If You Build It They Will NOT Come

So you’ve got a great idea, and you’ve vetted it using the 4 steps I previously wrote about.  Now what?

Build an Audience, Not a Product

Many entrepreneurs (myself included) will jump immediately to building a prototype or alpha version of a product.  They’re starting at the end of the conversion funnel – focusing on the user experience and ignoring the critical initial steps in a user acquisition funnel: marketing.  What’s going to prompt people to use the product? How will they hear about it? How will you convince them to try it? (not sure? see How Jobs To Be Done Can Help You Get More Users To Switch To Your Product Or Service).


Please don’t build something before you know how people will discover it.  Please.

This isn’t just my advice: read about Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover’s take on this.

Instead, I’d recommend testing the marketing campaigns to validate user acquisition costs that could to make sure your business model is realistic.  Many startups fail because they run out of cash, and marketing expenses, especially when you first launch, can really drain your bank account.

Testing Marketing Messages

For a few hundred dollars, you can start running ads in a few days to test your user acquisition costs.  Try running ads on LinkedIn (if you’re targeting a professional or enterprise customer), Facebook, or Instagram (not sure how to run an ad? Mailchimp, one of my favorite digital marketing platforms, can help).  I’m not a fan of Twitter because setting up and analyzing results from ads is painful, but they do offer one unique feature: the ability to target people based on what apps they have installed on their phone.

Build a Landing Page to Collect Emails

So where do you send all the people who click on an ad? Build a simple landing page that explains your product using words and pictures.  Ask people to give you their email address to get updates, and then send periodic (monthly or bi-monthly would be fine) updates on how things are going.  Or write content they’d be interested in and include that in a periodic newsletter.  Track opens and clicks.  These are your early adopters and they’re likely to volunteer to beta test your product if you do build it.

If they’re not willing to give you their email address, why should you think they’d sign up for your product?

Here’s an example landing page I’m building for an idea I’m working on:

alpha landing page design

I built it in an hour on Lander and before I even launched it, I ran some usability tests to see how people would react to it.  That way, I can tweak the page before running ads so that I can convince more people to provide their email and therefore lower my user acquisition costs.

Want to talk about building an audience for your idea?

Email me: startupproductcoach@gmail.com

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