Way back in the early days of computing, engineers ran smoke “tests” to make sure hardware was ready for further testing.
It was a simple procedure. They just plugged in a single CPU board and turned on the power. If smoke came out of the machine, they knew it wasn’t ready!
Today, you can run similar tests on entire business models by using landing pages.
Instead of wasting your time and money building a product before you know if people want it, just “plug in” a single “board.” If smoke comes out—if no one gets excited and wants to hear more—you know you’re going down the wrong road. If people get excited about your idea, then it’s full speed ahead.
Landing pages are an incredibly powerful tool for validating new business ideas. All you need is a single webpage that:
- Lets potential customers learn a bit about who you are and what you’re doing.
- Asks for some contact information or another signal of interest
- You can promote the hell out of to assess your results
If you get emails, great! The machine works. It’s time to put those emails to work closing deals and exciting your potential customer base.
If you didn’t, great! You just saved yourself a bunch of time.
But it’s easy to talk about building landing pages, getting thousands of emails, then having a billion-dollar business without ever breaking a sweat or even building a product.
It’s too easy. That’s why we’re actually going to do it. OK, well, maybe it won’t be a billion-dollar business. But as part of our new experimental series for AdEspresso, we are going to invent and smoke test a new service using a landing page and Facebook ads.
We’re going to test our theory that we can quickly and easily build a successful landing page for a product that doesn’t exist. We’ll take a look at the different tools available for launching, optimizing, and promoting our landing page, so that when you build yours, your business will do even better than our fake product.
Our product is called Inboxly, and it’s an AI-assisted email consulting service. Have too many emails to deal with? Have to write a really tough email to your boss? Inboxly can help! It’s only in a pre-alpha stage right now, but we’re taking sign-ups for our email list at inboxly.co. 😉
Is the idea crazy? Totally. Do we wish we had Inboxly? Absolutely.
To measure how many people share our enthusiasm for the idea, and to lay the foundation for our fictional business, we’re using a landing page, a lead magnet, and Facebook Ads to “smoke test” Inboxly.
How A Landing Page Works
This is what your average landing page template looks like, example courtesy of Unbounce:
Some landing pages are complex, some are simple, but all include a few key elements:
- The name of the business
- Some description of what the business/product does
- A method for getting contact info/payment
What sets a really great landing page apart, however, is design. Because you’re only showing users a single page, every creative decision that you make is amplified. That means you have to think about each little aspect of that page.
Designing A Landing Page
The clarity of the CTA, or call-to-action, the accessibility of the ad copy, and the proper use of color/images are all fundamental in building a landing page that converts well.
All elements of your design should be focused around simplicity. Your call-to-action and your product’s value need to be impossible for viewers to miss. You can do this in a number of ways, but some key things to keep in mind are:
- Use complimenting but contrasting colors to emphasize key areas on your page. For instance, if your background is blue, make your CTA orange to draw the readers eye.
- Make your language as easy to understand as possible. There can’t be any ambiguity about what your CTA is asking for, just like viewers need to understand your product’s value immediately.
- Keep your page layout minimal and to the point. Be selective of how many images and fields you include on your landing page. You don’t want to stretch viewers’ attention, you want to emphasize what matters.
By using these guidelines as a blueprint for building your landing page, you can minimize the time and energy you invest, while still guaranteeing a quality landing page.
Landing Page Generators
For our experiment, we decided to only use landing page generator tools to create our page, getting the page up more quickly with less investment on our end. These services are all pretty strong and all take require much less time than coding. If you want to code the page yourself, there are of course tons of options out there.
Here’s a look at the three services we tried in the order we used them:
Focused solely on customer acquisition, LaunchRock is a great low-cost tool for building landing pages. At just $5 per month, they include an intuitive page builder, as well as some basic built-in data tools to get your email list started.
- Specifically designed for pre-launch traffic.
- Incredibly easy interface for people without coding/design experience.
- Limited feature set. Can’t include lead magnets.
At $18 per month, Squarespace is an affordable and powerful solution for building and hosting entire websites, not just landing pages. While they succeed in their mission “To create a beautiful website,” they aren’t always the best option for landing pages, especially one-offs that aren’t part of a larger site.
- Designs are simple and elegant.
- Built in e-commerce support and mobile optimization.
- Templates are weaker than other software that is designed specifically for capturing leads/creating landing pages.
- Difficult to navigate and can be limiting to those who aren’t design-savvy.
Instapage is probably the only landing-page-focused service that can boast 1 million pages with an average conversion rate of 25%. After using their robust feature set and intuitive interface, we were willing to cough up the extra money to build Inboxly’s landing page with Instapage.
- Flexible and easy for users with different skill sets.
- Top of the line analytics and testing features.
- Price. Instapage is $28 per month for their most basic package (which we used) and $79 per month for their top-tier service.
At the end of the day, the power and ease of Instapage offset the additional costs for us. For an example of what you can build with Instapage, let’s take a look at Inboxly’s new landing page.
How We Built Our Amazing Landing Page
Using Instapage and the design insights we shared earlier, we were able to put this page together and get our landing page live in just a few hours:
Here are some of the primary points we tried to hit building our landing page.
- Inboxly’s CTA is easy to understand and impossible to miss.
- CTA is clear and to the point. Objective is to get folks to ‘sign up’
- Placement – one CTA at the top of the page, and one at the bottom.
- CTA box colors are contrasting but complimentary, so it stands out against the background image.
- Inboxly’s Lead Magnet actually gives customers value.
- The lead magnet is relevant to the CTA. Inboxly helps you with your email, so we offer an eBook about bad emails.
- Keeping the focus on email gives the landing page a consistent message.
- Inboxly’s landing page keeps things as simple as possible.
- The landing page doesn’t have too much text and only includes one image so things don’t look busy.
Now that our landing page is built, we’re going to get to work promoting it.
Just like in our building process, we’re going to use the tools that give us the most value with the lowest investment on our end:
That’s right. We’re going to make some Facebook ads!
Come back next week to see how we did.