After a “brief” Jon Snow-style hibernation – or what the heck that was – I’ll do my best to resurrect this blog. As the first piece of new content, I’ll tell you about an interesting experiment we ran to validate a friend’s idea for a new startup.
It is a great example of doing quick online validation on a shoestring, testing what we can call a Landing Page MVP.
And we all know that startups and small businesses often lack the money to run large-scale research projects.
As the ever genius Customer Development Labs guys explained it in their blog, the purpose of an MVP or Minimum Viable Product is to help you validate your riskiest assumptions with the least amount of effort.
For example, you will get a better idea whether you are wasting time on an idea that no one is interested in, or you tapped into a feasible problem with existing customer need.
Sorry, TL;DR part here: why did we validate the startup idea via survey PLUS a landing page with Sign Up?
As part of the experiment, we went for both words and actions.
On the one hand, we ran a survey among target customers to see what their main drivers might be to use the product.
Yes, surveys are like the Taylor Swift of idea validation, everyone loves hating them lately but most people still find them intriguing.
Surveys only capture what people claim they would do when asking them about ideas and products that don’t exist yet.
So it is indeed important to combine them with behavioral, action-oriented tests to see whether people are just ‘bs-ing’ or not.
However, qualitative questions in surveys and interviews can help dig out the ‘why-s’ and hidden reasons, so I do believe that they deserve the attention.
In our case, we led people to a landing page to evaluate whether participants are interested enough to sign up (showing a serious sign of commitment to the concept), instead of just saying that they were interested.
Now let’s see all the details – I hope that you can use this as inspiration for designing your own experiments.
PS: It’s important to note that the project outlined below is still in progress. Experiments like this can work as a reality check and validate the necessary minimum level of traction when planning a product or iteration.
These tests do not 1oo% predict the ultimate fate of the future business as that also depends on many other factors, but they can help you show whether the idea is worth pursuing at all or needs a pivot.
Yepsnap: all about our Customer Discovery experiment
#1 The business idea: creating a stock photo style marketplace for ‘Instagram photos’
The idea was to create a ‘marketplace’ called Yepsnap where people can sell their best own photos as stock photos.
To mark the photos you’d be willing to sell, you just need to add a #yepsnap hashtag to the photo’s description or comment section.
#2 The riskiest assumption: ‘There are people out there who are willing to sell their own Instagram photos.’
An idea may sound great but it is not worth a dime if there is no market need for it, which is why most startups actually fail.
In our case, the riskiest assumption, aka the ‘make or break’ condition was that there were people who are willing to let their photos be sold. Our primary target market was: Instagram users.
Ideally, Instagram users with good quality photos like this one with the fancy cappucino, but that’s not something we were able to test in this round.
Defining a persona, customer archetype or target market for your test is very important. It makes finding participants much more straightforward and it also leads to more consistent findings. (Hey…you know you can’t really compare apples and oranges.)
#3 Finding participants right in the metaphorical beehive
If your target group consists of the users of an existing product, then at least you know who to find and where to find them. But how to address them? Most people don’t talk about the product or software or app they are using, except for a very small group of avid fans (who might actually become your early adopters).
In our case, at first we thought of commenting on other people’s photos so that they would check out our profiles and see a reference to the landing page or survey.
The problem with this approach was that you may spend countless hours wasted on the wrong individuals while you may miss several others that would have been interested.
Not to mention that this does not really count as ‘minimum
What we ended up doing (kudos to my entrepreneur friend) was creating a teaser ad that invited the participants to take our survey.
My friend ran this invite as a promoted post inside the Instagram ad network, spending a fraction of what a regular recruitment campaign would cost, collecting more than a 1,000 respondents.
By triggering an action right where the target customers were – i.e. on Instagram – we managed to pre-screen users that may be interested in trying something innovative.
#4 Asking people in a survey: what’s their drive?
As I’ve mentioned before, surveys may not be enough on their own to measure real interest, but they can help investigate potential motifs behind actions.
To design the survey, we used a software that felt ‘cool enough’ for our target group, Typeform. (As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the Typeform UX is one of the best ones among that of survey software.)
Here’s one question as an example. Do you want to be famous? Do you want to be discovered? Do you want to help?
Yes, we all know that people sometimes lie, even to themselves, but I do believe that it’s still interesting to see one option winning over another if the differences seem to be big enough. (Without getting into a discussion about statistical significance.)
Learning more about internal motivators can help us better design marketing messages or social media ads, which can be further tested or used for an A/B test in real life.
OK, but do they sign up after saying ‘yes, sure’ in the survey?
There’s a huge difference between saying something and actually acting so. This is why we created a landing page for the concept and led respondents from the survey’s Thank You page to the site.
#5 Creating a landing page with option to Sign Up (and, drumrolls!)
This is what the landing page looked like at the time of the experiment. Even if it was a fairly simple site – remember what we said about minimum effort – it had some of the elements that effective landing pages should have.
For example, it made a promise to the visitor and included a Call-to-Action button, which allowed us to measure how many people actually signed up.
This worked as a reality check.
Besides the fact that approximately 35% of visitors signed up, which is not bad for a non-existent product, some people actually went to Instagram and started using the #yepsnap hashtag.
These kinds of actions show real commitment and are a sign of traction. Even if it’s still not sure whether the business would get off the ground, would be feasible or sustainable, or people would stick around, this experiment made the team believe that the idea is worth pursuing for now.
Now, go design your own experiments or contact me if you need any help or suggestions.
The featured photo is a mobile phone case found on Society6.com. Not much to do with the post except for, you know, mobile, but I totally dig the message.