Friday, April 17, 2009

The Lowdown on Product Testing - Part 4

We are in the home stretch with the “Lowdown on Product Testing” series. In Part 1, I talked about how consumer product testing works – including the benefits, time commitment, and precautions. In Part 2, I told you about SheSpeaks – a forum-based product review company for women. And in Part 3, I profiled BzzAgent – a word-of-mouth marketing and media company involved in product testing.

To wrap up this series, here’s a list of additional reputable market research companies who work with consumers to provide input to product manufacturers:

StartSampling – This is an online sampling company where members can select items to sample and receive Frequent Tryer Miles (FTM) to be redeemed for prizes. Membership is free.

PineCone Research – This is a market research panel for new products. Membership is usually by invitation only. Occasionally, PineCone Research recruits new members by posting banners on specific websites, and you must enter their site through the banner to qualify for membership. When the membership banners are spotted, often they are mentioned on forums, such as Refund Cents. PineCone product surveys are confidential, and members are required to agree to a confidentiality agreement to take part in the surveys. PineCone invites members to complete individual surveys based on their consumer profile, and members are paid $3 for each survey completed. Occasionally, PineCone will send members a product to test and complete a follow-up survey which includes additional compensation.

General Mills Pssst – This is a manufacturer-run market research division of General Mills which gathers feedback from consumers and shares information on new products. Pssst membership is free and members are encouraged to spread the word about the new General Mills products. I’m currently testing Fiber One Mocha bars for Pssst.

Kashi Taste Tester Panel – This is another manufacturer-run testing panel. Simply sign-up at the Kashi website, and after you create an account, select the “Edit Settings” option, and then select “Taste Tester Panel.” After completing a short survey, you will receive a coupon in the mail for a free Kashi product. Here’s a picture of the one I received.

Kraft First Taste – Again, this is yet another manufacturer-run testing division. I signed up several months ago, but I haven’t received anything yet…crossing my fingers!

Hopefully this series has given you a good primer on product testing. In my experience, it’s been a fun way to test new products, and it doesn’t cost a thing. As you get more involved in product testing for different companies, you’ll see your invitations to test new products increase. Generally, I receive a new opportunity every week. In the time since I began writing this series, I’ve begun testing three new products: TGI Friday’s Late Night brand (BzzAgent), John Frieda’s Root Awakening Hair Care products (BzzAgent), and Sinupret for Kids (SheSpeaks). In this time, I’ve also turned down the opportunity to participate in a two-week diaper study, because it didn’t fit into my schedule.

If you enjoy getting things free and having the opportunity to provide feedback on products, I’d encourage you to get involved in product testing. The keys to remember are that it shouldn’t cost you anything to participate, it shouldn’t be very time-consuming, and most importantly, it should be something you enjoy doing!

Your Turn: Are you currently a product tester? If so, tell us which companies. If not, are you thinking about becoming a product tester after reading this series?

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