Ghetto Testing the Viability of an Idea

Idea validation – the writings on the wall…

Back in 2009 Mark Pincus (CEO and Founder of gaming company Zynga) spoke to Stanford University students about the concept of “ghetto testing”.

What is ghetto testing?

Ghetto Testing or Dry Testing is a way to “estimate your sales opportunities in your target market before actually investing to build the product. The key idea is to find out how it will sell by pretending to a relatively small group of your target audience that it is already available.” Pincus explains “before spending tremendous resources to build out an idea, the company first tests the viability of an idea.”

Simply you create a method to test your product idea, without actually building the product. This reflects the lean startup roots of customer development and the path towards a minimum viable product.

How do I implement it?

In the Stanford Podcast Pincus describes the steps, summarised below.

+ Someone in the organisation tells him about a new idea for a game.
+ No code is written.
+ They tell the marketing or product manager that the product is built. Describe it in five words.
+ The five words are posted to the website, made live for five minutes.
For example they put up a link – “Hey, do you ever fantasize about running your own x?”
+ Based on results of the immediate testing, they spend a week constructing a basic product (“ghetto build“).
+ They A/B test it and flow test it. They put it out to 1%, 10% of our users.
+ They build a data warehouse with the testing platform.
+ Based on results they either roll out the improved version, make changes or stop development.

Fortunately Zynga have the luxury of a massive user base and traffic flow. Therefore for new businesses it may be more challenging to get instant feedback within 5 minutes. However this example provides a simple illustration of evaluating your idea without writing a line of code.

The test doesn’t need to be online. It may be a poster on a bulletin board asking interested people to call, text or email you. It may be a small advert in the local newspaper. It could be cold calling prospective customers and asking if they would be interested in your product. Early feedback may help you proceed, pivot or bin your idea.

Why is it important?

Determining if your business or product idea is viable is an early challenge for an entrepreneur. Mocking up a quick test to execute provides quick feedback giving you the direction to stop or continue.

Did this post help? Drop us a line with your testing experiences.


A/B Testing:

A/B testing, split testing or bucket testing is a method of marketing testing by which a baseline control sample is compared to a variety of single-variable test samples in order to improve response or conversion rates. A classic direct mail tactic, this method has been recently adopted within the interactive space to test tactics such as banner ads, emails, landing pages or even entire websites. For instance, on an e-commerce website the purchase funnel is typically a good candidate for A/B testing, as even marginal improvements in drop-off rates can represent a lot of additional sales. (Source: Wikipedia)

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

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