Entrepreneur.com® says launching a product that hasn’t been tested is so risky, it’s “like jumping off a cliff into the sea, blindfolded.” New products can be so vulnerable—a study of 9,000 new products showed that less than half were still on the market three years after launch—and gathering information from testing is key to a product’s success.

Gathering focus groups or sending a new product to paid testers can be expensive and time-consuming. Instead, consider testing your product at upcoming trade shows. Attendees and fellow exhibitors are readily available and can give immediate feedback.  Plus, they have a good understanding of your industry.

Testing new products at a trade show requires planning and creativity. We’ve developed some tips to help you get the most out of the experience.

Before the show

You don’t have to wait until the day of the show to draw people to your booth. Promote the product launch before you even arrive. Build a splash page—a page that pops up when a visitor first arrives—on your website, send emails to your customers and/or trade show attendees, and make announcements on your social media channels. Make your announcements fun. Build suspense by keeping some of the details secret.

In your pre-trade show announcements, advertise that anyone who stops by your booth and mentions the promotion will receive a free gift like a car charger or a pocket flashlight.

At the show

Once you’ve captured their attention, be ready with a prototype. If you can’t bring the product to the show, create a demonstration using virtual reality or a video.

Encourage staff members to note attendees’ reactions to the product and have electronic tablets ready with a quick survey. Some possible questions to include:

  • Overall, how satisfied were you with this product?
  • Would you buy this product?
  • How likely are you to recommend this product to someone else?
  • How does it compare to other products on the market?
  • What do you like best about this product?
  • What do you like least about this product?
  • What one thing could be improved about this product?
  • How much would you be willing to pay for this product?

Ask testers for contact information. It will help you once you launch the product. Thank testers and survey respondents with a travel tumbler, travel first aid kit or mini padfolio.

After the show

Use feedback to modify your product and your marketing. Keep in touch with your testers by sending email updates with links to product demo videos, webinars and other activities. Once your product is available, reward any of your testers who turn into buyers. Consider sending them a cookie tin or a wine opener set.

A trade show, with its captive, knowledgeable audience, is a great place to test new products. Attendees can play a significant role in your product launch, and they can help it become a success. Good luck developing your new product and happy testing!

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