You can use various techniques to make sure the problem you’re trying to solve is a real one – and that your idea is worth pursuing further.
In The Lean Startup, Eric Ries talks about a minimum viable product (MVP). His definition is ‘…the version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.’ With his definition, this doesn’t need to be the fully formed product, or even a scaled down first release, but rather anything that helps you to learn whether the thing you’re building is actually something people want. This can include the creation of a simple landing page with an email sign-up form – a great way to validate your business before you’ve invested lots of time, effort and money.. We’ve adopted this approach with mixed success for a few ideas we wanted to test out (both side projects outside of client work).
The first one (webmastr), a product for storing your critical website information, attracted a little bit of interest but only a 10% conversion rate (20 or so sign ups) from the target audience. It was however useful to have a list of emails from interested people which allowed us to follow up with some of them. This then uncovered a whole bunch of potential stumbling blocks we hadn’t even thought about.
Result: Too much to overcome with too little budget and time, project shelved (with little waste, other than a few hours to put up a landing page).
More recently we created a landing page for Personapp, a simple persona creation tool, which has really validated our idea and given us confidence to go ahead and build it (albeit a pretty simple first release/MVP). We’ve had almost 300 sign ups in 2 weeks with a 40% conversion rate 770 sign ups with a 36% conversion rate (including some big cheeses in our target audience). Obviously this doesn’t guarantee that the project will be a runaway success, but certainly validates that there’s a need there for a product such as this.
Result: We’re releasing our first batch of invites next week (watch this space!).
WuFoo stats snapshot for Personapp (updated Aug 12)
One thing I would say is if you are going to create a landing page at least have a reasonable level of design so that it’s not too amateur looking (which may put people off signing up). As this way you won’t know whether it’s the design that has put people off or the idea.
You can either create your own landing page or use services such as Unbounce or WuFoo to smooth the process. We create our own using a simple template we created and then embed a WuFoo form – this allows us to get some reasonable analytics on the people signing up too e.g. country, city, browser, OS, device. etc.
Also bear in mind it’s important that you only really target the landing page at your prospective audience as otherwise the results will be misleading. Post the link on related blog posts/forums/groups, tweet it out to potential users, or you could even go so far as to pay for some targeted Google ads (although this is an easy way to blow a load of money for not much pay back).
What are your experiences of landing pages? Would love to know what other people think about them as a way of validating business ideas.