My friend and I are working on a product - "Data centric configuration" approach to build business applications. The product is ready and we have a pilot customer as well.
From our analysis we feel this has a niche market that is not necessarily big, but that addresses some key issues. And we feel our product is unique, powerful and easy to use.
How can I get candid and unbiased feedback on the product? I have shown it to the people in my circles and they have given me positive reviews. But I want to get this reviewed by a larger audience who has absolutely no connection with me and the product we developed.
Just like how this site says "Beta" (although no product should be in beta for so long), you could launch your product in Beta for 'free' for a limited time.
I've seen this strategy being used plenty of times before, where you are given full-free access to an application for a limited amount of time until the app hits 1.0 , then you roll out your pricing. You must clearly specify this though, as you don't want clients getting a 'shock' when the pricing comes out.
As per finding customers, ideally you or your friend need to assume a primary role of salesman now. You can continue doing development, but at least one of you needs to focus on sales/marketing.
If neither of you are good at sales (which can happen, although I feel that at least one of the founders should train himself to be a top salesman) then you can bring in a sales/marketing guy.
The only problem is that anybody working in sales is not going to do it for free, unless your customer market is 40-50 million willing customers, then you can try alternative sales strategies.
My advice to you for now is to look at your current client as a gateway to more clients. Speak to them about approaching any customers they have that could use your app. Of course I don't know what the app is, otherwise it could be easier to identify different sales strategies.
Another piece of advice is to start reading up about marketing and sales. Although the internet is awash with some very good resources, a lot of it is washed up jargon that means nothing. Look at timeless books that teach you how to be a salesman. These books are normally not marketed as sales book but have been distinguished as such by successful people.
Remember, just because your app is online, doesn't mean you need to market online only. You could make cold calls too. Attend conferences/expos, etc.
The short answer is through surveys.
I see these 2 main routes:
1. Survey site visitors/users. If your site is new, just buy traffic from Google AdWords (most recommended, even $5/day could be enough with display text ads). You have 2 approaches:
a) Collect email addresses (through free registration or newsletter modules) and then email a survey link to users.
b) Embed widgets like 1-question polls or feedback overlays into the site. There are dozens of sites that offer these type of widgets with a simple script add-on to the site, no coding needed. Try WebEngage - I haven't used them yet, but I see their widgets on Moz.com which is a good enough reason.
2. Pay people to evaluate your site/product. Without knowing about your site, consider these:
a) UserTesting.com - very affordable, allows to pre-qualify testers with a question, and it makes you think through what questions you want answered
b) maven.co - can be useful if you need an expert opinion for highly specialized markets
I personally would suggest #1 option, unless you are looking for very detailed feedback on UI, rather than confirmation on big/strategic questions about the product (pricing, features, etc). I had VERY good experience with UserTesting.com - got great feedback on some UI confusion I needed to confirm.