The minimal viable product is an increasingly used term in the startup community. The idea is to launch as quickly as possible (in some cases without writing any code) to build up a mailing list of customers and prove your market. There’s lots of stories out there of these simple mailing list pages getting thousands of users registered in days and then going on to raise seed rounds to build the actual product. The thing they don’t tell you is this really is the exception, not the rule.
After reading all the trending articles, I decided to try it. I was in the process of building a product: my first startup called Wompit, and figured to get going I’d make a Launchrock page detailing my idea and collect thousands of emails without trying, as the articles usually detailed. That didn’t happen, and it doesn’t happen for most.
After weeks of launch and doing all the necessary posts to Reddit and HackerNews, I had a long list of fourteen subscribers. Now, it wasn’t the pitch or the product, we had launched the product locally a year ago (a small rural community test) and had over 2000 signups, so there definitely was demand. The problem was luck, not everyone is fortunate enough to get to the frontpage of HackerNews with just an email collecting page. It happens, but you really can’t count on it.
So, I wanted to boost my page and read about the magical effects videos have. I created an animated video, like the type used by Spotify and Padmapper, pitching my startup. It got to the top of the front page of /r/startups, but received no interest on HackerNews. It did well for itself despite, and it received a few hundred views. We got a big spike in hits to the Launchrock page and our mailing list grew to an impressive thirty eight people.
Still, not the type of numbers I had drooled over on the internet. We had a huge Twitter following, lots of Facebok fans, but just couldn’t get email subscribers. So, I decided to finally put in the effort. Obviously, the branded Launchrock page wasn’t converting, so I built one myself. I wanted it to really sell the product by showing off an excellent experience, great design and cool use cases.
I made a modern, up to date landing page with scrolling animations, responsive design, big pictures and a Mailchimp email collector which I customized to work with Bootstrap. If I was trying to sell a site on its good design, I realized I should sell it with a well designed site. So I spent hours tweeking and working away, making it look as good as possible. I then tested it, and iterated based on the feedback (for instance, people weren’t realizing you had to scroll down).
I submitted it to HackerNews and Reddit and this time…it did terribly. I barely got any traffic from either. Though, something did change. Suddenly, the social media connections we had were actually interacting, signing up and sharing the site. Despite the failure we experienced on Reddit and HackerNews, we got more views to the page on that first day than we had in the entire month before. How many more? 200% more! We got double the views in one day than we had in a month with the Launchrock page (including the video bump), all thanks to the site being actually worthy of sharing around. Since then, our daily views is up consistently by 8000%. You read that right, we’re getting 8000% more views a day than we were with the old site, and it’s sticking.
Conversions also increased, our subscriber list grew from thirty eight to over one hundred within hours, and growth is staying steady. Our bounce rate dropped by 20% from the Launchrock page and people are interacting more with the social media pages connected to the site.
Thanks to the sharability of a quality site that impressed visitors and got them excited, we’ve boosted our views, grown our audience and found new customers. We’ve also had some great interest on Twitter, with people sharing and getting excited about the product and talking about the current site’s design. This is very exciting for us, and boosts our morale as we continue to build the final product, which is launching soon across North America!
The moral here is, people appreciate effort. Launchrock and services like it are great if you absolutely need something fast and functional, but nothing beats a quality, well designed site. I’m not saying you can’t get lucky on Launchrock, if your idea’s great and you have excellent connections, it’s probably all you need. However, if you’re like most startups, especially web startups, putting the time into building a memorable experience pays for itself in droves.
PS: Check out Betalist, we just got listed this morning and they’ve been driving great high quality traffic all day, boosting those numbers even more!
PSS: Also checkout Wompit to see what I’m talking about!