A guide to proof of concept

Everything great about your business started with an idea. 


Everything from your company’s name to its branding and logo to the products and services it sells. All of it begins with that spark of inspiration. But it goes without saying that not every idea we have in business is worthy of being put into production and sold to your target market. 


It’s estimated that the average person has over 6,000 thoughts every day. How do we know which are viable business propositions, and which are best left as doodles in the margins of a notepad? 


This is why establishing proof of concept is so important. It is a way of proving to stakeholders that an idea can translate into a viable market proposition. 


Here, we’ll look at how to compile a persuasive proof of concept presentation that will ensure that other stakeholders share your enthusiasm for your proposed product. 

Step 1: Define the need


Whenever pitching a new product or service, it’s easy to get overexcited when discussing potential features, capabilities and gimmicks that will set it apart from others in the market. However, to ensure that these are built on a strong foundation, its best to start by defining and quantifying a need for this new product within your market.


Begin by establishing the target market for your product.


Ask yourself:

👉 What demographic groups do they belong to?

👉 Are you approaching them in a personal (B2C) or professional (B2B) capacity?

👉 What pain points do they encounter in their personal or professional lives?

👉 How do the existing solutions and products provided by your competitors (or even your company) fall short in addressing these pain points?


If there is a disconnect between a new product’s capabilities and the needs of the target audience, it’s unlikely to be met with enthusiasm by prospective customers. This is why you should always back your assertions with primary market research such as interviews or questionnaires supplied by a sample group. 


Don’t fall into the trap of making assumptions on behalf of prospective customers. 


Step 2: Define your idea


Now that you have a clearer understanding of prospective customers’ pain points, you can begin to ideate a solution for them. A solution to which you’ll bring your own inimitable knowledge, experience, and the combined skills of your team. 


Now you can start to think about necessary features and capabilities for your product. While there is a measure of ‘blue sky thinking’ required at this point, your solution should still fall within the parameters of what’s feasible for your company. 


By all means, take risks, and be audacious. But try and anchor your ideas in terms of your existing operational infrastructure. As such you’ll need to address:


  • Projected costs
  • Proposed timelines
  • Necessary resources and technologies
  • Requisite operational capacity
  • And anything else that will be necessary to bring your new product to market

Step 3: Create and test your prototype


Before you can put your product into production, you’ll need to create and test a prototype. This will give stakeholders an understanding of how your product will look, feel, work, and meet the needs of its intended market. 


For physical products, you may wish to create a virtual 3D replica using computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software. This will not only give stakeholders an idea of what your product will look like, but allow you to simulate its performance digitally before you construct a physical prototype.


👉 Remember: Your prototype doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect. Your product will likely go through many iterations before it makes its way to the consumer. 


Once your prototype has been constructed, it should be submitted to a sample group for testing. Ideally, you should use the same sample group that you consulted for Step 1. Because your product is built according to their perceived pain points, they are ideally placed to provide reliable feedback on how well your prototype meets their needs. 


Step 4: Feedback


The testing process will give you the opportunity to collect invaluable feedback that can be implemented in the refinement of your product. With each iteration you can bring your product further in line with the customer’s needs.


The key to gathering useful feedback is asking the right questions. You need to know exactly what you are testing for, i.e. usability, ease of interface, and how intuitively they’re able to use the prototype. 


It’s important to be objective as you can. Negative feedback can be just as valuable as positive feedback. Therefore you should avoid structuring questions in ways that are leading, or pressure the tester into telling you what you want to hear. 


You should be as adaptable as possible during the testing process. If a line of questioning isn’t yielding results that can help you to improve and refine your product, feel free to abandon it in favour of something else. Don’t be afraid to allow the user to contribute their own ideas that could help to improve future iterations of your prototype. 


It’s good practice to make tester feedback readily available to numerous parties, including the testers themselves. As such, you should consider using a cloud-based project management platform to provide access to this feedback for anyone who needs it. 


Objective feedback will enable you to refine and reconfigure your prototype before moving on to the next step.

Step 5: Present for approval


Now you have a clear understanding of what you want your product to be, you have a working prototype, and it has been tested with its target consumer base. You also have a robust body of tester feedback that has been used to further refine your prototype. 


You’re ready to present your proof of concept to your stakeholders for approval.


This is an opportunity to present your prototype and your findings from the testing phase. You may also be able to explain how your prototype has been reiterated or adapted in light of user feedback. You should also elaborate on the operational side of things, like how the project will be developed and managed.


Avoid diving deep into the technical side of things, unless specifically asked to do so by stakeholders. Not all stakeholders will have a technical background or mindset, and they may not respond positively to in-depth technical specifications. Instead, focus on the customer pain points outlined in Step 1 and how your solution will address them, rather than getting into great detail about features and capabilities. 


Be sure to qualify your assertions by referring back to the feedback from the testing phase, cherry picking quotes from interviews that support your argument or highlight iterative changes that have been made to the prototype. 


The better you’re able to demonstrate that the proposed product meets the needs of your target market, the more compelling your proof of concept will be to stakeholders. 


Hopefully, the concept will be approved by stakeholders, and a time-frame will be established for the project to begin in earnest. Alternatively, you may need to go back to the drawing board for further iterations and testing before the proposed product can go into further development and production.


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