Don't let your test participants design your business

I’m a big proponent of going out and getting feedback from people (who match your target market) so you know if your idea will be a hit before you spend a ton of time building it.

But there’s one key point that sends people spinning that I’m going to help you avoid right now.

Here’s the mistake I see biz owners make when they ask for feedback:

They take design direction from their test participants. By “design direction” I mean strategic, what-to-do / what-not-to-do literal direction, as if they just promoted the test participant to CEO and demoted themselves to intern of their own company.

Examples:

  • Biz owner asks test participant to look at sample website headline. Test participant is confused. A discussion develops and the test participant starts giving suggestions for what it should say instead.

  • Course creator shows course sales page to test participant. Test participant isn’t interested in course title or content and suggests something else they’d rather learn. Course creator goes back to the drawing board to create this new course.

This process repeats with each test participant, because people have different opinions and preferences, everyone’s gonna come up with something different!

This makes biz owners crazy, turns them into little Gollums hovering over their biz ideas muttering “my precious,” never showing a single soul in fear of being spun in yet another direction.

Don’t do this.

You absolutely must test your ideas early and often, but don’t ever promote your test participants to CEO of your business!

Here’s the deal.

When you go out and test your idea, the kind of feedback you’re looking for is not any sort of strategic direction. The kind of feedback you’re looking for is the insights and information that will help you, as the owner of your company, make your own informed strategic direction.

See the difference?

This means, when a test participant starts giving you direction under the guise of feedback, you need to recognize that it’s happening and ask one very important question:

“Why?”

Let’s take a look at those examples again, this time with what to do instead:

  • Biz owner asks test participant to look at sample website headline. Test participant is confused. A discussion develops and the test participant starts giving suggestions for what it should say instead. Biz owner says, “Oh interesting, why is saying it that way important to you?”

  • Course creator shows course sales page to test participant. Test participant isn’t interested in course title or content and suggests something else they’d rather learn. Course creator says, “Oh, cool, why do you want to learn that? Is there something going on right now in your life that learning that would help you improve?”

See how in these revised examples, the business owner has put herself back in the CEO seat, and is taking advantage of this opportunity to learn insights from her test participant?

She can then make her own strategic decision about what to do with that information from an advantage of having learned things she didn’t know before about her target market — what’s important to them, what concerns they have, what struggles they face in their lives.

See, when testing your business idea, you are still the business owner. The test participant is a rich source of information for you that you don’t have access to — inside information about the thoughts and feelings of your target audience.

When biz owners don’t ask why and just take suggestions from their test participants, they completely miss out on this rich source of information, and they make strategic decisions based on a random person’s uninformed idea.

And it’s so easy for people to miss this, to think “I did the right thing by testing first, what went wrong?” And even to falsely conclude that testing is the problem.

So go out and test, but remember what kind of information your test participants are qualified to give you. And always ask them, “why.”