Instant Landing Page - Killing a Startup Idea Quickly
How we investigated a startup idea around instant landing pages, went through our validation process and decided to stop pursuing it in just a few days of work.
Landing pages are a cornerstone of digital marketing. It is often the single strongest (non-product) point along the buyer journey for having a customer decide whether they are truly considering what you are selling. Typically they are used as the 'landing' spot from a link that you send out in your socials, email, ads etc. This means that the context a user has before coming to the landing page is often minimal and that the landing page has to really nail a lot of things to convince and start converting a prospective customer.
Landing pages are immensely beneficial because you can be hyper-specific on what they are trying to achieve. Maybe you have a lot of products you sell and it's hard to describe them on one page. Create a landing page for each. Maybe your product is really awesome and solves a lot of things. Create a landing page for each pain point. Maybe your services are strong in several very distinct markets or niches. Create more landing pages, where each is specifically catered to that niche!
The Startup Idea
As a serial entrepreneur, I have hundreds of ideas that I am constantly thinking about. My cofounder, Zack, and I have a validation process that is constantly being refined that we apply to many of these ideas. Validating a startup and identifying its worth before investing much time or money into it is one of the greatest challenges in the startup world.
Much of the process revolves around testing markets and positioning through things like social networking and running ads. As you would expect, to properly measure these things it is useful to drive people towards something. You guessed it, a landing page. A landing page allows you to provide more context but even more importantly, start layering in more and more detailed conversion metrics. You could start A/B testing simple things like headings and design. This could evolve into asking for emails or asking for direct sign-ups. Maybe it even evolves into converting all the way to a sale right on the page. The flexibility to A/B test your approaches is incredibly important.
What We Wanted
An instant landing page creation tool. I would not have to think about theming or general design. I would not have to structure the page by coding or even dragging and dropping elements. I just want something where I enter a few pieces of information that I truly care about, such as a couple of pain points I want to compare, and get a page instantly. Some of the key proposed features looked like:
- Less than 5 minutes from sign up to full creation
- Not having to design anything
- No coding required
- Not having to mess with no-code block components
- Being able to enter alternatives of a component, such as two different headings and it automatically handling showing one heading to 50% of the visitors and the other to the remaining 50%
- A/B testing metrics
The reality of most landing page creation tools is that they are so so heavy. Most customers don't care that you customized the hell out of your page, they just need it to look good so it doesn't distract from your messaging. This is especially relevant to the early-stage validation process and small startups that are pivoting rapidly. I think that having just a few 'templates' of landing pages that are well-designed is sufficient and I don't need to spend time re-inventing the wheel. Speed is the name of the game here, I want my ideas out in the public eye as quickly as possible!
As I mentioned above, we are still iterating on our rapid validation process, but the bones are in place. Here are some of the key highlights of what we saw and the rough order they typically happen in.
Can We Create This?
No doubt, the product is simple and I have created dozens of sites and web applications at this point.
Is There a Pain Point?
I have the pain point so that was one checkmark. A mentor, who works with startups non-stop at an accelerator we are a part, of expressed that he and many of the startups he works with have this problem. We leveraged our network for discussion and several people said they had problems here. Products in this realm already exist and seem successful. At a shallow level, there is a pain point here.
We then went and ran Pain Point Ad testing. For $10-50 we can typically identify that there is a cold lead market for a pain point. This one came up with solid numbers. We were getting clickthrough rates of ~3% and fairly low cost per click in iteration 1 of testing. 3% is a great starting point to build off of as we would iterate strongly on the ad model with that as a starting point if we decided to move forward.
Is There Growth Potential?
Entrepreneurship is a growing market. Marketing is a non-stop freight train but of course, you always have to worry about market saturation. There is definite growth potential.
Is There Reasonable or No Competition?
Big roadblock. There are big players in this space such as Hubspot as well as all of the regular site building tools like Wordpress. We felt that we could avoid most of that market because a lot of the big player's tooling is bulky and our theoretical competitive advantage was speed.
Further digging uncovered more competitors in the speed game as well. The first one being the email marketing turned marketing hub Convertkit. They have a nice landing page creator that is very quick to use. It has the no-code elements I don't want but from signup to launching a page was still well under 10 minutes. There is even some basic stat tracking. They also had a lot of free functionality around their landing pages. It's hard to compete with free.
The other one that piqued my interest was Carrd. Carrd really gives me startup vibes but I think they have a strong aesthetic presence and absolutely nail the speed component with their template approach. I was able to get a simple landing page up in just a few minutes. Unfortunately, they have no stat tracking so just like convertkit, don't really handle the A/B testing vibe I was proposing. Take a look at their pricing too...
It's pretty damn hard to compete with basically $1-2 a year per landing page. It even gets cheaper as you scale.
Do We Have Pillar Keyphrases?
Definitely. "Landing Page" is something that can be built around and be massaged very well.
Is Keyword Competition Reasonable?
As you would expect, because there is very real actual competition there would be at least some keyword competition. It wasn't quite as bad as other competitive marketing spaces but we were not seeing an immediate hole to exploit.
Can We Define an Audience?
Short answer yes. Long answer is it's really easy to define broad audiences, which landing pages definitely tackle. We want very specific audiences to have very directed marketing efforts and that becomes harder here. There are definitely some that jump to mind, such as myself and my fellow speed focused entrepreneurs 😉.
Could We Scale It?
The tech is fairly simple but the marketing effort is more complex. With niche audiences defined we think we could take on the challenge.
Is There Enough Competitive Advantage?
Hmm, signs point to no. A lot of things added up to work against us. Fighting against juggernauts as well as competing against aggressively low-priced models. Minor competitive advantages won't be enough, you need 'smack you in the face' tier of advantage.
Can We Make Money
No. Competing against free with not enough competitive advantage. Making money is not always our end goal with a microsaas, but with a full startup tool like this, it definitely is.
Do We Feel Confident In Marketing It?
Nope. Without confidence in our competitive advantage weighed against pricing, this is a nail in the coffin type scenario.
Final conclusion. We are not moving forward with the idea. It's possible we resurrect some form of it in the future but it is effectively stricken from our idea list. Now my focus will be actually continuing to use some of the tools I listed and reporting back. As I said, I have this pain point and need it solved!
You may be wondering how I feel about killing this? I was the one who proposed the tool to my cofounder, Zack, and sometimes you can grow attached to your ideas. I feel great about it 😀. Sticking to our guns on our validation process is way harder than saying "eh, let's try it anyways". We have tons of other ideas we are iterating through as I write this. Look forward to sharing the verdict on those as well.