How to Validate Product Market Fit with Minimal Spending?

December 27, 2019
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Conducting a comprehensive research is one of the most critical stages in product development, regardless if it’s a mobile app, web app or something else. It allows you to discover if your product fits the market. With product research, you learn if there’s a demand for your idea, find out what your target audience is and check what they think about your vision. The research allows you to find that out with minimal spending.

Why Do We Conduct Product Research? Checking Product Market Fit

Before starting the development, it’s recommended to check your product market fit. Analyze it, as well as the whole market you want to conquer, competition, trends and your future customers. In other words, perform product research. With the research, you gather essential data that is not based on presumptions. You analyze it, draw conclusions and earn guidelines to help you make further decisions. The research allows you to verify assumptions with real data and acquire knowledge. Thorough research lets you reduce the risk connected to creating and releasing a new product into the market. Developing a mobile app, even a Minimum Viable Product, or any other digital product, takes time and consumes money.

And there are many risks along the way. No product market fit means no market demand for your product. You can also create something that doesn’t respond to your target audience’s needs. To be able to create a product your audience finds useful, firstly, you need to know them better.

How to Do Product Research?

Thorough product research includes these four steps:

First Step: Find the Representatives of Your Target Audience

Initially, you need to understand who your target customers are and then – meet with some representatives in person, through the phone or the internet.

To define who your target audience is, you may want to create a User Persona. It’s a simple illustration of your potential customer that imitates a real person and includes fictional name, photo and characteristics such as demographics, job, goals, frustrations. It is based on research and interviews, so to define it, you need to talk to real people. And some of these people will then help you to perform product research. How to find people that belong to your target audience?

If you already have a business, you can address the customers that may be interested in your new product. You can also ask on social media or leverage from your own network of family, coworkers, friends, LinkedIn connections. These people also have families and friends who may be the audience of your future product. You can also address the customers of your competition or the ones that decided not to purchase from your competitors or you.

Second Step: Prepare Your Research Questions

It’s important to be prepared for the conversation, although it’s better not to create a strict script for that kind of meeting. Instead, create something more like a discussion guide. These are a few recommended questions for the interview:

  • How is this subject close to you? How often do you encounter problems connected to it, and what are these problems? What products and solutions you use to solve these problems? What you do and don’t like about these solutions?
  • Is there something you’d like to change in these solutions? Maybe something could be simplified?
  • What could convince you to switch to another solution?
  • What’s your opinion about our proposal? Does it solve your problems and is it more efficient than other solutions? What could be changed or made better? What would motivate you to use our product?

Ask short, open questions. Avoid words like always, never, majority. Don’t express judgments and use examples. And always remember to ask: why?

Third Step: Meet with Your Target Audience

You can meet with you target audience representatives in person creating a focus group or arrange a 1-hour meeting with each one of them. You can also send online surveys to chosen people or perform interviews by phone. Although, it is recommended to meet with the representatives of your target audience in person, to be able to observe them and make better connections. You need to think about how you can motivate chosen people to spend some time to help you. You may offer some incentives, exclusive content and send a “thank you” note. During the interview, remember to speak in simple language, avoid technical jargon. Ensure your interlocutor, that he doesn’t have to answer all the questions and that there are no right or wrong answers. Also, ensure that your conversation will remain anonymous. Explain why you conduct this interview and why is this important to you.

Fourth Step: Analyze and Draw Conclusions

Remember that the end of the meeting is not the end of your research. After gathering the data, you need to analyze it and draw conclusions carefully. Then, sum everything up and make decisions based on your outcome.

If your product is highly innovative and new to the audience, the negative response may not necessarily mean that interlocutors didn’t like your product. They may not properly understand how it works and what benefits it offers. In that case, take care of the proper presentation of your product, prepare value proposition adjusted to your audience and present it correctly.

What to Avoid While Doing Product Research?

There are a few things to watch for during the interview, which could have a negative impact on your results:

  • Avoid persuading your interlocutor into answers you would like to hear. Let them speak. Listen carefully. You want to learn what they really think, not gain confirmation to your opinion. Avoid suggesting the answers in your questions.
  • Don’t question your interlocutor’s opinion or feelings.
  • Avoid showing the solution too quickly. Let your interlocutor speak about problems, motivations and possible solutions first.
  • Don’t forget to record the interview or make thorough notes.

Helpful Tool: Prototype

If you’re planning to develop a web or mobile app, creating a simple prototype of your idea allows you to present your product to your interlocutor while conducting the research.  If your budget is small, you can create it by yourself.

How to create a simple prototype? At first, you need to identify the problem your product needs to solve and make a list of the features required to work on that purpose. Then, prioritize 3-4 of them and look at them from the user experience point of view. How should the screens look?

Look at these mock-ups for inspiration:

For example, if you’re creating a social app like Instagram, you can present here a login screen, a profile screen, a photo capture screen and a feed screen. There’s no need to be extra specific as you’re not a designer. You can create your prototype on paper or by using tools like Sketch, Invision, Adobe XD.

We’ve prepared a template for a prototype on paper. You can download it here.

What’s the purpose of prototyping for product research?

It will allow your interlocutor to understand your product better because they will be able to see it, not only listen about it. You will also learn if your audience understands your product, how do they use it and are there any technological barriers. Your prototype should be simple, with only basic, essential features. Your interlocutor may be overwhelmed if there are too many of them. If you want to go a little bit further, a software development company can create a clickable prototype for you. They can, for example, organize workshops, called Design Sprint. You will spend 5 days together, analyze your future app, market and audience, and in the end, create a clickable prototype which will be presented to your target users.


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