5 Tips for Using Landing Pages to Validate Startup’s Business Model

This is a guest blog post from Vladimir Blagojevic, a founder of Grant Snap. Vlad blogs at launched.be. Join Vlad and dozens of other entrepreneurs to discuss how to use landing pages in your startup on the 24th of April at Betagroup Coworking space in BrusselsRegister here

A landing page is a web page where visitors “land” after clicking a link from an ad, e-mail or another type of a campaign. You can think of a landing page as an automated sales rep. The job of an effective landing page is to turn a prospect into a lead, or a lead into a paying customer. Here’s a detailed guide on the elements of an effective landing page.

All good and well, but what does a landing page have to do with lean startups? Your job as an entrepreneur is to discover a money making machine, right? A business model describes the machine’s mechanics. Can landing pages be used to validate some of these mechanics?

Join the Lean Startup Circle Brussels at the Beta Group Co-working Space on the 24th of April and we’ll discuss this with dozens of other entrepreneurs. Register here. This event is kindly sponsored by the ICAB Business & Technology Incubator, and software engineering group of Sirris, a team of software geeks who help companies moving from an idea to an actual software product, and get access to funded collaborative R&D projects.

Landing Page = a Minimum Viable Product

The minimum viable product (MVP) is the smallest thing you can build to validate a set of assumptions. That does not have to be an actual minimal version of your end-product. A first MVP could be:

  • The first e-mail you send to a bunch of potential customers to ask them for an interview. Already here you’re testing the customer-problem fit.
  • The script and the presentation you use during customer interviews. You’ll get the most qualitative feedback from these interviews.
  • The landing page – a web page that describes the major benefits and features of the product as if the product exists, requests some action from the users, and measures the response. This is what we’re talking here.

So here’s a couple of tips.

Tip #1: Use the Landing Page to Validate Your Unique Value Proposition

The UVP is a single, clear and compelling message that states why you are different and worth buying (Steve Blank). On a landing page, the UVP is often featured as the headline, placed at the top-center of the page. Here’s a simple exercise for you.

Say you want to build a twitter app for conferences/events. You want to help the event organizer to get feedback about the event – during the event itself, so he or she can make it a better experience for the participants. Here’s what you can do. Set up a simple landing page and put your UVP dead in the middle. You can have that up and running in half an hour by using tools such as Launch Rock or Lander App.

 

Result of 15 minutes work with Lander App

Result of 15 minutes work with Lander App

Now that you have your landing page, show it to a couple of potential customers. Do they understand what your product is? Is it appealing to them? You want this kind of qualitative feedback in the beginning, because the earlier your stage, the bigger the chance you will change direction.

Alternatively, A/B test different UVPs. This is how KISSMetrics does it:

Look how KISSMetrics A/B tests their UVP. These are two different versions of their landing page I got in 2 browsers.

Look at how KISSMetrics A/B tests their UVP. These are two different versions of their landing page I got in 2 browsers.

Tip #2: Use an Associated Google AdWord Campaign to Test Different Customer-Problem Alternatives

Whether you are still searching for the right customer segment (and if you haven’t done it, it is a must), or testing different messages – this is a small experiment you can do.

Let’s take our Eventwit example further (the twitter app for conferences/events – see above). You are in an early stage and are considering:

  • Helping the event organizer get feedback about the conference
  • Helping sales reps  get in contact with  leads attending the event
  • Helping a conference visitor to discover hot sessions

You can set up three different simple pages for the three segments (the event organizer, the sales rep, and the event visitor). Then for each of them, you set up a dedicated Google AdWords ad group with a targeted ad. You let it run and monitor which of them has the highest click-through rate (CTR).

This is how you set up your ads. Create one Google AdWord campaign (e.g. “Eventwit Segment Test”). Then create three Ad Groups – one for each of the three segments. Within each ad group create an ad to target specifically that segment. For example, the ad for the event organizer might look like this.

Then brainstorm some relevant keywords, set a budget and run the campaign. If it’s your first time using Google AdWords, you can buy promotional vouchers on ebay. Let the ads run for a couple of days. Check back in to see which of the ad groups behave better (e.g. which of them has the highest CTR).

There is no statistical significance in this data. But differences can sometimes be really overwhelming.

When choosing a tagline for Grant Snap, I ran several Google AdWord ads with alternative messaging. The one with the overwhelmingly biggest CTR (click-through rate) was “get funding…”. No wonder – people want to get paid, laid or made

Tip #3: Use the Landing Page to Get to Know Your Customers

It is such a straightforward idea, and is often forgotten. If your product is not ready, you will probably be collecting e-mails of interested visitors. This tip is quite simple: mail them and try to schedule interviews. Wondering what to talk to them about and how to do it? Here’s 6 additional tips on how innovators should talk to their customers.

In addition to mailing, you can also set up a free chat (using e.g. Olark). You make it easy for the visitors to get in touch with you. You can even chat them up while they are visiting your website.

Olark chat window integrates easily in your landing page

Olark chat window integrates easily in your landing page

Another cool tool that helps you learn from your visitors is KISSInsights. It offers a very lightweight survey that you can integrate right into your web page. It appears as a small chat-like popup window at the bottom of the page, and it displays a question with a list of options. With one click, users can select an answer, or type in additional information. For example, you can learn where the customers have first heard about you (channel), whether they the information on your website is clear, or why they are (or not) interested in your product.

An example of an on-site lightweight survey by KISSInsights

An example of an on-site lightweight survey by KISSInsights

Another reason why you want to get in touch with your landing page visitors is because you may be surprised to discover who they are. As a startup, you are looking for a very special kind of a customer, an early adopter (or earlyvangelist as Steve Blank calls them).

Tip #4: Make Sure There’s a Clear Call to Action

Each landing page needs to have one clear objective. Usually, you’ll want to convince the visitor to sign up for your product. If the product is not yet ready yet, you’ll want them to at least leave their e-mail address. Not only because you want to get back in touch with them, or notify them when you launch.

You cannot ask money for a product that is not ready (it’s actually illegal), but at least you want to ask for something. People are tired of signing up for new services, and them leaving an email is an indication they find your offer valuable.

“Call to action”, or CTA is a key element of the landing page calling the visitor to perform the desired action. CTA needs to stand out (e.g. using high contrast, bright colors, strategic placement on the page…), and is formulated as a call to perform an action.

Example CTAs - for ready and not yet launched products

Example CTAs - for ready and not yet launched products

You may be wondering how to implement the e-mail collection if you are not a programmer. Landing page building services I mentioned (LanderApp and Launch Rock) do this for you. Another option is to integrate e-mail subscription forms from services like Feed Burner or Mail Chimp.

Tip #5: Make Sure You Measure the Visitor’s Response

You as entrepreneur are setting up a landing page to validate your ideas. So you need to measure the outcome of visits to your landing page.

That is the other reason why you have the CTA (call to action) on the landing page. To measure how appealing your proposition is to visitors.

But how do you do that?

If you are using a service such as Lander App you’ll get the basic analytics you need. DIY is also relatively simple. You set up a Google Analytics account, and you integrate the tracking code in your landing page. The next steps depend on your CTA and the way you implemented it. Say you have a “thank you” page where the visitor lands after they’ve successfully sign up. Then, in Google Analytics, under “Conversion / Goals / Admin” you create a new goal. You select a type “URL Destination” and enter the name of your “thank you” page.


If you have several CTAs distributed over the page, make sure you track those too. For example, you may have a sign-up button right at the top of the page. And additional three feature pages. You’ll probably place a CTA next to each feature description. You want to know where the click is coming from. You can do that using Google Analytics events. It is not difficult, but it does take a bit of time investment. Here’s a detailed guide by Google. The trick with events and different CTAs is to track the source of the event too. For example, on my blog, I track e-mail subscriptions using events. Mind the third parameter (indicating that the subscription form is coming from the sidebar):

_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘Subscription’, ‘Subscribed E-mail’, ‘Sidebar’]);

Now that you have your goal tracking set up, the only thing you need to do is to select that goal next time you log in to Google Analytics, select that goal, and you’ll get the numbers of goal conversions (and the percent of visitors that actually converted).

I’ll go in more details on metrics in one of the coming posts. Why not subscribe to get the posts fresh out of press (and nothing else!).

Any other ideas on how to use landing pages? Questions? Hit me up on Twitter.


About Vladimir Blagojevic

Entrepreneur. Founder grantsnap.com. Startup adviser. Software developer. Organizer #leanbru. Blogger at launched.be. Find me at @vladblagi
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