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Test Marketing Industrial Products

Category: Marketing

There are three important characteristics that distinguish industrial markets in the context of market testing. Firstly, it is probable that industrial marketers will have much closer relationships with customers than is normal in consumer markets. Key customers may be extensively involved throughout the new product development process. Secondly, those customers may be much more active, volunteering to undertake product testing because they may see a more immediate pay off that customers in the consumer market. Thirdly, most industrial products are durable, so that repurchase cycles are lengthy and not likely to emerge during a test. For these reasons the classic consumer market testing techniques are less appropriate.

Industrial customers may be able to understand a great deal more about a product just from descriptions than those in consumer markets, and their evaluations of new products may be dominated by assessments of performance characteristics. More emphasis might, therefore, be placed upon intentions to buy questions. These may be administered in some type of group discussion, although these may be events with other names, such as a ‘customer technology update’ or ‘new trends seminar’. Alternatively, salesforce involvement may allow them to ‘sell’ the product to customers although the only form they write is an intentions questionnaire.

Placing products for trial by major users may take on major proportions. In some markets an externally imposed benchmark on technical performance must be achieved and sometimes these benchmarks are determined by the key users. Their trial of the product becomes the critical event in new product development, and success in these trials can make massive difference in subsequent penetration. There are some industrial markets, though which have some of the characteristics of consumer markets and in which some derivation of consumer market testing is feasible. Industrial consumables sometimes have extended distribution networks with several layers of agents and distributors. Test marketing is possible. Its viability is dependent upon how easy it is to control distribution confining it to particular geographic areas or to specified market segments. Taking a multinational view, the test could be in a small country but that would raise issues of typicality.

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