Last time we talked about the importance of a verified, evolving idea. We talked about how telling a story about your idea would engage users. Then, we talked about how to brainstorm our target users. Now, we need to take those ideas and thoughts and start applying actual data to them.

Research Through Ads

The first way to get started is simple: you dangle your line and see who bites. Tim Ferriss, author of the Four Hour Workweek has a killer case study on this. He took his book title—six of them, in fact—and a variety of tag lines. He setup a week long Adwords campaign, spending about $200 in total, and discovered the winning title. With a little bit of market research, he found his product name and value proposition. Not bad.

Knowing what people are interested in about your product speaks volumes. It lets you choose a name, logo and style. It lets you choose a key feature to center around. And if done right, it also helps you learn about your audience.

With Google Adwords and Facebook Insights, you can learn about who’s interested in your idea, where they’re coming from, and what makes them tick. Heck, you might even get to know actual people. Crazy.

Conversion Testing

Now, you’ll want to know more about these people – that’s where my favorite tool comes in. Optimizely!

Demo time: go visit and see how it works in their sandbox mode.

When you get a user to click on your ad, you’ll want to send them to a well converting landing page. This tool allows you to tweak, test and adjust nearly EVERYTHING on your site without the need to write any code.

On your amazing optimized landing page, you’ll want to capture interested users to an email list. Those folks are going to become very important to you, so make sure you’re using a tailored email solution like Emma orMailchimp to speak to them in style. Here you’ll give them product news, thank them for signing up and stay in touch… infrequently.


After you’ve grown a small email list, it’s time to engage. Reach out to them with a survey. The easiest place is still SurveyMonkey. You can integrate this with your Mailchimp account and do some really simple, powerful things.

This is a place to further quantify your user. You might know about them from our ad targeting, but you don’t know their specific choices and habits yet.

Ask questions about their buying decisions. Why did they find your product interesting? What would THEY like to see the product do? How much would they be willing to pay?

Most importantly, however – you want to ask them for more of their time. Can you speak to them about the product? We’ll get to that more in a second, but this survey should help you identify the main features you want to focus on for your product.

Surveys and interviews are powerful tools, but they rely on what a person wants to say versus their actual behavior. Malcolm Gladwell has some great examples on how people speak about spaghetti sauce and coffee: ultimately, that what people say is sometimes not what they truly believe.

Part Three

So you get what makes a user tick. You get what they want…but is it really what they want? The best way to be sure is through usability studies. We’ll dig into these tools and approaches in Part Three of this series on “Testing Your Way To a Better Idea.”

At the core of Centresource, we care about ideas. Ideas create products and services. They connect us to other people. They lead to changing things. When we talk about products, services, people, change, and ideas… we sometimes think about Steve Jobs. He had an uncanny knack for understanding what people would like (and thus what they’d pay for). He also knew how to improve things as technology costs decreased and market penetration increased. He embraced a philosophy of BETTER.

This is an important word for me (and the Web). The work we do is never done. It can always be improved. The same is true with an idea.

People love stories. They especially love stories they can relate to, or that they can empathize with. If you can understand what the story of your idea is, you can communicate it to a user and convert them to being a part of that story.


People are the reason we do what we do. Users. People use our software, buy our products, and sustain our businesses. If we lack empathy for our users, there’s little chance we’ll build something they’ll love. Furthermore, if we don’t listen to them, it’s hard to imagine our relationship improving. Lay’s Potato Chips justran a campaign where they reached out to their users, asking them to submit new ideas for flavors.

Lay's Chips Flavors

Great idea, as this stable of winners proves. These three are all viable products and their customer base told them so. Letting your users show you the way is ALWAYS a good idea, even if you get some silly suggestions, too:

Lay's Chips Joke Flavors

“Frog?” is my personal favorite.

This is still good news – users making these funny posts made a huge splash on social media, drawing more attention to the campaign. Now, I’m not sure what tools Lays used to manage this campaign but I want to walk you through a scenario of tools you might use when launching a new product.

Identifying Users

If you’re Lay’s, you’ve got a massive captive audience and advertising budget to connect with your audience. What if you’re brand new? You need ways to cheaply and successfully acquire an audience to start experimenting on. These users need to be targeted appropriately and you need to know who they are.

Begin with a persona. Who do you think you want to target? Populr, a delightful product started by Centresource founder Nick Holland, started with a wide array of targets in mind. The obvious users are there: marketing managers, PR people, etc… but they also wanted to talk to real estate agents and musicians. They took each user type and started a persona for them.

Recently I’ve been using Personapp to help identify these personas. This tool is a digital version of whiteboard exercise I’ve often facilitated. This app allows you to think through a user’s needs and behaviors, their demographics, and their goals. I often like to add psychographics, too: breaking down a user’s interests, values, attitudes and choices.

You should use this tool to create a rough outline of who you’d like to target. This is an evolving concept and your targets will change over time.

Part Two

In Part Two of this series on “Testing Your Way To a Better Idea,” I’ll dig into an overview of user acquisition and research. We’ll take these persona hypotheses and start verifying our assumptions. It’ll be fun.