New product design - how to test the market

I have an idea for a new product. I think it fills a massive gap in the market. I would buy this thing if it was available, and I think other people would as well. Obviously getting it designed and developed will be a massive investment on my part. I need more market research to support my theory that people will want this, but really unsure how to go about this without completely giving away my idea and risking somebody else running with it… Sorry if this is basic, but I’m stumped.

Google the idea, see how many others have had the same one, review the products that are similar then if your still convinced go to a patent attorney and pay your10k and file a utility patent application.

well, that’s just it. i’ve trolled the darkest corners of the internet and done a bit of street research, and while this product already exists, it’s all variations of the same thing - nobody’s done it the way i’m thinking of. i can’t for the life of me figure out why because i think it’s a good idea, so then I start to wonder if there’s an actual reason it hasn’t been done this way before. maybe nobody wants it. how do i test out the market w/out opening myself up to getting ripped off?

  1. Find a shop that sells the similar products and ask them why they are all the same. Maybe talk a bit about your concept and get their reactions. There indeed might be something you are missing.

  2. Find out how much it would cost to get up and running. Find out the MOQ (minimum order qty) typical for production in the industry, Even if your idea is good, it may be cost prohibitive.

  3. Do more research. How big is distribution? Is it a niche of a niche? What would be required to prototype or sell?

I work in footwear, but get calls all the time from similar people who think they have the latest greatest ideas, only to tell them that either a.)it’s not possible b.)there isn’t a big enough market for it, or c.)it would cost far more than they have to make anything real of it.

I dunno if it helps, but you can read a FAQ I made for entrepreneurs in footwear here:



+1 rkuchinsky’s suggestions, plus this:

Go online and find user groups or forums related to products that compete with yours. Start asking people questions about the products they are currently using and find out why - similar to talking to people who sell competing product. You may discover a lot of things you didn’t know.

Here’s how I’d approach your problem, this is a process our company goes through regularly – trying to justify an investment or getting a successful product to market quickly.

It’s important to understand from REAL customers if the pain-point you’ve identified aligns with the market’s needs – it may not. The product should be tested before you invest heavily with your time and money.

  1. Design/ Render/ Communicate your design quickly
  2. Put up a website where you can direct potential customers/ investors
  3. Build a list of distributors and customers though Elance
  4. Call (with the phone) and email these people and solicit their feedback (more importantly ask for their money… this can be for pre-orders)
  5. Based on their feedback and other data determine if your product is feasible (be brutally honest with yourself)
  6. Scramble to a minimum viable product.
  7. SELL the product.
  8. Iterate and Innovate.

The best feedback you’ll receive will most likely come after you’ve launched the product and it’s in the hands of your consumer. Their feedback will probably cause the product to take a different shape than you’ve originally conceived and that’s why it’s important not to put too much emphasis on solving the unknown.

It’s really time consuming and labor intensive to go through the process of making a product - very few companies would think to rip off your idea without testing. However, consider your product a success if in the process a larger company rips it off. Consider the project a failure if you never start a discussion around it because you are worried someone will take your idea.

Hope this helps. We touched on these points and more in this episode of “How to manufacture in Asia”:


Great post anythingian. Nothing to add other than don’t be overly paranoid about someone ripping you off. Unless you’ve invented cold fusion, that’s the least of your worries in bringing something to market. Stuff gets ripped off or reinterpeted all the time at every level. It’s annoying, but if it kills you, it’s because you were doing something else wrong.

Look at something like the Barcelona chair- that’s been getting knocked off for probably 50 years, and Knoll still sells millions of dollars’ worth every year, despite theirs being about 4x more expensive than it should be. They build a better product and they market it well. The fact that you can buy a $200 Chinese vinyl upholstered copy is irrelevant to what they are doing.

The cost of defending an idea against imitators (that’s not just the patent, but the $200/hour legal fees you’ll rack up during litigation) is way, way more than you as an individual can afford. So don’t worry about it. Get a good product to market at the right price, and you’ll be fine.

Thanks to everybody, especially Ian, for your input so far! It’s been incredibly helpful and has me a little bit further along in figuring out my next step…

odds of success are very slim even when you do it all right, so don’t max your cards, sell your house or do any thing else stupid. If you cannot convince others that its a sound idea, it is not. Remember the devil is in the details and the product is only 1/5 th of the equation to making money…or not losing your ass.