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Are you making this common split testing snafu?

In case you didn’t know, SNAFU is a military slang acronym meaning “Situation Normal: All Fouled Up.”

More and more, I hear founders saying that they’re working on a product, who’re concerned whether or not there will be any demand when they launch. I’ve seen it come up in surveys, in youtube videos, even during personal conversations with founders.

After all, there’s more and more noise out there. We’re all getting overstimulated by hundreds of marketing messages and notifications per day. The more we do, the less relevant this messaging is.

How do you find unmet needs, to position your product effectively? A critical piece of building the right product is to address latent demand. Often, demand exists. It just isn’t immediately obvious where.

There is a hint in the book Lean Startup. First you need to prove what Eric Reis calls the “value hypothesis”, before you try to go after the “growth hypothesis”.

The value hypothesis claims that “the product delivers value to customers once they are using it.” This requires a deep understanding of:

  • who your customer is
  • what problems they have
  • how big of a niche they are
  • how much demand is growing
  • and most importantly….why they would buy from you specifically.

in addition to number of other factors, if you want to build a business and not just launch a product. If you aren’t sure that your customer needs what you plan to provide, then optimizing or scaling up sales is a waste of time and money.

So for example, split testing is a form of optimization of a message that already works. Running a split test before before you know that your product is attractive and valuable to your prospect is pointless. Yet many newbie founders have this belief from I don’t know where that split testing is what they should be doing.

Nowadays, to that I say…BS.

Here’s what you can and should do before you even reach for split testing or conversion optimization.

List out your assumptions, so that you can prioritize them in the order of riskiness. See if you can or want to de-risk the launch even at this stage:

  • An easy way to identify riskiest this is to work backwards from an imagined failure of the project. You’re having a chat with a close friend or collegue over beers, and you say it would have worked if it hadn’t been for X.
  • Once you generate a list of these, say 20 different ones, then prioritize them in a google docs spreadsheet.
  • Once you have this, start with the riskiest one and think of how you can test this assumption. With advertising, it’s often quite easy and quick, because you have direct access to your audience.

Apologies if this is a bit pessimistic, but it’s a powerful method to both plan a product and learn about a new market. As a side benefit, once you’ve tested the assumptions, you confront and abolish any big worries you have. It’s also completely specific to your product idea. It doesn’t matter if it worked for anyone else in any market. You generate quantitative proof of your assumptions are valid or not before proceeding.

Oh, and by the way, be prepared that a few of your big assumptions won’t be right. That’s the usual experience of most entrepreneurs with this approach. In fairness, these false assumptions are the assumptions you want to learn about as soon as possible. You don’t want make decisions still thinking they’re true.

Once you’re done that, there’s another exercise worth going into. Testing the your value proposition in your ads and your landing page MVP, so that you know what speaks to your market. People get hung up on what value prop is, but it’s quite simple. It’s the reason someone buys from you. Their (nor your) reason why. Of course, only test value props that you’d be comfortable selling and building.

See, this is where the MVP naysayers have it wrong. A landing page MVP isn’t a smoke test. If you’re using it to validate yourself and tell you how smart you are, your mirror will be more effective. And cheaper. And you’ll learn just as much.

Test your value props.

The fastest path to identifying your value prop with advertising? I thought you’d never ask.

Why, Launch Tomorrow of course. My book Launch Tomorrow delves into exactly how to do that with paid advertising and a landing page MVP.

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