Testing a product or its prototype is the most efficient way to ensure the final byproduct you launch into a market has the best chance of succeeding. It gives product managers and engineers valuable insight into the best product decisions they can make to improve customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, customer retention, and increase their company's ROI.
Organizations that test their products extensively benefit from a wide range of advantages. These include but are not limited to producing an overall superior product compared to those of the competition, continuously improving a product's performance, increasing customers' overall satisfaction, and predicting consumer acceptance of new products.
The process of rigorously testing a product before it is available to purchase can be challenging. When a company lacks experience in testing and aims to create a product that fulfills an industry need big enough to invest valuable resources in, mistakes are often made.
In this article, we explore the relationship between product testing and PMF, the importance of usability, and some of the most common product testing mistakes every organization should avoid to build a wholesome product that can take your business to the next level.
Product Testing and Product/Market Fit
The market you choose defines the basis of your business. Therefore, your products, company value proposition, and marketing and sales messaging all need to revolve around that specific niche.
Selecting the right niche influences your product's future success – it can make your product the best option in the market in terms of performance, features, and price point. If you choose the wrong niche, it can position your product to be the least viable option available.
When we focus on the relationship between product/market fit and product testing, our main concern should always be that the product launched into the market will be well received by the consumers it targets.
Businesses that dedicate sufficient resources to product testing are likely to gain an advantage over their competition. This leverage often comes from comparing their competitors' products against their own. They ask members of their target audience for honest and constructive feedback, hire experienced professionals to make educated decisions based on that knowledge, and continuously improve their product to dominate the product category most relevant to them.
In contrast, companies that do not sufficiently invest in testing products before their launch date are more susceptible to losing customers to competitors who do.
To establish a PMF (this should be your end goal before you consider scaling), customers should be trying your product and want more of it. Therefore, throughout the testing process, your product team should always focus on the potential value your audience can obtain from the product.
(Source: Brian Tod)
The importance of usability
Product usability refers to the optimization of a product to best fit the needs of its audience.
Whether your team creates physical or software products, the intent is the same – to provide your future customers with the best user experience possible.
This includes making sure your byproduct does what it was designed to do, and it does it well.
Product usability also means that anyone can quickly learn how to use the product and determine what it is designed to do. Its features are located with ease and with just a few clicks (when referring to software). The most common functionalities are within sight, and the average user has little to no doubts about how to use the product. If a question should arise, the user has easy access to an FAQ or tutorials.
For products that cater to users in the technology and manufacturing industries, product managers and engineers would do well to consider how their target consumers view the technology used to build the product. This can influence how receptive the market is to the final product.
There are plenty of terrible products. Whether they are not useful, they do not serve their purpose efficiently, or they are just too complicated for their target customers. These are easy to spot – they are challenging to sell.
(Source: Interaction Design Foundation)
Common Product Testing Mistakes
Whether your company has years of experience in product testing or just recently started getting serious about it, here are some of the top mistakes product teams can make.
#1: Confusing customer requirements for product requirements
The best teams collaborate by using their skillsets to benefit the company's overall goals.
It is often up to the marketing team to determine what kind of customer would benefit the most from a product idea devised by the product team. Marketing then consults the sales team to determine the most important questions and concerns prospects tend to have about the company's services. With that information, marketing builds comprehensive buyer personas, which aid the product team in choosing the best way to create an innovative product.
The truth is, most of your target customers are aware of their pain points, but they lack the technical knowledge to give a specific product solution out of thin air. This is why building a minimum viable product prototype is so essential for product testing.
The problem is that a product created exclusively based on what the customer wants without some innovation is likely to fall short against similar products that integrate new technology.
As Robb Hecht, Adjust Professor of Marketing at Baruch College said, "We've done user research, and most of the time we go in thinking users will tell us what they are missing… however, just as Steve Jobs taught us, consumers can't tell us what they don't know they want. We still have to use technology to conceive of experience which [we will test] to [see if] it resonates with them. This means we introduce prototypes based on our team's research and gut reactions versus always listening to users. If this were the case, innovation would suffer because customers often see the trees, not the forest."
Good product teams are knowledgeable about the latest technology and what is possible to build. When marketing and sales know what the consumer is looking for, product teams can use their expertise to innovate a product that addresses what is essential to the buyer and possible in terms of technology.
#2: Assuming you have found a market without testing enough
Every company's end goal is to grow and scale. However, when impatience reigns, team leaders may be quick to cut the product testing process short and assume any sale means PMF is achieved.
It is impossible to create a viable product that will provide an excellent user experience without enough testing. Product teams need to test product features, value proposition, price points, and overall functionality with different consumers on numerous occasions before deciding on a final version. ,
David Morneau, the co-founder of inBeat, had this to say about his company's product testing experience. "One of the mistakes we made when testing our SaaS product for product/market fit [was] assuming our product had a market fit too soon before actually getting sales leads. Once we launched our first product…we thought we had enough customers to kick off another service…"
Companies that have previously launched a product successfully and are now testing a new product can also fall into this trap. Morneau goes on to explain,
"We expected that with the addition of the TikTok search, our subscriptions would increase by 30-40%. However, the increase was below 5%, and our churn rates stayed the same. The reason was [that] the market was not interested in the TikTok search platform as much as Instagram. One of the biggest mistakes SaaS companies can make is [when it] already has customers for its existing product and assumes that its new products will have the same demand."
The bottom line is that without enough product testing, companies risk investing limited resources in launching products that may not have enough demand in their market.
#3: Confusing yourself with your customer
One of the worst mistakes a product team or team leader can make is to assume they think like their target audience.
Even if the individual fits within the company's buyer persona description, they are part of a team aiming to build and sell a product, automatically disqualifying them from testing the product as a consumer.
David Ciccarelli, CEO of Voices.com, reaffirms this idea. "Be careful not to overweigh the opinion of one person, no matter how senior they are in the organization. As CEO, I've been careful not to impose my opinion without the support of data, both quantitative (the numbers) and qualitative (customer interviews)."
When testing a prototype for performance and quality, product teams require real, raw, and honest feedback from real-world individuals who suffer these pain points. If the testing phase is cut too short or a team member calls the shots before receiving sufficient input from test subjects, your product may not be ready for its market.
To stay on track, test your product in front of actual customers, people you want to buy your product. Pay attention to their honest opinions and encourage constructive criticism. Test for your product's usability – how do your test subjects react to the experience your product provides?
#4: Confusing your product features with product benefits
Your product's value proposition should be clear and compelling; your target audience needs to know with your value proposition how they will benefit by using your product. Often, this requires describing your product benefits and not its features.
Poor product value propositions often focus on the product's features instead of placing a focus on the ultimate reward that the product gives. It can also be that the product solves an issue that your target audience is not overly concerned with solving.
To have a positive effect, your team should have a deep understanding of its target audience to transmit the message that your company's product solves an urgent problem.
To evaluate your product's value proposition, try the one-minute benchmark. In it, test subjects have less than a minute to understand what your product is about and determine if they would buy it. If the person cannot say they would, then you either have an issue with your product messaging or the value your product provides.
Product testing is crucial
Products that fly off the shelves and receive praiseworthy customer reviews after their launch date are tested continuously to ensure there is still a market demand for them.
To gain a competitive edge against other companies in your market, compare their products to yours. Do not be afraid of receiving constructive criticism. After all, testing is meant to help you improve your products.