Why testing your idea is always a good idea

I’ve seen both small and big companies invest thousands of pounds, sometimes millions, on an idea with little or no customer validation.

It’s refreshing when you come into contact with a Product Owner with an almost unshakeable belief in their product but we’ve recognised that when someone lives and breathes their idea, it can lead to blind spots, so we work closely with them to recognise their assumptions before leaping straight into product development.

In recent months clients have come to us saying “We want to be more lean and more agile” – proposition testing is just one of the tools we can use to help them learn and work according to the lean principles of testing, validating and then iterating.

What is proposition testing?

There are numerous ways to test your proposition, in this post I’m just going to be talking about using landing pages but it’s worth reading some of these case studies to see some interesting and creative ways to approach testing your ideas with minimal effort.

We designed and developed a basic one page website describing the product in terms the problem it solves for users. We then added a call-to-action to the page – this may change depending on the project i.e. either “Sign up” or “Download now”.

In this particular test, we were interested in seeing how many people came to the landing page and then went on to click the “Sign up for free” button. This was enough to indicate that people were interested and engaged enough to find out more.

On the Sign Up form we made it clear that the app isn’t currently available but encouraged people to sign up to be notified as soon as it’s made available.

How to run a test

We then ran a Google adwords campaign and a Facebook advert campaign to promote the product with a link with campaign tracking to the landing page.

These ads ran for 24 hours, we then analysed the results within Google Analytics. It’s really exciting to see how quickly you can get back qualitative data.

It’s really important to have analytics and goals set-up before undertaking any advertising so that you can get the data you need to inform your next steps. We used basic Google Analytics and then set two goals, one for people attempting to sign-up, so anyone going to /sign-up.html and then another goal for those providing their email address.

Don’t forget to also include Google campaign tracking on your links so you can easily differentiate which advertising medium is working best.

What success looks like

Run the campaign expecting to fail and be prepared to adapt your messaging or product concept until you hit upon a value proposition that engages enough people.

You should be looking for a strong signal that there’s a demand for your product – i.e. will you get a good return on investment based on your cost of acquisition via this channel?

If you don’t know what that is (i.e, the business model isn’t developed far enough yet) then just take a guess. Is the cost per sign-up significantly less than what you imagine the lifetime value to be?

It’s worth being aware that for low numbers of visitors (< 1,000) there will be a high degree of error on any conversion rates that you get in the analytics. For example, if you get a 20% conversion with only 250 visitors, that is accurate only to +- 5%. But if you’re worrying about small percentage movements in either direction, you probably don’t have a big enough signal to validate the proposition.

If you have met your goal, well done but don’t stop there. Just because your idea has been validated, it doesn’t mean you’re going to sell a billion products!

Now use the email addresses you’ve gathered and contact the people that have registered interest, send a personal email to the user and try and develop a conversation. This is your project, take is seriously, you may even want to set-up a skype call after a few emails. Then use both your qualitative and quantitative data to inform your next steps.

In both cases there’s no substitute better than talking to your users, ask them about their problems, then find a solution but remember that the problem needs to be bad enough that these users would be willing to pay you to solve it!

Proposition testing is fun, fast, rewarding and did we mention relatively cheap way of testing your idea.

We’re sold. Now it’s over to you…

Good luck.

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