I never cease to be amazed by the power of small amounts of testing.
I’m reminded of a Mortar client that made water out of thin air (they said it involved condensation, I’m pretty sure the dark arts were involved).
Like most tech teams they were in a hurry, and so the question of testing kept getting pushed further and further down the development cycle.
Only weeks from launch, our strategy was nailed, we knew how our product was different, and we had a new name, logo, and a crisp elevator speech. All that stood between us and the Market was confirmation.
For this project we chose an engagement session: the agency, client team and prospects sit down around a coffee table for a moderated discussion. Although less scientifically objective than traditional focus groups (which make heavy use of one-way mirrors and bowls full of M&M’s) engagement sessions provide a more immersive experience for all parties.
The lessons learned in engagement sessions are often much more powerful, because the team hears the feedback directly and without filter, instead of weeks later as part of a 116 slide PowerPoint deck.
So, there we are, sitting on a couch, with eight early adopters, the pioneers we expect to be among the first to buy, and we launch into our idea.
The CTO lays out the challenge, details the product idea, and is about to reveal our first creative concept when a burly engineer leans forward and asks, “so what does the water taste like?”
The CTO turns green and starts to stammer.
Everyone else on the team is taken aback. Incredibly, we’d been so wrapped up in the genius of the technology that we never asked ourselves this simple question: what does the water our machine makes, actually taste like?
Before we can respond, the engineer says “I bet it tastes awful, am I right?”
Yes, dear reader, it turns out that water condensed from the air (or via the dark arts) has no flavor. And while that may sound like a good thing, it turns out we expect our water to taste like something, and that the lack of any flavor is… well… disgusting. How water tastes is a critical attribute for any water-making appliance.
The discovery that the A-ha Moment for our water-making innovation was not “Wow, I can make water, anywhere,” sent shockwaves through the team.
We had simply not considered that the benefit of providing fresh water would need to include taste.
That was not the only thing we took from our research.
We were also struck by the pride with which our first prospect pointed out the flaw in our marketing.
Members of the early market are often heavily invested in product details and are rarely shy about offering their opinions for improvement or further innovation.
But there is a point, as every innovator will attest, when a product should be hurled into the market, as there is no better indicator of success than purchase and use.
Still, our first customers would regard the lack of focus on taste as a critical product flaw—and it would cloud the bigger story: that they could now make water anywhere.
Not to fix the taste issue would leave our first customers feeling betrayed and ignored.
And it left me scratching my head over how I could have allowed the project to advance so far without considering such a vital factor.
My entire marketing career has been punctuated by moments like these. I have learned the hard way that small, regular doses of feedback from potential customers are an essential ingredient of any successful marketing program.
And experiences like these are why we insist our clients test their A-ha moment before they head to market. For more on Mortar and our emphasis on the A-ha see this post: Five things we learned about A-ha moments in 2017.