12 Ways to Test Non Technical Ideas With Existing Clients

When entrepreneurs come up with a new product idea, they sometimes become like parents: their baby is the most beautiful and talented baby in the world, no matter what that child looks like or what he/she can actually do. That new product idea is absolutely golden, and no one can say otherwise.


But before you start negotiating payment terms with manufacturers or purchasing long-term ad spots nationwide, get a second opinion. Get a third, get a thousand. In fact, ask those who have validated your successful business plans already once before — your existing clients.

We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invitation only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs, the following question to find out their advice for collecting feedback on offline business ideas:

“What’s one strategy to test a new (non-technical) idea for a product on your existing clients?”

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Be Open About It

“We treat our clients as partners throughout the process — whenever we try new strategies to help our internal operations or try to build something for them that we haven’t done before, we are always upfront. It seemed like we always defaulted to good, old-fashioned whiteboard sessions. However, when we tried a new program, we would tell our clients that it was new and needed feedback on it.” ~ Abby Ross, Blueye Creative

2. Throw a Shopping Party

“We’re always considering new releases, including both expansions of our current line and possibly introducing new product categories. The beauty of “existing clients” is that if you have done well, they are your advocates. We have tried surveys, phone calls and Facebook voting contests, but without fail, the best and most immediate feedback we get is from a real-life shopping party.” ~ Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

3. Find and Mobilize Superfans

“We’ve found that simply asking our audience/subscribers if they’re interested in trying out something new can yield a killer group of passionate brand ambassadors. They’ll understand if things are broken, unfinished, and imperfect — and care even more, because they’ve had a deeper opportunity to make a difference.” ~ Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

4. Slap It on Craigslist

“If you have a product that can be enjoyed by many — as opposed to a targeted audience — try putting it on Craigslist. It’s free, and if your immediate community shows an interest in it, then that gives you a great gauge of how the rest of the world may like it.” ~ Angela Pan, Angela B. Pan Photography

5. Use the Crowdfunding Test

“We meet entrepreneurs looking to test out their product every day at Fundable. Crowdfunding gives them a fantastic gauge for interest in their product by allowing them to pre-sell a product and get to know their audience. It’s the perfect first ecosystem for a startup, helping them decide to change their strategies or move full-speed ahead into production.” ~ Eric Corl, Fundable LLC

6. Test Ideas on Google AdWords

“Google AdWords can get product and service ideas in front of your target demographic quickly and inexpensively. You can test one idea or set up different pages to measure the performance of various concepts or marketing schemes. Once up and running, Google Analytics provides accurate data for you to observe and share with potential investors, if you need to make a very convincing pitch.” ~ Christopher Kelly, NYC Conference Centers

7. Pool Feedback via Social Media

“One way we solicit ideas is to simply ask our readers what they would like to see on our website. We’re active on social media, and we often ask for suggestions during our weekly TweetChats.” ~ Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

8. Camp Out in the Coffee Shop

“When I’ve got a new product idea, I’ll build a minimal demo (think wireframes for a website) and then head to the coffee shop. I’ll offer to buy a cup for a few people who don’t seem to be in a hurry, provided they spend a few mintes looking at my demo. It’s a fast way to get some external perspectives from people with no obligation to be nice to me.” ~ Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

9. Put On Proactive Sales

“Advertise your potential product in advance to your current customer base and ask for presales. If the customers don’t bite, then it may not be a fit. Remember, even if they say they like the product, ask them to buy it. If they have their credit card in hand and are ready to buy, then you may have a winner on your hands. ” ~ Nick Reese, Elite Health Blends

10. Create a Partial Product

“If I have a new product or idea, I only create the first five percent of it. If it’s a course on leveraging YouTube in your business, I create two chapters, and include some of the most useful tips for getting set up. Give that away to a current customer base, along with an outline for the full product. Follow up a week later and ask if they’d be interested in seeing the full version.” ~ Sean Ogle, Location 180, LLC

11. Mock Up a Customized Demo

“We love to mock up a prototype-like demo to create a realistic and custom experience. Keynote can be a great tool for creating an interactive-like product demo, and you can easily change out the template design to customize for multiple clients with the same functionality.” ~ Lauren Perkins, Perks Consulting

12. Just Ask Mom

“Ask your mother, or someone else’s mother. If it is simple enough for your mother to understand and enjoy, chances are that is is simple enough for most people to understand. Or try asking a child. Can this child understand it? Can they explain it to someone? If your idea is simple enough that a child can explain it, chances are that your clients will understand it also.” ~ Louis Lautman, Supreme Outsourcing

Feedback Photo via Shutterstock


The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

4 Reactions
  1. Want a wake up call? Watch Shark Tank. Those guys are very bright, but if they’re out of their field they really press the entrepreneurs to define their new product in the simplest terms. They also cut right to the chase.

    • I like Shark Tank and watch all season, but concept that business can do anything in order to make a profit is not I follow, because they suggest all the time that we should make everything in China in order to save costs and make lots of money. Then who can create jobs in US. If we agree that rest of world can work in factory, all American should educate and finish advanced degree and own all business throughout the world as I can say. Thanks