Congratulations, you’ve got a product that’s ready for testing. If you’re like me, you call up your family and friends and ask them to give it a try. Great news! They all think it’s fantastic, and they provide nothing but encouraging feedback.
So, you think, Awesome. I’m onto something big here. Before you get too excited, take another look at what you’ve really learned. Of course the feedback is good. These are your family and friends! Be careful not to get lulled into a false sense of security.
When I co-founded the New York-based small-batch, pepper-sauce company A&B American Style a few months ago, I reminded myself that this feedback means only that my product is not a complete failure. That’s an important data point. But it’s not enough.
Here are five ways I learned to generate accurate feedback even from your mom and dad:
1. Ask for negative feedback. To get honest feedback, ask probing questions of family and friends. In my case, I made sure to get specific information about what was good and, as important, what wasn’t. Specifically, I asked for negative feedback. This isn’t always easy, of course. Friends and family may be worried about hurting your feelings. But by indicating that you’re not worried, it may free them up to let the critiques rip.
2. Go outside your inner circle. Another option is to get strangers to tell you what they think. Again, you need to solicit specific feedback. Here’s an unexpected problem I ran into: Strangers find it even harder to give you negative feedback directly to your face than your friends. One way around this problem is allowing people to provide anonymous feedback.
3. Pay attention to unsaid cues. If you’re forced to get in-person feedback, pay attention to body language and what is not being explicitly stated. For me, selling A&B American Style Pepper Sauce, the most important non-purchase signal of quality is that someone takes a second taste. Often people say, Wow, that’s good. But, I don’t listen to the words. I watch the samples disappear. I watch for the people that go back for a second and third tasting.
4. Get them to buy. Deciphering if your product passes muster with potential customers often comes down to whether they would actually buy it. In-person markets are great for this test. When I started, I tried different prices all the time until settling on the right one that makes people take out their wallet and buy a bottle of Pepper Sauce.
5. And come back for more. Ultimately, it’s on you to prevent complacency when building your product and company. You need to read between the lines and make sure you understand what you’re hearing and seeing. The best sign that you really are creating a product as awesome as you think? Attracting repeat customers.