Landing pages, for those who do not know, are one-page websites with minimal content and one sole call-to-action such as Buy Now, Book Now, Download, etc… Startups usually use landing pages pre-beta for lead generation. I say stop! Or at least hold off. Pre-beta, pre MVP, and even pre-coding, use a landing page to test your idea.
Validation is a tricky for startups. Commonly and unfortunately so, startups validate their idea and product too late, when the code is done and the time has been invested only to realize that the problem they are trying to solve is not great enough.
To save all that time, money and heartache, validate your idea early on and keep on validating every step of the way. The best and cheapest way to validate is with face-to-face interviews. However, this requires time and hustling. If you have a small budget, a landing page and fake pay-per-click (PPC) campaign is a fast and efficient way to test interest and willingness to buy. Eric Ries did exactly this. You can see in his blog post just how. Here are 5 key elements that you can validate using landing pages (in this order).
You have an idea! Brilliant. Don’t build it because they won’t necessarily come. Yes, I made a cheesy Field of Dreams reference. Instead, build a landing page as if your business already existed. I would talk to 5-10 potential customers (not your mom) to do a base validation of your idea. Does it bring value to them? Would they pay for it? As with many aspects in life, actions speak louder than words. Put together a small PPC ad campaign and see if people click through to learn more about your business idea. This small investment can save you thousands of dollars down the line. If you are getting clicks on the ad, that means there is a genuine interest. The ROI metric in this campaign is interest. You might not necessarily get signups or click-throughs to buy at this point, but interest is a start.
2. VALUE PROPOSITION
If visitors are not clicking on your call-to-action buttons on the landing page, perhaps the value proposition on your landing page is unclear or misguided. Now, the value proposition is usually (and should be) described loud and clear in the header at the top of the page. Again, talk to potential customers first to understand why they would use your product. The why might be completely different from what you thought. Is it cool? Does it save them time? Does it solve a problem? How exactly? Switch out your value proposition on the landing page, keep the same ad campaign running and track the difference.
What price point makes the most sense to your target audience? Now is the time to email anyone who has already signed up to better validate your pricing. Segment the mailing list in two. Create two different price points. Determine which price point attracts more potential customers. Finding that sweet spot between profitability and scalability is delicate. Be mindful to offer the product to that visitor at the advertised price when the product becomes available.
Messaging is what your copy (text) is saying on the landing page. In the case of a landing page, less is more. Visitors need to ‘get’ what you do in under 30 seconds. No thinking should be required. What you understand of your product might not be what others understand. How to explain it? Well, ask someone who would use it how they would describe your product. For example, a programmer might see his CMS startup as a ‘CMS for beginners’. Whereas an actual beginner sees his product as ‘a website that builds websites’. The messaging is very different. Test it out.
5. DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT
Now it’s time to build your landing page. Some may argue this, but I believe that copy sells more than design. By this I mean that the power of words influences and inspires action more than the design of a page. But second to copy is design. Try different designs on your landing pages to see what speaks more to your audience. Design is usually the ‘wow’ factor.
Is This a Scam?
You are wondering at this point if your ‘fake’ PPC campaign and landing page is a scam? Not at all. It’s a stepping stone to growth. Be mindful to not false advertise. So do not use call to actions such as ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Download Now’ where you are setting an expectation that cannot be met. Rather, a ‘Learn More’ call to action is reasonable. We have also seen advertisements that call out for validation. Tweets, Facebook shares or forum discussions asking for help. This is another approach, and can be an efficient one if you set up a live feedback or survey to capture the feedback.
The Guinea Pig Page
Finally, for the visitors that click through to your call-to-action or ‘Pricing’ link, create a secondary page with a likeable message such as, “Hey There! Thanks for wanting to purchase. You just helped us validate our product. We are going to go build it now. Sign up for company updates and a huge discount when we are up and running as thanks for being our guinea pig”. If you put a cute guinea pig picture on the page, you’ll make the visitor feel that s/he contributed to the beginning of something. Warm and fuzzy works 🙂
Have you ever used a landing page to validate your startup?