I got an email a few days ago from an avid reader of this blog. She asked about the best ways to test market her new food products. My answer is below — thanks for sending in the question, Haley!
Have you been playing around in your home kitchen, trying to come up with the next best chocolate chip cookie? Or maybe, you’ve got the “secret sauce”.
Creating a food product is one thing. But, making a product consumers buy over and over again is tough.
That’s why test marketing your new food idea is the way to go.
Test marketing gives you an idea of who would buy your product, for how much money, and if they would change anything about it.
Of course, when you’re testing something out, a million things could go wrong. You could get a false sense of hope, you could find out that, while delicious, people won’t buy your product. Or, the worst – no one’s a fan. (Hard to believe with food products, I know, but it’s happened to me before).
So how do you get the biggest bang for your buck from your test marketing efforts?
It’s not easy. You’ll likely be test marketing for several months before you pull the trigger. But don’t worry! Once you get an idea for what your customers like, you’ll be able to tell what products are going to be a success.
For now, let’s get your first test marketing under way. Here’s a couple tips:
5 tips to help you test market your food product:
1. Don’t let family and friends give you feedback
Family members are supposed to be honest, right? Not exactly. When I was test marketing my energy bars and mustard, family members often sugar-coated their feedback. They weren’t upfront with me. Same with friends – they want to be supportive which means they tell you what you want to hear. This ultimately means you don’t get the best feedback.
To find people who aren’t friends and family, ask co-workers at work, post an ad on Craigslist looking for focus group participants, or give your family a couple test products and tell them to bring it to work. Since they’re co-workers don’t know you, they’ll be honest.
2. Perfect one product
Test marketing a line of 10 products is overwhelming. It creates decision paralysis for your test group. Plus, it can alter the taste of products if you have them taste multiple varieties. By focusing on one flavor, you’re able to perfect that recipe. Then, when you’re successful with one, use your test group to expand your product line.
3. Retailers are not your customers
The first place many companies just starting out go for research is their local grocery store. And that’s not a good idea. Sure, it’s awesome to get the buyer’s attention, but retailers aren’t your customer. The retailer’s customers are the ones buying your product. By staying focused on consumers, you’ll get the feedback you need to found a fantastic food company.
4. Prepare for criticism
Let’s face it – not everyone is going to LOVE your food product. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I was told one of my test mustard flavors “sucked”. I kid you not. While 8 out of 10 customers are likely to think your product is worth buying, it’s the other 20% you should pay attention to. Why don’t they like it? What can you do better? Taking this criticism and feedback is important. It helps you make a product 100% of people enjoy.
5. Craft a 30-second pitch
“Try this and tell me what you think” is probably one the worst ways to get a customer to try your product. It’s bland, boring, and not engaging. Work on a short pitch about your product. What makes it different? Do you have unique ingredients? This pitch is not only useful for consumers, but you’ll need it when it comes to selling your product to retailers.
Test marketing is necessary to start a food business and produce a product consumers are going to fall in love with. Just making salsa, brownies, or spice blends because you like to cook isn’t a great reason to start your food business. Why?
It reminds me of a quote I heard from one of my marketing professors in college:
“Make what people will buy – not what you want to sell”
That quote is spot on. If customers like chunks in their salsa, make it chunky. If customers only want to buy your triple chocolate fudge sauce, then discontinue the other flavors. Focus on what your customers are telling you, respond in a timely manner, and watch your food business take off.
Do you have any test marketing tips for people who want to launch their food business? Let me know in the comments.