Now that you have an actual prototype in hand, the next step is to go out on the road and test that prototype in front of the full buying panel of customers. The Prototype Roadshow is a secret tool used by many of the most successful companies, including Intuit, Cisco, and others who in the early days used this technique to validate their solution. In fact, Intuit was famous for going out, showing early versions of Quicken to customers, and using their feedback to adjust the product. Not surprisingly, the Prototype Roadshow is one of the most important steps in the entire Nail It Then Scale It process.
Nothing can substitute for the firsthand experience of having customers yawn in boredom or sit on the edge of their seat in excitement when you show them your prototype. To illustrate the power of the Prototype Roadshow, consider the case of ManyWheels, a startup that developed automated routing for auto shipping. ManyWheels began the process by validating the customer pain and the hypothesis about the solution. However, the Prototype Roadshow took their learning to an entirely new level. In the words of ManyWheels' founder, Kevin Dewalt,
"When we first began engaging the market on our ideas for ManyWheels, we started with meetings and phone calls. We listened. We asked people about their problems. We sat next to the people doing the work and asked them about their frustrations. We tried to get a sense for the market dynamics and what type of solutions might work. And we learned a ton about the solution we thought we needed to build. Or so we thought. Once we started creating [prototypes] and showing them to prospective customers, the conversations took on laser-like focus. People instantly rejected many of our core ideas and offered alternatives. Some customers wanted to see high-level data flows to understand how ManyWheels would work in their business. It took us several iterations like this to get to the point where the conversations moved from 'interesting' to 'when can I get it?'"
(See Nail It Then Scale It, pgs. 117-118)