How to Increase Product Development Success with Ghetto Testing


In the movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner plays a farmer living in rural Iowa, who hears a voice while walking through his cornfield; “If you build it, he will come” (often misquoted “If you build it, they will come”) and sees a vision of a baseball field.  Kevin’s character Ray Kinsella plows under his corn and builds the field.  We all know the story – in the end “he” comes, as do carloads of people.

Betting the family farm may work on the silver screen, but in the world of product development it’s a risky proposition as according to the Harvard Business Review, very few new launched products succeed despite tons of R&D and armies of smart people. Sometimes the issue is product-market fit and sometimes it’s the marketing – it doesn’t drive growth.

But marketing and product development folks can improve their odds greatly with a simple technique known as Interactive Dry Testing in the direct response world, and Ghetto Testing in the digital world. It’s a market test to discover whether a product or service is worth pursuing.

Field of DreamsIt’s cheap.

It can be done fast – like today if you want to.

And it’s interactive – it’s done digitally on the Internet.

If done properly, a marketer can get a very good “read” on whether a product will or will not be profitable and how profitable (or non-profitable!) it might be.

Before explaining how to do this research, some ethical guidelines are in order.

While this type of testing is perfectly legal, marketers should utilize it only when the special nature of the offer is made clear at some point in the promotion. It is OK to “test the waters” for interest in a new product, i.e., one that does not yet exist. However, consumers should not be misled and should be informed, for example, by stating something like this during the test process: “This new product is being planned; we will let you know if it will be created, and of course, if it is not, we will promptly credit your account by (date).”

The Federal Trade Commission is normally OK with tests like this, so long as four conditions are met:

  1. No representation is made that the product definitely will be produced.
  2. There must be adequate notice of the conditional nature of the offer.
  3. Those who order are promptly informed if it is not produced.
  4. There can be no substitution of another product.

Here’s the typical high level three-step testing approach using Google:

  1. Create a special landing page simulating and describing the product or service, price, terms, etc.
  2. Set up a Google AdWords test for the potential new product. This will allow you to test cost, impressions, page ranking, clicks, click through rates… for various ads and keywords. If you have an established AdWords account, you likely won’t have any issues with Google with approving the ads.
  3. Create and link a research survey to the landing pages, where you ask questions to the consumers who were actively in the purchase process at that moment. This allows you to ask questions where recollection has the potential to be more accurate since it’s more recent; such as what other products did you look at and why are you currently doing this search. You can also invite a person into a live chat interview.

What is great about this testing versus say surveying people about a proposed product or service, is that a questionnaire is still not a real sales situation, no matter how much care is taken in its construction. Any questionnaire makes the prospect into an expert rather than a potential buyer. Interactive Dry Testing / Ghetto Testing is real simulation of the selling situation. And avoid including any social links on the landing page. To have a solid test you only want people participating in the survey process tied to the test, who were actively in the buying process of looking, researching, evaluating, and so on.

If you try Ghetto Testing / Interactive Dry Testing before you commit to building a product, then when you do decide to built it and commit the company farm, you will greatly increase your chances that “they will come.”

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O’Connor is co-Founder of UCHARYA, an analytical driven marketing consulting firm to startups, private equity owned enterprises and international giants looking to leverage analytics to drive marketing returns. Tim brings speed, clarity and impact to the companies he helps which have included startups backed by The Facebook Founders Fund, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bain Capital and Sterling Partners owned private equity companies, and international giants P&G, Honeywell and Siemens.

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