Leveraging Microsites and PPC to Test a New Startup Idea Before Launch

When you go swimming you have a few options before getting into the pool, 1) jump right in a hope the temperature is okay, 2) dip your foot in before jumping determining to jump or ease in, or 3) slowly move forward.

Well, if you have a startup the options aren't much different. But the reality is that your investors want short-term results (not just sales, but any metric movement). So option 3 isn't a real solution for performance, option 1 can lead to a lot of failure and missed projections. That leaves you with the 'dip your foot in first' and quick to determine your approach.

Before launching consider dipping your foot in to get gauge the temperature and build an approach with a rapid concept test.

If you can get pre-registrations for your product you increate the change of funding in an A Round. Aaron Holiday Co-founder and General Partner @645Ventures writes "for competitive Series A rounds, there are often revenue thresholds that must be seriously considered... $1 million+ of pre-orders for direct consumer products."

$1 Million might be large for a pre-seed round company, but if you're going for a seed round, simply showing that you can gain tracking may work.

Start with a Microsite

In order to understand why microsites are useful in rapid and small scale testing, you must first know what they are. These are 3-5 page sites that show the actions and information you initially believe to be relevant. They can still have a checkout, documents to download (pdf's can work) or even pre-registration.

There's a bonus in all of this aside from making a project more manageable from a size stand point. Brian Scordato in his Fast Company article on "How to Test That Brilliant Idea As Soon As It Hit You" points out that you ought to be able to clearly tell people what your idea is about in one sentence. And it should be understood immediately. In the case of the microsite, it would be very easy to hyper focus the messages to test.

Critical Resources
  • WordPress: Okay, this seems obvious but you can launch small site in a few hours with advanced functionality. Try Neilo for an A/B split testing plugin.
  • Unbounce: If you want to start with an

Measure, Measure, and then Measure Some More

So how would you know if your microsite is working? Analytics, that's how. Google Analytics and other types of tool like HotJar can help you take the guesswork out of the process.

Analytics gives you indispensable insights of every aspect of your site. What keywords/keyword phrases did people use to find the site? What page was their point-of-entry? Did they leave before they got to the shopping cart or some other critical form? Or during a checkout? Where are users clicking? Or what content do they prefer?

You should measure all of these elements as you continue to develop your concepts. The data will tell you what customers responded to and how they responded. In other words, did they eventually go to the shopping cart and buy? Did they click on some ads on your pages, but not others? When you're putting this together, you want to look at conversion rates. And conversion rates don't just mean whether or not you made a sale. Capturing someone's email can be your goal as well.

All of these types of information can help you tweak your offer before you launch the big one. They allow you to throw out what doesn't work and keep and/ or augment what does. Pay attention to what pulls.

Side Note: I like to test document download to understand what users were looking for when they came in. Users will easily download a free document before filling out a form. You can learn a lot about the user intent from which document they download.

Critical resources:
  • Google analytics: Another no brainer, but you'll need some advanced features like event tracking, Google Experiments, custom reports, dashboard, and custom segments to get valuable insights above the basic.
  • HotJar: This software has proven to be awesome. This has heatmapping, exit surveys, and form abandonment.
  • Crazyegg: They have great heatmapping and scroll mapping.

Drive Cheap & Measureable Traffic

"measureable" is an important term here. Don't take out a TV ad to drive traffic to your site. The savvy startup entrepreneur will use tools like Facebook ads and Adwords to get cheap sources of traffic. This is a great source for the rapid concept test because you can gather data, adjust quickly, and develop an optimized program in weeks.

If people are responding to your first iteration, then you have a good traffic driving structure. If they're not, consider making these tweaks first:
  • Adwords: Select new keywords, use phrase instead of broad match terms, try dynamic keyword insertion in ads, and add the keywords directly on the landing page.
  • Facebook: Try more targeted ads with email targeting, remarketing, look alike audiences which have outperformed interest or behavior targeting in test (I have spent millions on social advertising to come to this conclusion).
Additionally, Adwords have something else to offer you. They will often tell you if your competitors' customers would be willing to jump over into your camp (some in the CPG space call this group 'switchers'). You can find this out by bidding on your competitions' names in your Adwords. Do these people take the bait? Would they switch? Can you tweak your message to woo them over to your side if the answer is "no" to the previous question?

Facebook on the other hand will help you figure out who's in your audience in the first place. Through Facebook's interface, you can determine elements like the age of the respondents, their occupations, special interests or hobbies plus a slew of other things. This can be critical information as you can use this insight to target a specific demographic audience in display advertising, media outreach, and more.

Final Thoughts on Rapid Concept Testing

The purpose of analytics and rapid concept testing is to see who the audience is and how to sell the product to them. And you can be sure that not everyone will need the same content or conversion path.

That is to say, find the message that the user needs and provide it to them? Not what you want to offer them, but what they are actually want. You want to attract the people right people, sure. But make sure the site and the offering is clearly what they need.

Warning: You might not get the information you want to hear in this test. That message can be "nobody is interested in what you offer". If so, pivot and try again.

Originally posted on www.rowedigital.com here.