The following are a number of Lean Startup validation case studies. Some will already be well known; some will be completely unknown. A lot of landing page testing has happened since The Lean Startup was being pieced together by Eric Reis. These are retrospective reconstructions of what happened using landing pages as vehicles for minimum viable products.
For example, Buffer did empty pocket testing with a landing page before building their product. Just for your context, Buffer is a social media sharing tool, allowing you to publish tweets or social media posts on a pre-defined schedule.
While you may have heard of some of the lean landing page case studies before, there is a lot of nuance in exactly what each test actually tested. They are typically not “traditional” A/B split tests, where they were testing whether a new variation of an ad or landing page beat the old one.
In order to help make it more explicit, I’ve tried reformatting the experiments to be lightweight. Lean Startup experiments are generally not about testing the landing page or the product, but the business ideas they represent.
Hypothesis: The target audience wants this product
Test Type: Value hypothesis, confirm the problem exists and people want a “hands off” way to tweet
Success Criteria: Emails gathered > 0
Traffic Source: Social media, word of mouth
Result: Pass. A few people used it to give founder Joel Gascoigne their email. He used these to get some useful feedback and initiate a conversation with prospects.
Step back: Potential users had left their email address at a random web page promising them help with this particular problem. This meant the idea itself was valuable, and there was potentially unmet demand for this particular idea. I would be careful to use only # of emails gathered as the primary metric in all cases.
For a consumer facing product, this is probably good enough, assuming you have enough traffic. It would be better to also include some kind of a target number of sessions, to make sure that you have enough “attempts to convert” to make your metric meaningful.
Hypothesis: The target audience is willing to pay for the product
Test Type: Value hypothesis, confirm declared willingness to pay for “a way to automate their tweeting”
Success Criteria: People would click-through the additional pricing page, and still leave their email.
Traffic Source: Social media, word of mouth
Result: Pass. People were still clicking through this additional step. Joel was able to gather useful information about the suggested pricing plans, in order to figure out pricing.
Step back: Potential users weren’t put off by the blatant pitch, and still kept leaving an email address at the far end. What Joel hadn’t tested was whether people would actually buy; however, he was able to complete a functional prototype within seven weeks, and tested this hypothesis with a functional system. He actually got his first paying customer 4 days after the “rough-around-the-edges” product launch.
I just wanted to thank Joel for contributing this fantastic case study to the Lean Startup community. It’s quite a well known one. As a result, I really wanted to cover it as an example of a line of thinking that’s worth following.
Empty Pocket Testing
At the core, the Buffer landing page MVP test was meant to address a major question for founders: will “they” buy it, if I create it? Before getting caught up in theoretical debates about what is and isn’t an MVP, Buffer just did an experiment. It just happened to be using a landing page to address a major risk factor for a new product business.
In this particular case, checking for whether early adopters
- had the budget and
- were willing to spend it
de-risked spending more time and money on the solution significantly. Even though they were asking theoretically, this helped to validate their sense that their target early adopters would be willing to pay.
If you’d like to see a number of case studies like the above, grab Launch Tomorrow. I’m updating it in an upcoming version with a lot of in-depth experiments that have been run.
While ideally you have some sort of proof direct in your headline and ad, your persuasiveness argument relies on how well you prove your point. You see, it’s ultimately about belief and feeling.
As heavy hitter Gary Bencivenga says:
Almost everyone in the world, in every field of human endeavor, is desperately searching for someone to believe in. Be that person and you can write your own ticket. Belief is today’s most overlooked yet most powerful key to boosting response to any ad, in any medium. Harness it and you unleash the core atomic power for exploding response.
Most prospects want to believe the claims you make in a landing page, yet the claims challenge their world-view and the status quo. You need proof, ideally proof that resonates emotionally, in order to get them to take action.
A landing page, or a salesletter, is like a one-to-one conversation between you and the prospect. You put various things on the landing page, designed to instill a particular reaction in the reader’s mind.
Imagine it as a phone conversation with a friend. They call you. They bring up a problem they’re struggling with. You say something surprising. You empathize with their pain. You talk about an approach you’ve used in the past or a product you can recommend to address it, as you know it will help them out. At the end, you help them buy the product or implement a solution in their lives. Empathize with your reader in the same way you’d empathize with that friend on the other end of the line.
Direct response progenitor Eugene Schwartz puts it well:
It is the facts that the prospect believes in and accepts, and the way that he passes that acceptance along from one fact to another, that determines the ad’s development, the arrangement of your claims and your images and your proofs, so that there is a step-by-step strengthening, not only of your prospect’s desire but of his conviction that the satisfaction of that desire will come true through your product.
You are building up the emotional weight of your argument as much as you can. You want the solution to become real in the prospect’s mind.
When you are making claims about the benefits your product has, your prospect is likely to not believe a claim that you make. It’s that “yeah, right” knee-jerk response. On the phone, you might be able to tell based on voice tone. Some prospects might tell you outright that they don’t believe you.
Proof counters that pushback. It’s your job, as a product creator or founder, to provide strong counter-arguments to this type of objection. In other words, your copy explicitly addresses the prospect’s objections. Show exactly how your solution can solve his problem. Or hers.
Well, the best type of proof is a poignant detail that knocks out a line of questioning or thinking. That’s why direct response copy that sells is clear.
If you want to know what types of proof you can use, I’ve got your back. In its next update, Launch Tomorrow will include at least 38 different types of proof you can include on your landing page.
You can get a copy over here.
To be crystal clear, most of the 38 different types of proof don’t require you to even even have a customer, much less a success story.
Even on a landing page MVP, it all comes down to knowing how to present your product.