arms. With their stylised designs, they deftly avoid the “uncanny valley” of human-machine interfaces (realistic enough to look human, but non-human enough to look spooky).
Others are more subdued in their anthropomorphism. Blue Frog Robotics’ Buddy sports an animated face on a screen, and scoots around on wheels. Jibo is yet more subtle in its ability to evoke humanity, with its stationary base and a head that can turn and nod.
In today’s fast-changing world, new product teams are constantly pushed to do more faster. They need to run fast to keep up with rapidly changing market conditions. Oftentimes it means making decisions about what to invest in with very little information. How can teams validate hypotheses without over-investing on speculative engineering projects, and potentially losing time and money building the wrong thing?
It turns out that there is another way. In both B2B and B2C scenarios, you can often get a very good read on the interest and even purchase intent from potential economic buyers by running a series of landing page tests.
What is a landing page test?
A landing page test is a form of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) test, in which one uses a landing page as a way of gauging some aspect of customer interest and/or purchase intent.
While you can gather a tremendous amount of insight by running detailed, open-ended interviews with potential customers, at the end of the day you are still limited by what the customer thinks they will do, instead of what they will actually do. Purchase intent is frequently inflated when you test your product idea with people face to face, because they are often loath to hurt your feelings by telling you the truth. It’s emotionally much easier to just say “yes, this is very interesting!” or “Sure! I will certainly buy it!” rather than “you are talking to the wrong person – I have no interest whatsoever.”