Designing Your Survey
Yesterday, we discussed your product or service idea. Today, we’ll outline the survey you’ll use to test this idea with real consumers.
A basic product concept survey should answer the following questions.
1. Who’s my target market?
2. Is my product idea in demand?
3. How much will people pay for my product?
You have ideas about your target market: millennials, doctors, writers, etc. And you’re probably convinced you know who wants your product. But the fact is, you need data. Investors won’t rely on your gut instincts, and neither should you.
So, your survey should begin by asking a few demographic questions: gender, age, income, region, etc. These don’t regard your product idea specifically, but they paint a picture of your survey audience so you can see how different types of people respond to later questions about your product.
Behavioral questions should follow. These uncover facts about your audience’s lifestyle that relate to your product idea. Is your product an app? Ask about phone use. Is it a pet product? Ask about monthly spend on pets. Is it a coffee product? Ask how much coffee they drink.
Pick four relevant questions you think may affect someone’s interest in your product. Be creative.
To gauge demand for your product idea, first ask about competing or similar products. Do people use competing products? Do they like them? How long have they used them? Where did they learn about them?
These questions are important. While you can (and will) ask your audience to rate their interest in your product, a survey is limited—respondents cannot actually experience your product firsthand. They have, however, used competing products, and you can learn about demand for your product from their experience with competitors.
Next, present your product concept and ask for first impressions. This presentation can be a sentence, a paragraph, or even a video. The more descriptive, the better. But don’t make it too long—no one should have to spend more than 30 seconds reading, or 60 seconds watching, your description.
Spend time crafting this description. Go heavy on key terms. Remember, when gauging demand, respondents are rating their interest in the product you describe. So, the closer your description matches the actual experience of the product, the better.
After you’ve presented the product, ask this question: Assuming the price was reasonable, how likely would you consider buying this product? Answer options include a five-point scale—from 1 (not at all likely) to 5 (extremely likely). All who select “not at all likely” should be asked the following open-ended question, then leave the survey: Why would you not consider buying _____?
Everyone else continues to the next section.
Willingness to Pay
Finally, gauge respondents’ willingness to pay for your product. Use a Van Westendorp—a set of four open-ended questions that will give you a holistic perspective on your audience’s willingness to pay. The questions are:
1. At what price would you consider the product too expensive?
2. At what price would you consider the product priced so low that you’d question its quality?
3. At what price would you consider the product to be getting expensive, but you’d still consider buying it?
4. At what price would you consider the product a bargain—a great buy for the money?
There’s one exception to using Van Westendorp. If your product isn’t something your audience has experience buying (i.e., there’s nothing remotely similar on the market), they won’t know how to answer these questions. You’ll get huge distributions of answers and won’t have enough information to make decisions about price. In that case, you need to guide your audience. Ask this question: How likely would you consider buying ___ for $___?
Do this five times, once for each price below:
1. 25% below break-even cost (the costs to you of making/delivering your product or service)
2. 10% below break-even cost
3. break-even cost
4. 10% above break-even cost
5. 25% above break-even cost
Randomize the order of these questions so they don’t appear from lowest-to-highest or highest-to-lowest.
If you don’t know your break-even cost, just guess. The point here is to validate your idea — to see whether people want it and whether they’d be willing to pay for it. You need to know this before you invest any more time on this idea.
Next, we’ll get hands-on with the survey platform you’ll use to turn this outline into a real, live survey instrument.
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