April 17, 2019

Climb Into Our Testbed

Testbed.
Sandbox.
Smoke test.
The world of software is a world of metaphor, and testing environments are no exception. There is a rich vocabulary for describing ways to test.
Focus group.
Conjoint analysis.
Um…survey?
The world of new product development and marketing is downright prosaic by comparison. What’s the deal? Aren’t marketers supposed to be the creative ones?
At Spark No. 9, our testing approach is called The Matrix. No Keanu to be found, but there is a lot of action. Our matrix is all about finding the right match between product and customer—sometimes before the product is even built.
The point of the test matrix: reduce risk when you are launching something new. And, trust us, it’s not as simple as testing whether the color of the pill should be red or blue.

The Matrix: Act I: Brand Position

Reducing product launch risk means testing two major variables: brand position and audience. Say you are launching new luggage for business travelers. You have a split second to stop someone’s thumb on LinkedIn when they see an ad or a post for your hot new rollie. How do you decide what they see?
Before you start designing ads, consider brand position. How do you differentiate your suitcase from all the other suitcases out there? And given the richness of your topic, how do you even choose among the five different brand positions you came up with? How do you know which one will work best?
This is why we test more than one brand position. You or your agency may think you know which position will work, but if you are wrong, you will spend all your time and money on the wrong thing and sell only three suitcases.

The Matrix: Act II: Audience

Similarly, you may be confident that you know the perfect target audience for your new luggage. If you’re right, you’re a hero. If you’re wrong…
The thing about truly new products is that they don’t behave like existing products—and you don’t want them to. After all, the point of a new product is almost always growth, which means finding new customers, or at least ensuring that old customers generate incremental revenue.
Products that are truly new don’t have dependable customer data, so you need to create it.
This is why we test. Testing a range of brand positions against well-defined discrete audiences generates critical data about product-market fit for your new offering. This means that you will understand which brand positions for your product resonate with which audiences—and which combination should be prioritized.

The Matrix: Act III: Strategy

We can almost hear you thinking, yeah, OK, but the ad campaign I ran for my new luggage against my current target audience generated sales at a reasonable cost. I don’t need to test.
This is the part in the movie where someone gets killed because they didn’t see the bad guys coming. If you don’t test, you may miss a new audience for your new luggage that someone else will take advantage of. Or maybe you will define your audience too broadly (“everyone wants my new luggage”) and spend your entire marketing budget inefficiently.
Strategy is always more potent when grounded in data. Strategy for launches of truly new products often lack data—it’s why a lot of big growth strategies get stuck on the shelf. A matrixed testing approach can validate growth strategy and reduce risk by helping you prioritize attractive opportunities and also understand what not to do.
Want to de-risk growth? Use the matrix.
Matrix: the set of conditions that provides a system in which something grows or develops.


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