When large companies want to develop a new product idea, they make a prototype, hire market research companies across the country, and “test” that new product with focus groups. It’s an expensive undertaking – one that small-to-midsize companies cannot afford. So, how do individual entrepreneurs or small companies “test” a new product idea or service before they spend the time and money to develop it? Here are few budget-friendly strategies that can be successful. #1. Talk About It This may seem scary at first. After all, if you talk about your new idea, someone else will surely steal it. According to entrepreneurs who have successfully launched new products, however, this really doesn’t happen, and here’s why: You have a passion for this new idea. You are committed to developing it. Others who hear about it may think, “Wow, I should do that,” they rarely will. While they think it is a great idea, they simply do not have the follow through that comes with passion. Because the passion and commitment are not there, these people move on to other things quite quickly, and your idea is just a fading memory. But here’s what sharing can do for you: You can get some honest feedback on whether a product or service would be useful and if people would actually pay for it. You can get suggestions for refinement and alterations that will make that product or service more desirable. So, do share your idea with friends, current customers, and even complete strangers – if you decide to launch the idea, it will be a new and improved version than the one you originally envisioned. #2. Find Similar Products – If they Exist, Great! In our research to find if someone else has already had this brilliant idea, we are discouraged when we find that similar products are out there. Actually, this is a reason for encouragement. Think about it. If someone else has done the “leg work” and found a product to be successful, this is a good thing. You know that it will sell. So, here is what you do: Find small ways that you can improve on that product Find ways that you can market your version better than your competitors’ How many personal finance software products do you think are on the market today? Hundreds of them. And the developers all manage to sell their products because they have some unique features or because they market their products very well. Competition should not be a deterrent – it should be a motivator! #3. Look for Signs that You Can Meet a Need If you are regularly on social media or on the sites of your competitors, you can sometimes pick up clues about what people need and want. Quora is a great place to pick up such signs related to your niche as are discussions on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. If you have a product idea and you see that people may have a need, then it is time for you to develop that product. Before you spend a lot of time and money, however, you will want to capture those people who are talking about it. If you are finding such discussions on mobile devices, then conduct a mobile survey – a very simple one – that asks for feedback on the need they have and a product idea that you have. Use that feedback to determine if you have a market and how your product may be tweaked and refined. Virtual Staff Finder, a clearinghouse for virtual assistants, was founded based upon a sign. In conversations on a blog post he had written, founder Chris Drucker, read a comment that was a wish for some type of site that would provide virtual assistants ins all fields. The idea was born, and the company is thriving today. #4. Create a Small, Scaled-Down Version of Your Product This is a great way to test something’s viability. If you have an idea for a WordPress plugin or some other app, craft a small version that offers just some of the total product. Throw it out there, even for free, to a typical customer, and ask for feedback. Or, put a cheap price on it, and see who takes the bait. A lot of app developers do this, but others do as well. Would-be restaurateurs often set up a cart in a mall or secure a food truck and plop it down in a spot where typical customers frequent. They “test” their recipe ideas. If successful, they know they may have a good shot at opening a brick and mortar eatery offering those products. #5. Try Selling Before You Actually Build the Product A lot of entrepreneurs actually do this. They have the idea and the details for a product. They throw out some online PPC advertising for people to order or pre-order. Then they gauge the response and move forward if it is good. You can design a landing page, place ads to drive customers to it, and make a decision on the validity of your product idea pretty quickly. Creators of adult coloring books did this several years ago. They set up a site and had customers pre-order books in a variety of design types. They began to produce the books only after they saw the response. Today, adult coloring books are one of the hottest items on Amazon. It’s tough to predict the success of a new product. Just ask Pepsi and Coca-Cola, both of whom had made their share of mistakes over the years. But, if you take some steps to validate your idea up front, you will not waste time and money on a “dud,” and you may have the information you need to move forward on a product that will become widely successful. Images: ”Man with a Note and a Word New Product/Shutterstock.com“ ____________________________________________________________________________ Tweak Your Biz is a thought leader global publication and online business community. Today, it is part of the Small Biz Trends stable of websites and receives over 300,000 unique views per month. Would you like to write for us? An outstanding title can increase tweets, Facebook Likes, and visitor traffic by 50% or more. Generate great titles for your articles and blog posts with the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator.