Lean Startup: Early Testing Using Ads and Splash Pages

First, a bit of background. While in school I had this idea about a tool to help with networking, something to replace the excel spreadsheet I was using to track contacts. Recently the urge to scratch that itch became too great and so after years without writing any code I picked up a book and began to learn ruby. I spent a few weeks over Christmas coming up with a bare bones prototype, and I was feeling pretty good.

Jason Freedman, the CEO of FlightCaster, and I were having coffee and I told him what I was up to. His immediate reaction was “have you read 4 Steps to the Ephiphany?” Since I hadn’t read it at the time Jason went on to quickly explain that I should try to iterate my idea as much as possible, and that I could begin without any code. His suggestion was to just run some adwords and see what the response was.

Since one can’t run adwords without at least a landing page, I went and grabbed an open source website template and put it up on a server I had. I added in the Google Analytics code so I could track site traffic, and I was ready to try some Ads. My goal was to cheaply drive some traffic to the splash page to test my value prop.

The first ads I created didn’t do too well.

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Though my conversion cost was low, around $.050 the adwords I could afford didn’t get much traffic.


Keyword Status  Max. CPC Clicks Impr. CTR  Avg. CPC  Cost

Some were really quite good with 5% CTR but only a handful of impressions. With only 6 clicks over a few days this was going to take too long to get any usable data.

After doing some Google research I found a great post by Ash Maurya talking about landing pages and advertising. I decided to give FaceBook a try. I needed a graphic to use with my ad so I went to istockphoto and spent a couple dollars on a small pic that seemed to fit. I tried several ads, this was the best CTR, though the bounce rate on all of them was 100%.

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Campaign Status Budget/day Clicks Impressions CTR (%) Avg. CPC Spent
25 165,989 0.015% $0.54 $13.45

Now I was getting 25 clicks in a couple of days, and this was limited by my budget and not the impressions for the adword. But the 100% bounce rate meant that either my value prop wasn’t there, or that FB ads weren’t the right way to reach my audience.

Steve Blank says that you’re trying to sell the product you’ve got, rather than modify the product to fit the sale, so I decided to try another group. I went over to LinkedIn since this was pretty much the demographic I was after, people who are interested in networking with an eye towards business.

Here I started to see something a bit more promising.

Date Impr. Shown Ad Clicks Profile Clicks Total Clicks Ad CTR Total CTR Avg. CPC Avg. CPM Total Spent
2010-02-16 16430 9 0 9 0.05% 0.05% $2.00 $1.10 $18.00

So the CTR still isn’t great, but now I wasn’t getting 100% bounce rate, in fact it was 55%.

Now my page was really very simple. It really only consisted of a splash page and a learn more page. I recently added a beta sign-up page, using Google docs, and even got a couple of people to fill it out. But doing that begs a few questions. What should I ask them, and how should that call to action be done. For instance that should probably be moved to the splash page.

So what has this little experiment taught me? Glad you asked:

  • Adwords is difficult for a product that isn’t in an established category since people don’t know to search for the product. (I’d have to do more thinking about carving a niche.)
  • Finding a place where my demographic hangs out worked well. (Not positive this is generalizable, but it might be)

The next steps were pretty clear. I had to figure out a call to action splash page and use it to find “beta users” willing to fill out a short survey. Some A/B testing might be in order as well since users weren’t immediately bouncing.

Really was just a cheap way for me to see what tools might work going forward.

1 comment

  1. I believe when you first browse through Google Adwords training center, they say a couple of times that one of the most important things is to know how to brand your product.
    You should know who’s looking for it, how old they are, what is there occupation and of course what category it fits!

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