5 steps to better new product surveys in 2020 🔥


7 minutes read  |   Author: Blake Williams

Step1: Get clear on what surveys are and are not. Traditional surveys are limited in scope leading to a reduced level of confidence in the results.

Step 2: Make sure you’re using them in the right place in the new product development process. Surveys of any type belong in the pre-venture validation stage of new product development.

Step 3: Use new product surveys designed for innovators, not market research, they are two different things. Enhanced new product surveys increase the potential for successful launch by 10X.

Step 4: Adjust your culture and product development process to account for the increased intelligence gathered using enhanced surveys.

Step 5: Measure the global impact of the new approach over time using success metrics that show how you’re launching more winners than losers.

New product surveys can be a number of things depending on who is creating them. They can be an honest attempt at better design thinking tools. They can be online lead magnets to capture an email address. They can be an online method of measuring audience feedback about new product promise. For all these things that surveys are (and there’s many more) there are a few things that online new product surveys are not that people wish they were.

What new product surveys are not?

In their traditional form, surveys, even online surveys, are very limited in scope. There’s only so much that can be covered when you can’t reach a substantially large customer cohort. So survey admins limit the number of questions asked to participants. Which limits the knowledge gained at 100% participation. Which limits what we actually end up learning from the process which in my experience has been little to nothing, for sure.

Surveys are not exhaustive in providing customer data, especially in the business to business marketing realm. That means that we know very very little about the folks answering our questions.

Surveys are not surrogates for user feedback, especially if you have to gift or provide in kind incentives, all of which boil down to the paid subsidization of self reported data. It’s like the opposite of torture where people will say anything to make it stop. Having a carrot at the end of the questionnaire rewards completion and not quality.

It’s the difference between barely making it through a masters program and graduating number 1 in the class.

Where do traditional surveys belong in the new product development process?

In economics spontaneous order is roughly defined as something occurring as the result of human actions, not of human design.

If you’ve ever been on a campus in a region where it snows and there are high foot traffic from commuters you can often capture a episodes of spontaneous order throughout the winter. People will create their own path in the snow. More and more will follow, substituting the route with sidewalks under them for the optimized route.

The recognition of a new option is visible as they trod through the snow with their heads craned down to avoid the wind and opt in.

The point is that observation, or more technically, user data can go very far in figuring out what users need, versus asking them. Almost no one using the makeshift path in the snow would say “i need a path from here to here” if they were asked any number of questions about how to make their commuter experience better.

Key Takeaway: Surveys belong in the pre- venture validation stage of new product development.

What’s the difference between enhanced new product surveys and traditional surveys?

Difference #1: Enhanced new product surveys are larger in scope than their traditional predecessors. There’s a world of data about users out there. Try using all of it to find larger populations of your target consumer to include in your survey.

We routinely capture enough survey prospects (15k to 30k) per product that we can create multiple unique and identical user cohorts to ask different sets of user questions about the same topics. This helps us avoid topic fatigue, expands the amount of knowledge we gain, and also create some redundancy around critical or expensive build features.

Difference #2: Enhanced new product surveys include venture launch data from multiple sources that create market context for user responses. Try analyzing investor data, startup activity, and feature set combination success.

If user surveys are microdata, then incorporating these data types and analysis is macrodata. This goes back to the old saying “measure what matters”. Instead of validating in a vacuum, we want to understand if there is a global agreement that investments adjacent to or near our idea make sense and are being successful. Or if failure is occuring, the “why” behind it is just as insightful.

Difference #3: Enhanced new product surveys leverage unstructured user data from product reviews of others in the market landscape. Try turning other companies feature success and failure into your competitive advantage by shortening the learning curve to delighting your early adopters. In most cases they’ve paid millions and spent months (if not years) gathering that market intel for you and incorporating it into their finished product.

Key Takeaway: There isn’t an online survey in the world that helps deliver this additional intelligence. Use this new approach as a preparatory step to venture validation to get 10X the value of the product launch success for your company.

In early 2019 we asked ourselves, what if we reinvented how innovation teams conducted initial idea validation. What would that look like in 2020?

What are the changes you need to make in order to use enhanced surveys successfully?

Chances are that you and your team move from ideation to a survey of 100 or maybe 1000 people before moving to prototype/MVP.

The great part about this approach is that you don’t have to change anything about your current stage process. What will have to change is what you do next.

Once you gained this level of knowledge about your idea and your suspected early adopter cohorts you’re team can thumb up or thumb down the opportunity as a single member in a portfolio of ideas with this level of knowledge.

Launching digital products at scale isn’t binary. It’s always about varying percentages of increased probability of profitability. Using data instead of gut feelings, a sign, or a gamble helps companies launch online or digital products they can feel great about having invested in or paid for.

This and all our approaches attempt to dial in the accuracy of our estimates and have tight confidence intervals around it.

Key Takeaway: Get your teams engaged in making these decisions and discovering how to find partners that bring you this type of decision accelerating capability. This is the first substantive step behind your speed to market/your competitive moat.

A private, cross-industry slack community of innovation leaders only to share insights and connect.

What are the changes you need to make in order to use enhanced surveys successfully?

#1 Your lean canvas should be more quantitative in nature. Instead of listing suspected early adopters, your teams will be able to ID a specific count of each early adoption audience cohort. For B2B opportunities you’ll be able to list the company or companies, and customer roles by types that engaged in the survey.

This is the difference between traditional techniques and enhanced ones.

We are getting more and more specific about what we know, and learning it earlier in the launch process.

#2 The volume of insights has probably decreased but the relevancy to new product launch has gone up considerably. The time it takes your team to know all the critical information about an idea and the market around it should truncate from months and quarters to days or weeks.

The time to knowledge gets faster and faster, and with it, your speed to market as a company.

#3 Your innovation portfolio starts to become incredibly easier to manage. With concrete numbers earlier on in the venture launch 🚀 about the market potential around the opportunities, your teams can compare “Apples to Apples”.

By incorporating quantitative data around each opportunity you can address the elephant in the room; “how will you objectively determine which projects to work on and which ones to set aside”.

Teams can send more winners to market than losers.

Data, neither gift from god, nor sign from spirits, can send your innovation program into a multiple generating machine by taking a look at your sourcing methodology. The survey. Online surveys. In person or phone interviews. Paid, gift (s), or in kind exchanges.

Once you understand that a survey is simply a methodology for sourcing data online, you start to see that traditional surveys are quite limited when it comes to things you can do on your phone.

The next time you write a check for any type of survey, make sure the company is using an enhanced technique before you sign.

Hopefully this article helps you get your marketing dialed in and the New product surveys you deserve in 2020.


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