Testing The NDIS Waters: The Spark Process For Market Testing

The official NDIS roll out is fast approaching and we’ve been seeing disability service providers launching a plethora of new products and services. It’s an exciting feeling – having something that you know is valuable and worth buying.

It’s a great way to remain competitive in the new disability world too. But, as you know, it’s fraught with the very real danger of wasted time, money and resources.

In this piece we’ll go through the process we use to test the viability of a new product.

The main problem we see is that a fantastic idea for a new something is built with the all-inclusive bells and whistles, launched into market and then observed. If it doesn’t work you just have to eat the cost. Not ideal.

That’s why we like to help our clients do things lean.

The lean method is all about getting results quickly (using small experiments) to help you define and refine the product.

And after reading this you’ll be ready to get that revenue-driving idea off the ground and smashing it in the market.

We often build this from the start (with features galore) …

when we should have just built this and gauged…

until we find the right features to use.

Traditionally, organisations have engaged research firms to conduct focus groups and survey testing to see if the market will resonate. While the result is likely to be comprehensive, it’s not an affordable path for most in the social sector.

Luckily, the scrappy lean methodology will get you the results you’re after.

Let’s say you’re a disability service provider specialising in those with hearing loss and you want to develop a mobile app that ‘listens’ to audio and transcribes it into printed words in real time. We know this technology exists but hasn’t been applied in this way.

First, we need to validate it.

Does this solve the problem it’s intended to solve and will anyone buy it?

“Your opinion won’t matter. It’s important that you prove your point with numbers.” — Samantha LeVan

Today, there is a healthy amount methods of validation at your disposal.

You can’t be too thorough in this stage. So explore different paths.

First things first – jump onto Google and scour through industry reports, whitepapers, articles, anything with relevant data you can get your hands on.

IBISWorld has an extensive catalogue of up-to-date data from just about any industry.

Gauge the size of the market and determine what slice of that you’ll need to meet the desired return.

Be honest with yourself. Is this market share realistic? If so, move on. If not, reassess.

Secondly, start talking to people in the real world.

Organise some friendlies (and a few agnostics if you can) from within the market and actively record their feedback and input.

Get people who are comfortable challenging your assumptions, rather than adding another voice to the echo chamber.

You’ll also need to gauge how the market at large reacts.

Create an online survey for your customer-base to fill out.

Unlike the phone interviews, which are more around assessing the viability of the product from authorities in the field, the survey can ask more focused questions with the end user in mind.

Go for a broad approach by emailing your subscribers and engaging with your Facebook audience.

It helps to incentivise, so offer a discount off the final purchase for those who complete the survey.

If completion numbers are low – that could be a sign in and of itself that the product isn’t engaging the market.

You can find an attractive (and free) survey builder at typeform.com.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” — Pablo Picasso

Once you’ve conducted these interviews and surveys, reevaluate the product with the feedback.

Make changes, even drastic ones.

Remember, this is an iterative process. Going back a few steps is often necessary.

The product is always in flux so don’t get attached to anything.

With the data you’ve collected you should have a clearer picture in your head of what this could look like.

You can now co-create the app with stakeholders.

Get everyone relevant into the room, from the leaders to the users, and workshop all aspects of the app until it’s something worth buying.

Assumptions were made to be challenged so overt groupthink tendencies and encourage brutal honesty.

If you want a little help: here’s a video we made on how to avoid the 6 most common workshops facilitation mistakes.

Especially scrutinise the business model in these sessions. Use this time to explore freemium models, advertising options, and subscriptions. What extra service could you offer premium users to make it worthwhile for them to shell out the extra cash?

For business model ideas and perspectives, pick up a copy of The Business Model Navigator.

“A design isn’t finished until somebody is using It.” — Brenda Laurel

Once you are (and everyone else is) satisfied that this app is worthwhile and can generate a sustainable return, it’s time to actually build the thing.

In this case, you would engage a digital design firm and be very specific about what you want (while of course being open to suggestions from the experts).

Remember to keep it small. A small version of the complete build – or even just one feature of it – will serve as a proof of concept.

Once it’s done – don’t waste too much time tinkering. Launch it.

This is where you must get ruthlessly analytical.

Until you have actually built what you are designing, you are not going to be able to fully understand it. So measure everything from the user experience to the usefulness of the product itself. Seek feedback wherever possible. Launch it as an open beta to encourage input from the end users.

This will enable you to discover design problems early on in the life of the product and reduce the overall risk – something especially necessary for not for profit organisations.

You’re still experimenting at this point too. Consider A/B testing everything from the pricing structure to the colour scheme to the name of the product itself.

This is where you can see the real results of all your work. Do you customers know what to do with it? Are they using it as intended? Do they use it once and never touch it again? Why?

As always – get as much data as possible.

Here’s the final trick: Never think of it as finished.

Once its complete build is launched and you’re happy with the result it’s no longer a top priority – but it’s still on the list. It can always be fine-tuned.

Have a ‘Give feedback’ option in the app and use this to collect ongoing user feedback.

The process of market testing to launch is no small feat.

It’s intensive and requires a transparent honesty with yourself. But the reward comes in the form of certainty – you know that it will work because you’ve seen at work.

Constantly iterate. Be more agile and less emotional. Take a mindset of bravery and risk. Listen and talk to the real customers. And sculpt the masterpiece you know is hiding under all that marble.

“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

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