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A guest post by our friends at BlueLabel

When you’ve got big ideas for a new product, the road to launch may seem daunting. One of the first hurdles, defining your product concept, is a bear of a process. But it doesn’t have to take months or years. Enter: the design sprint. More on that later.

Another massive challenge in a successful product launch: validating demand. Are you certain that people want your product? Can you find this certainty before investing a ton of time and money on a launch? And can the certainty be backed by data? You bet—with heat-testing.

Here’s how a design sprint followed by heat-testing can get you from product ideation to validation to launch—faster and with data-backed confidence.

What's a design sprint?

Developed at Google Ventures, BlueLabel’s historically 5-day, structured design sprint process trims the fat of digital product ideation. Work that would typically take months or years is concentrated into a short, intentionally scaffolded timeframe where all team energy is devoted to one thing: product concepting. It’s done quickly: you make decisions, stick to them, and then move on to next steps. Here’s a birds-eye view of the design sprint process:

  1. Choose the challenge. In the first module, the team brainstorms and identifies the problems they’re trying to solve with the product (and the problems with the most opportunity).
  2. Generate solutions. Then, based on the problems isolated in the first module, the team brainstorms and sketches product formulations. 
  3. Evaluate and decide. The team looks at each of the problem-solving concepts from the second module and selects product concepts to continue developing and prototype.
  4. Prototype. The winning product concepts are defined and wireframed and ready for testing. 

How do you test which concept/value proposition should be developed into a minimum viable product? That’s where heat-testing comes in.

What's heat-testing?

You’ve come out of a design sprint with defined problems and solutions and at least one product concept ready for testing. Excellent work. Before you pour a bunch of resources into product development, you need to figure out how to position your product (and with who) and validate demand. Heat-testing, Spark No. 9’s proprietary method, is your most efficient play here.

Let’s look at an example of heat-testing in action. After a design sprint, the Spark No. 9 team had a product concept identified: a dissolvable, just-add-water drink tablet named Palet. The goal of heat-testing, in this case, was to figure out which Palet value proposition was most appealing to audiences—and who those audiences were.

So they positioned Palet three ways for testing:

Palet Planet: a sustainable drink option with less shipping weight and minimalist packaging

Palet Luxe: a delicious, transportive drink option with artisanal flavors for luxurious sipping

Palet Party: a portable drink tablet you can enjoy wherever the night takes you

In heat-testing, distinct value propositions are expressed via digital ads. Discrete audiences are developed, targeting behaviors and affinities to find the most interested consumers. Then, the ads are set live.

Then, the data comes in. If someone clicks on an ad for a concept? That shows interest. If someone spends time on that ad’s corresponding landing page? Even more data showing demand for the product. If that person leaves an email address on the landing page to ‘stay in the loop about launch’—demand validation for that concept. By testing all concepts and audiences simultaneously rather than in sequence, heat-testing gives data-backed answers to strategic questions much faster than sequenced testing can.

Here’s a look at the data gleaned from Spark’s Palet testing:

In just a few weeks, heat-testing revealed which product concept was worth developing, and who the most interested consumers were. The heat map above, constructed using real email sign-up data from a week of testing, identified Palet Luxe as the winning concept, with the most striking fit (19.4% email sign-up rate) among the Sustainable Minds audience. 

Winning concept and audience(s): identified. Working ad and landing page creative: set. Waitlist of interested potential buyers (aka demand validation): secured. Talk about confidence going into product development.

The TL;DR

Product concept development and demand validation have traditionally been slow, arduous processes. Luckily, there are new methods in town. Next time you’ve got a big idea, shave time and anxiety off of the journey to launch by combining a design sprint and heat-testing.m will match ad to individual to optimize your ad spend. You won’t get a lot of data about who is engaging with which ad, but you might get customers!

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