Effective Concept Testing Requires a Well-Written Product Concept
Read Time: 4 Minutes
Innovation is more than a buzzword. Customer needs and pain points change rapidly, so businesses must innovate. Products and services that used to make a company distinctive may suddenly lose their shine. Yet innovation always carries risk. The risk of investing resources into products that are not needed, or no longer needed, looms large. No one wants to ride a dead horse.
Product development needs systematic safeguarding against the risk of failure. For smart companies, trusting internal management wisdom is not enough. Customer insight is key. They want to validate their value propositions with potential users and buyers. Market research can provide that customer feedback, either through qualitative interviews or, if robust quantified evaluation is needed, through online surveys.
GLG helps its clients get customer feedback on new product developments through concept testing. While an earlier article focussed on the right moment to validate a value proposition, this article is all about the proposition itself: how to describe your concept so that customers can understand it and provide useful feedback.
What Is a Product Concept? More Than an Idea, Not Yet a Final Product
Your product concept is a short summary of what you are planning to offer. It is written for potential customers. As you draft it, you should frame it from the customers’ perspective on the product, using their point of view and their language. Sounds easy enough. But how do you summarise your offering if you have 90 seconds or one PowerPoint chart?
Your summary should not just portrait your product in the best possible light. It should be designed to elicit feedback — as tangible, actionable, and forthright as possible. Concept summaries work best if they combine the following five elements:
- A tagline says what your product does in a single catchy phrase. Again, this isn’t necessarily a marketing or adverting tagline, which typically enters the picture much later in the go-to-market plan. This tagline is useful in earlier development stages. It clarifies you goal, the problem your solution will solve, and the difference it will make for your target audience. A good tagline frames the concept.
- The benefits your solution offers customers are the next essential element of your concept: be specific. Whereas your tagline is a short, high-level introduction, your benefits need to be particular. How will your solution improve customers’ business, their performance, or work process? What will they gain if they adopt your product? Keep in mind that benefits are not features. They describe the added value the product creates for the customer, not attributes of the product itself.
- A description of how the product works is another indispensable part of a concept. Without it you would just be making a promise and leaving customers guessing if it is an empty one. A good concept takes the guess out of the value proposition. It provides reasons to believe that the product will keep its promises. This is where technologies, components, and features enter the stage. There is no need here to be comprehensive and go into all the details, or even share intellectual property. Brevity is key.
- Including price is often helpful, but it’s not mandatory. If you are testing a draft concept early in the development process, you may not yet know what the final product will cost. That’s okay. You can then either show a price range (between $200 and $300 per month) or not mention price at all. Without a price, though, feedback you get from customers will be less tangible and definitive. In later stages of development, adding a price (or at least a price range) to your concept is recommended.
- For a concept to resonate with customers, it must hit a nerve. This is not something that any single element can achieve. The parts must work together to build significance. That will happen only if customers can draw a line between your value proposition and their pain points. You can encourage the line-drawing by including a pain point in the concept (e.g., in the tagline). That is a possibility. But a good concept does not require an explicit dropping of the pain point. Customers do not need to be reminded of their pain point if your solution addresses a relevant and unsolved problem. What matters is that you know the problem you want to solve and write your concept with that problem in mind.
Writing a concept is an extremely useful exercise whenever you want to win over customers with a new product or service. A written concept can help test your own planning even if it’s just for yourself. Are you clear about the problem you are solving and the benefits you are providing? How will others know that your promises will be delivered? Can you get all this across in a minute and a half?
But concepts are most beneficial if you test them with potential customers: Do they make the connection between your offer and their pain point? Do they see an added value in what you are offering? Will they be interested, even excited? And if the concept is lacking clarity or force, how can it be improved?
Customer feedback on these questions will remove uncertainties in product development and significantly reduce the risk of failure.
There is an optimal time for concept testing.
Read GLG’s article The Right Moment to Put Your Value Proposition to the Test to discover when that is.
About Bernd Grosserohde
With over 20 years of marketing research experience, Bernd Grosserohde has worked with many global companies on building stronger, more profitable products. His area of expertise covers choice modeling, segmentation, and other advanced analytics tools. Before joining GLG, Bernd held a position as Global Head of Pricing and Portfolio Management at Kantar. He is based in Hamburg, Germany.
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