Published January 5, 2024

Pretotype Your Way to Product Success: Validate Market Demand Fast! 

6 min read

In product development, time and resources are of the essence. Enter the concept of a pretotype—a term that’s gained traction among innovators and disruptors. Unlike prototypes or minimum viable products (MVPs), pretotypes allow you to test the waters with the least investment. So, how can you use a pretotype in your product development? Let’s dive in.

illustration of the difference between a pretotype and a prototype

What is a Pretotype?

The pretotype is a concept coined by Alberto Savoia, which focuses on validating the market demand for a product before making any significant investment. The idea is simple: simulate the core experience of a potential new product to measure its initial appeal and actual usage. This approach requires minimal time and money, making it an efficient strategy to assess whether your product idea is worth pursuing.

Creating an MVP is time-consuming and resource-intensive. It’s a very inefficient way to gauge market interest, especially when there are other means to validate your business concept.

Avatar of the person that wrote the post

Alberto Savoia, Founder and Innovation Agitator, Pretotype Labs LLC

Why Pretotype?

Before developing a full-fledged product, learning if there’s a minimum viable market is crucial. Creating an MVP is often a resource-intensive process that can take considerable time—a luxury many startups don’t have. This is where a prototype comes in handy. It allows you to validate the demand for your product without the overhead of developing a full prototype.

Pretotype vs. Prototype

It’s essential to understand the difference between a pretotype and a prototype. A prototype typically is a detailed product version that demonstrates how it looks and feels. They can be non-functional simulations or functional models, but they are more about product feasibility than market validation.

On the other hand, a pretotype is not concerned with the question, “Can the product be built?” but rather, “Would people be interested in the product?” This distinction is crucial for efficient product development.

The Advantages of Pretotyping

The benefits of focusing on a pretotype are numerous:

  • Demand Validation: Know if your customers want it before you build it.
  • Clearer Backlog Prioritization: First, understand what features to develop based on user interest.
  • Reveals Risks: Identify potential problems early on with minimal cost.
  • Sharpens Budget, Schedule, and Resource Estimates: Get a clearer picture of what it will take to bring your product to market.
  • More Accurate ROI Estimates: Predict more accurately the potential return on investment for your product idea.

Implementing a Pretotype in Your Product Development

Now, let’s get to the practical side of things. How do you use a pretotype in your product development process? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Identify the Core Experience: What is the primary function or experience that your product offers? Strip down your product to its most basic utility.
  • Create a Pretotype: This can be as simple as a landing page for a product that doesn’t exist or a video simulating what the product would do. The key is to invest as little as possible to simulate the core experience.
  • Measure Interest and Usage: Use tools like Helio to target an audience and measure their interaction with your pretotype. Track metrics like engagement, click-through rates, and feedback.
  • Analyze and Decide: Use your gathered data to make an informed decision. Is there enough interest to justify further development, or is it back to the drawing board?
  • Iterate Quickly: If the interest is there, use the insights to build a prototype or MVP incorporating user feedback.

The Role of Helio in Pretotyping

Helio can be a game-changer when it comes to pretotyping. It’s a platform that allows you to get your pretotype in front of a targeted audience quickly. This can significantly speed up the process of demand validation.

Advent, a digital ad management agency, used Helio to test raw ideas with concept exploration before sinking time into digital design. 

Part of Advent’s pretotyping process is to sketch out a representation of their business ideas, both for communication amongst their team and for bouncing ideas off of potential advertising customers. In this pretotype example, Advent wanted to test the following ideas: 

  1. A new audience targeting and segmentation feature idea for their ad management platform
  2. A new workflow UI idea that would alert individual contributors in the ad creation process
  3. A new feature idea that would allow users to comment on analytics reports 

Advent recorded a video voice-over showing their concept sketches and explaining the ideas to participants. You can view the videos in the Helio report

Pretotype Idea #1: Audience Targeting & Segmentation

The first video explains the advertising platform in development. The narrator explains, “This ad platform is meant to help advertisers and marketers craft ad campaigns all in one location on a single platform. In this platform, you’re able to craft different segments of audiences to target with your campaigns based on your customer lists and data you have today. As you’re crafting audiences, we wanted to get your reaction to a new concept: insights about the audiences you’ll be crafting on the platform.”

With our first question, we asked our audience of 100 advertising agency professionals a closed-ended feedback survey question, “How do you feel about the concept explained in the video?” Respondents were selected from the following response categories:

  • Anticipation
  • Joy
  • Trust
  • Surprise
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Disgust
results from a closed-ended question asking respondents how they felt when prompted with a pretotype concept

More than 50% of respondents indicated anticipation for more information about this new audience targeting and segmentation feature.

Based on the concept I think this could allow us to obtain more useful information from an audience and planning actions that could save cost.

Avatar of the person that wrote the post

— Advertising Professional, Helio Participant

Pretotype Idea #2: Revamped UI Workflow

This idea centers around improving the user experience and reducing the time it takes to create and launch a digital advertising campaign. This can be a pain for advertisers because there are many moving parts to creating ad campaigns: keyword research from SEO teams, media assets produced by designers, copy for different variations, headlines, and body text, and more. 

Advent’s new feature would send notifications to each of these individual contributors when their work is needed to move a campaign forward. This way, communication gaps are addressed and delivery time is reduced, which leads to happy clients.

Not only would this idea address a delivery challenge, but it also provides added flexibility for advertisers when managing a campaign:

I like the options provided to the one creating the campaign, and I like that it is possible to change the parameters of the campaign afterwards, allowing a more dynamic solution.

Avatar of the person that wrote the post

— Advertising Professional, Helio Participant

Pretotype Idea #3: Comments on Analytics Reports

This pretotype idea would enable individual contributors to leave comments on analytics reports. Account team leads could ask technical questions to paid media specialists, analytics teams can provide observations and insights directly on the platform. Presumably, this would enable account managers to explain the nuances of campaign performance to clients and key stakeholders.

Another benefit of this pretotype idea, as noted by this Helio participant, would be to capture notes for context when going back to analyze historic campaign performance: 

Sounds like a good place to keep quick notes for post mortem later.

Avatar of the person that wrote the post

— Advertising Professional, Helio Participant

Comparing Pretotype Results

With one test, Advent was able to gather reactions to 3 key features that their team was trying to decide between for their next big release:

overview of results from each of the three pretotype concepts tested with a Helio audience

Net Positive Alignment is a concept used to compare the net difference between positive and negative emotional reactions to a concept. When we compare the Net Positive Alignment scores between each of these pretotypes, the first concept of a feature that enables audience targeting and segmentation had the highest overall NPA score:

  • Concept 1: 158%
  • Concept 2: 145%
  • Concept 3: 133%

These results provided Advent with a signal that their first concept may be worth prioritizing over other features. However, this is only one data point. Advent may consider running a second test to reverse the order of these concepts to reduce any video fatigue bias that may have influenced participant responses.

View the Helio Example

Embracing a Pretotyping Mindset

Adopting a pretotyping approach means embracing a mindset of learning and adaptation. It’s about being agile and responsive to the market, ready to pivot based on real user data.

The Bottom Line

Pretotyping is a smart, lean approach to product development that validates market demand before you commit significant resources. By focusing on the core experience and utilizing platforms like Helio, you can save time, money, and potentially avoid the heartache of developing a product that the market doesn’t want.

For more insights on pretotyping and product development, check out Alberto Savoia’s work. Or, talk to a Helio expert to get ideas on how you can test your own pretotypes. And remember, in the world of innovation, real users often validate the most successful products as early as possible.

Incorporate this strategy into your development process, and your path to market is faster and more successful than you ever imagined. Remember, it’s not just about building things right, but about building the right thing. With pretotyping, you’re one step closer to achieving just that.

Pretotype FAQs

What exactly is a pretotype?
Caret signaling that you can click it to open the dropdown

A pretotype is a simple, cost-effective model to simulate and test the core experience of a potential product.

How does a pretotype differ from a prototype?
Caret signaling that you can click it to open the dropdown

A pretotype tests market interest with minimal investment, whereas a prototype is a more detailed model focusing on product feasibility.

What are the main benefits of pretotyping?
Caret signaling that you can click it to open the dropdown

Pretotyping validates demand, clarifies feature importance, reveals risks, and improves budget and ROI estimates. Yes, it exposes potential risks early with minimal expenditure.

How can I measure the success of a pretotype?
Caret signaling that you can click it to open the dropdown

Use engagement metrics, click-through rates, and user feedback to assess interest and usage.

Should I use a pretotype or an MVP?
Caret signaling that you can click it to open the dropdown

Start with a pretotype for market validation and proceed to an MVP based on positive feedback.

What is Helio and how does it relate to pretotyping?
Caret signaling that you can click it to open the dropdown

Helio is a platform that can quickly test a pretotype with a targeted audience for rapid feedback.

Build something your users truly want