Concept Testing: How to test a concept without killing it

  • SumoMe

Secret #6: Concept development is a process of successively refining, amplifying and enhancing the basic idea of the product.

While concept development is often conducted haphazardly, it can and should be a highly organized process:

1. Assess the present situation. What are people are doing now? You want to know their present satisfaction levels, whether they perceive a problem for which your product may be a solution, and what are their present beliefs, misconceptions, attitudes and emotions. Look particularly for the issues that they have the most energy around, rather than what they tell you is important. You want to know the words they use, and the way they categorize and conceptualize the area. More often than not, people will not make the same distinctions the manufacturers make. Users’ concepts will be much more use and function oriented. The manufacturers’ concepts will be more product and feature oriented. I can’t stress enough that respondents’ actual words, perceptions and felt needs are what you are after. You can only take people from here to there. So, you better know where “here” is.

Sometimes people say that they don’t need the product. Is it the kind of product that solves a problem that they don’t see, or are embarrassed about or don’t want to acknowledge? If so, it doesn’t mean that your concept is dead. You just have to get them to see or acknowledge the problem. Sometimes, you come up against product rejection when the respondents take professional pride in their ability to overcome the difficulties that your product will eliminate. Some examples are: automatic cameras for professional photographers, or surgical staples and glues (surgeons pride themselves on their knot tying dexterity), prepared anything (when the preparation is part of the professionalism), programmed instruction for teachers and simplified (Macintosh) computers for computer professionals.

Many concepts have been killed when such situations were discovered. But what this really means is that other benefits must be found. If your new concept indeed represents a significant advance, it must be clearly communicated.

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2. Write the concept statement. This step is the most difficult and important. The way the concept is presented is crucial. Your product will live or die by this statement. There are two pitfalls to be avoided:

(1) Don’t make the statement just a straightforward “objective” description of the features of the product.

(2) Don’t make the statement too “salesy.” Instead, a balance must be struck between a dry spec sheet and a slick brochure.You do this by starting with a brief description of the present situation, in words the target audience uses. It is usually best to describe the concept as a solution to a problem. For instance to physicians: “You know how hard it is to get ‘patient compliance’ [physicians’ words] with your recommendations…” Or, “You know how frustrating X is…” Then, continue with the product description in benefit terms: “So, my client has developed a…, which is designed to…, without causing …[undercutting a qualm]” Then, and only then, describe the product itself, and how the product’s claims will be substantiated.

Make it as real as you can, but if something is hypothetical or undeveloped about the product, mention this. Then, ask for their guidance in making the concept viable.

Note: If you want help in constructing a concept statement properly, this might be the subject of a telephone consultation. For more info, click here.

3. Refine and elaborate the statement in successive groups.The concept statement is written and rewritten, for successive groups, continually taking into account what has been learned before. Each time it is presented, you will elicit qualms, objections and concerns as well as praise, new uses and new ways of describing it. You take the positives and incorporate them into the concept statement. With the negatives, you look for ways to underplay them or turn them into benefits. This comes from the creativity of the researcher and the client. We find out directly from participants how we can make the product more appealing. We continue to strengthen the presentation of the concept. You will find that you have almost developed a sales presentation even before you have an actual product.