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How to test and evaluate demand for hardware products before you crank up the factory

Manufacturing real-life, tangible objects that you can touch is often a lot riskier than developing software. Once you’ve created 10,000 thingamajigs, it’s far harder to make changes to them than in the software world, where you can push an update if you want to tweak something.

In the world of manufacturing, then, the question is: How can I make sure that I’m building the right thing for the right audience?

Last week, when I wrote about Prelaunch.com’s $1.5 million fundraise, I asked company founder Narek Vardanyan what he thinks are the biggest pitfalls in hardware development.

Measuring the right users

To truly understand what your customers want, Vardanyan recommends studying what your potential customers actually do, not what they say they are going to do.

In an ideal world, that means getting them to buy or at least put down a deposit, for your product. Real buying intent is more valuable than someone simply saying, “Yes, I would buy this thing.”

“You need to make decisions based on people’s actual behavior. You need to make sure that the data you’re tracking is coming from the right types of people,” Vardanyan said. “Working with people who are putting down money acts like a filter: You keep only the people who really want to risk their money. In other words, your potential customers.”



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