How to Test Business Ideas With Landing Pages
So you have a hypothesis about a solution to a problem or idea. Maybe you've spoken with possible customers or even started building a product. Rather than rushing to build a product or business around an unproven concept, it’s better to first determine demand from possible users and customers. I'll dive deeper in how you can go about determining demand with as little effort as possible using a landing page.
I've learned the hard way building products and businesses myself; Spending time, money and energy building a vision or product that in the end no one wanted. I was determined to figure out how to save my self and others from running down this same dead path.
I too read all the top blogs and books’ (feel free to comment here on books that have been helpful for you) but nothing beats actually conducting customer interviews, and setting up landing page experiments. I finally was able to actually learn about demand for business or product ideas. I took my validation skills to the next level with the team at Neo, where we worked with founders and Fortune 500 companies to validate and invalidate business and product ideas.
Talking to people and potential customers is useful for learning but not validating. To validate your idea you need really need both acquisition and activation data. These are the first two metrics that matter when determining whether you have a product or business. Acquiring users through advertising channels and activating or converting them shows real validation.
Because building a landing page requires less effort than starting a business or building a product, this can be an easier way to validate or invalidate an idea. By using learnings from customer interviews and basic market research one can look at setting up a landing page for further validating or invalidating your idea.
Setting up your website
I know it can be tempting to design or develop something perfect for your website but you want to consider your time as an investment at this stage. Create a page that is just good enough to communicate your value, then iterate towards perfection. Spend closer to one day setting this up rather than a week.
I recommend that you plan to spend most of your energy crafting clear and concise copy. For the actual design you can leverage pre-made templates or services which cuts the time and energy necessary to get a page up.
The most important aspect moving forward is to set a KPI based on a call to action for your user, such as an email signup or third party authentication such as Facebook Login. For this article I will assume you are in the earliest stages of validation, and just want an email signup to gauge interest. For this I suggest using Mailchimp for its embedded form signup.
What I suggest as technical (HTML/CSS/JS) solutions:
- For quality themes I go to Themeforest and expect to pay $30–50 http://themeforest.net/category/site-templates
- For free and cheaper themes I go to StartBootstrap https://startbootstrap.com/themes/landing-pages/
- There’s Black Tie and lots of resources for this.
What I suggest as non-technical solutions:
2022 Update! I compiled the best landing page builders in one place, so that you can choose what’s best for your business.
- Unbounce is probably the most popular and widely used, for good reason. It’s easy to use, simple A/B testing, MailChimp Support and metrics, and priced way better than alternatives. I sent so many referrals I can give you 20% off first 3 months using the link above..
Stay simple and consistent with design
The best converting pages I've created started simple and evolved with customers’ direct and indirect feedback. Simple being leverage the theme or template you are starting with, leverage strong images and icons to help communicate your message. It’s not until after I start to actually build my product or approach a beta-phase that I'll consider redesigning the landing page entirely to wow people. You’ll want to make sure the design and imagery is of quality but you’re going for MVP here.
It’s important to have a consistent design aesthetic and imagery from your social channel or advertisement to your landing page. This is important for improving conversions, brand building, and adding legitimacy behind your offer and call to action.
I suggest taking advantage of high quality stock photography to bring your page to life. Ensure you select photos that compliment your copy. Irrelevant or poor quality photos really hurt peoples first impression of your offering and brand. If you can use product screenshots or mockups make sure to only show the most valuable parts that really communicate your solution or value.
Where I go to find stock photography..
- Unsplash.com (free)
- Splitshire (free)
- Gratisography (free)
- Magdeleine.co (free)
- Pexels (free)
- Dollar Photo Club (Paid/Affordable)
- Shutterstock (paid)
- Stocksy (Paid)
Educate and sell with your copy
When writing copy for your landing page keep a persona or customer in mind: write for them and to them. Leave out market facts or anything not specific to them understanding the value of your solution to THEIR problem. You're not writing to investors or the press; you're writing for the customer or end user.
I've found that using strong headlines from the top to bottom of the page significantly increases conversion rates. You should be able to tell your story and answer possible questions within 30 seconds. Think of the section above the fold as a movie trailer with spoilers. Your main heading and supporting headline above the fold should clearly address the users problem and your solution, whether directly or indirectly through benefits.
Assuming a user scrolls below the fold you will want to have only a couple of sections to address any questions they may have. Put less emphasis on secondary copy and focus on concise, strong headlines.
I try to write my headlines so that if someone scanned from top to bottom of the page (like most people do) they would have a clear picture of what the services or business does. Not counting on supporting copy to do this. Count on using customers questions or feedback as insight into what you need to better address on the landing page.
The Call To Action / CTA should be actionable and short. Even if it’s just an email signup. Try Now! Sign-up for Free! Get Started! Signup for Beta and See how it works! are all solid examples.
Speak your customer’s language
The most effective messaging uses language you’ve heard in 1:1 interviews and reviews. You can also learn more about your customers language by seeing where they are already talking. Places such as Instagram, Twitter, blog posts, YouTube Videos, and forums are excellent resources. Read and listen to how people describe the problem and market, and be conversational.
You will want to come up with as many variations of headlines as you can. I find that the first few and last are often the strongest for me with some minor tweaks.
Rather than testing only one value proposition or message it can be good to try multiple using A/B tests. To do this I usually pick two of the best sets of headlines that address the problem and solution. These are usually entirely my assumptions at this point. Using conversion tracking you can begin to see what message resonates best based on what percentage of visitors acted on your CTA.
After there is a clear winner you should come up with a secondary version and test that against the first winner, and so on. Don't go overboard, test only 2–3 variations of the same message and iterate and improve from there. I've seen some teams try 5+ variations and leads to watered down crappy data.
If you're using Unbounce this should be easy as well using their built in features. If you're using SquareSpace or another solution you may have difficulties doing this if you cannot paste code in your header.
How to measure success
Measuring success is the most crucial part in being able to determine whether your product idea or offering is strong. You'll want to track and measure the conversion rate for your CTA (Sign Up) and the inbound UTM parameters to understand how converting users arrived.
I try to achieve at least a 25% conversion on the first CTA, and acquire at least 100–200 signups at this rate. I’ve found that if you cannot get this from relevant & direct traffic then you may want to reconsider whether you have a real product or business idea. Additionally, you may just be sending poor traffic, so evaluate your acquisition channels before completely dismissing your idea. For clarification I never get 30% on my first try — it usually takes a week and a handful of iterations on both copy, acquisition channel and page design. These iterations should be result of experimenting and using data / customer interviews to improve the overall value proposition.
Advanced Tracking for user events
Depending on how technical you are most of this section may get little bit advanced. For you there is Unbounce as I recommended above which provides basic conversion tracking with little technical ability.
The main event I track for the first landing page is the CTA. Create an event for each place the user can click through. This means break up every button and link as their own event. Usually I have 3 to track-One above the fold, one at the bottom of the page and one in a sticky navigation.
I like to use MixPanel for tracking user events as the process can be done relatively easily using the tutorials on their site. Im also a big fan of their people tracking, funnel tools and exceptional support. Google Analytics Event tracking is also an alternative that provides great event tracking.
I also use LuckyOrange as a way to measure landing page success in a few different ways. The service records the mouse and scroll movements of every user so that you can re-watch specific sessions activity. Additionally you can export heatmaps for scrolling and clicking which can make it easy to see what parts of the page receive(or don’t receive) any engagement.
Wrapping Up / checklist
As you look to launch your landing page it can be helpful to look over the design and copy one final time. I have an internal checklist that I overview, but I also find that Unbounce Checklist can be helpful. Additionally KissMetrics has put together a good list of traits to convert on a landing page.
I also suggest sending a link to the landing page to any possible customers you have talked with in the past. Rather than asking them what they like or dislike about the page, ask what questions they still have, or what is confusing about your solution.
Now that your landing page is designed, your copy is ready, and your tracking is setup you'll want to begin sending possible customers to your site. In my time helping startups and Fortune 500 companies I've learned a variety of tactics and techniques to scale user acquisition efforts. In my next article focused on early stage user acquisition and growth I'll cover how you too can acquire customers efficiently and effectively.
Want some help with this stuff?
I help founders and startups with Conversion / Funnel / Growth Optimization and Strategy. I provide audits, and on-going consulting.
My audits are focused on how to deliver the most positive impact to your business. My reports are highly specific, actionable and strategic. Rather than a giant list of fixes, I help prioritize and can help execute so that you can continue focusing on other areas of your business. If you’re interested in learning how I can help your business/startup reach-out to me: