Editor's note: Jerry Thomas is president of Decision Analyst Inc., Arlington, Texas.

Based on 30 years of marketing research experience that spans thousands of research projects, I am convinced that product testing is the single most valuable marketing research that most companies ever do. The great value of product testing is perhaps best illustrated by its many uses. It can be used to:

Companies committed to rigorous product testing and continuous product improvement can, in most instances, achieve product superiority over their competitors. Product superiority, in turn, helps strengthen brand share, magnifies the positive effects of all marketing activities (advertising, promotion, selling) and often allows the superior product to command a premium price relative to competitors.Most companies, unfortunately, do very little product testing. Few companies really understand the power of continuous product improvement and product testing. Even fewer know how to do product testing the right way. Fewer still budget enough money to support a serious product-testing program. These shortcomings in most companies, of course, create opportunities for the few firms dedicated to continuous product improvement. How can companies realize optimal value from product testing?

There are several secrets to truly accurate and actionable product testing. They include:

The most widely used research designs for product testing are the monadic, sequential monadic, paired-comparison and protomonadic.Monadic testing usually is the best method. Testing a product by itself offers many advantages. Interaction between products, which occurs in paired-comparison tests, is eliminated. The monadic test simulates real life - we usually use products one at a time. By focusing the respondent's attention on one product, the monadic test provides the most accurate and actionable diagnostic information. The monadic design also ...