Not sure what to do next to validate my idea

I’ve finally decided to do things properly and validate an idea before I start writing code. :slight_smile:

This is more of a general question about validation, so I won’t include the specifics of my idea here.

To get an initial grasp of whether I could generate traffic, I ran a Facebook ad.
This was very quickly put together, using a stock image, with a call to action linking to a landing page.
The landing page has no screenshots (I don’t even have mockups yet) and a ‘get early access’ button that allows you to join the mailing list. I just wanted to know whether people have the problem I’m trying to solve.

The Facebook campaign had about a 1.5% click rate, but I didn’t spend a lot so only generated about 100 clicks, and no signups to the list. Google Analytics show that people are sticking around long enough to read the content, but nobody is converting. That’s not too surprising though, since the page is fairly rough around the edges and the sample size is fairly low I think.

I’m not sure where to go next…

  • Do I consider it a failure? If this was a big enough pain-point, people would be very keen to join the list of something claiming to solve it, right?

  • Maybe I just didn’t have enough data. I didn’t spend a lot initially as I didn’t really know what I was doing. Maybe that’s just not enough traffic to prove it either way.

  • Do I spend some time mocking up screenshots and spend more money on ads that point to a landing page that is more likely to convert?

  • Give up on that and approach my target customers directly? I was hoping for a bigger sample by running an ad, and would then interview any people that signed up to my list.

Ultimately, I suspect my best channel would be content marketing. This is quite a time investment to build up an audience - which I’m very happy to do - but I wanted to have some indication of whether it’s worthwhile first.

One thing I do know… it’s not time to start writing code yet. I’m learning :grin:

Thank you in advance for any advice!

Not enough info to answer your questions.

Were your FB ads extremely targeted?
(I.e., “do you have pain XYZ” vs "do you want to make $1M ?"
If they were extremely targeted (and you got 100 clicks) then that might indicate that there is a perceived need/interest in a solution but you have no idea what it would cost to get a buyer and you haven’t told us how much it’s selling for.

You need more data.
I’d suggest a decent landing page (can be fairly simple, but clearly state what problem you solve). Offer a 60 day money back guarantee (no questions asked) and a Buy button with a price. Buy button leads to a page explaining that the product is not ready yet, but that they can get a 50% discount if they sign up to your “announcement list”. You might even ask them some questions about their need (some of those questions might be designed to weed out non-customers).

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Hey @Dave :wave:

Can I ask you few questions first?

  1. How well do you know this audience? Is it an industry / group you’ve worked with before?
  2. How big is the audience? Is it super-duper-niche? Or is a bigger sector (like “freelancers”?)
  3. Was this a pain-point you observed in your target market? Where did you observe it?
  4. Have you done any other research up to this point? (ie. customer interviews)

I’d like to talk about the Facebook ads you’re running before we go into “what to do next”. A few things for discussion on that:

What did you select for the ad placement? Did you target Facebook only, or did you include Instagram and … “Audience Networks”? By default, Facebook will put you in all three.

In my experience, I have seen a substantial amount of what can only be explained as click fraud traffic coming from the Facebook Audience Network. Now, my targeting my be drastically different from yours, etc., but I would recommend you try targeting only Facebook users if you haven’t already, just until you get some results. Then experiment with the Audience Network to see if you can make it work for you.

Without information about the idea you’re shopping, it’s hard to really narrow in and help. But one of the key things you need to nail is getting your targeting right. I don’t know what targeting you set up, but if you left the age group 18-65+ and selected something like interested in Digital Marketing and let it run, I can almost guarantee you’re hitting it way too broad.

Getting the targeting right can take time, and yes, money. It can be pretty frustrating. One of the tricks I use to get targeting down that I’ve seen work pretty well is to find people that are interested in websites that are related to what I’m offering. So if I were to go after the startup crowd, I’d target people with an interest in AngelList, 500 Startups, HackerNews, etc. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good starting point. See what happens, then tweak some more.

Look at the “Demographics” tab that Facebook shows you after your ads have run. Which demographics got the most impressions and had the most clicks? Do you think that those types of people are really who would be interested in what you have to offer? I ran one ad set with the age range 18-65+ just to get a feel for which age group would be best to target. Unfortunately, I got a bunch of poor quality traffic. Looking at those stats, it was something like 18-22 year olds where clicking things the most - by a lot. Although I really wish there were that many 18-22 years that had successful online businesses that would be a good fit for my product, I had to ask myself: Do you really think that age group 1) has the business needed to use my product and 2) is willing to drop some coin? The answer was no. I filtered that age group out, and result quality went up.

Visits / Analytics
You mentioned 100 visitors that behaved as if they were interested. First off, conversion rates for paid acquisition off of ads can be lower than 1% depending on what you’re offering. If you’re killing it, it will be much higher. But 100 isn’t enough data at this point.

Out of curiosity, what metrics are you using to determine interest? I would not advise that time on page is a great metric out of Google Analytics for a number of reasons, but I’d like to know what you’re seeing.

Most of your Facebook ad traffic is going to come from mobile devices. Have you made 100% sure that you’re landing page sings on a mobile device? I don’t know about you, but the pain of typing on a mobile device prevents me from doing things on one that I wouldn’t hesitate to on a desktop. Make sure if you’re asking them to go through pain in typing on those wonky keyboards that what you’re offering is worth it. Really put yourself in their shoes.

Also, play with the devices you target. Believe it or not, but iPhone users tend to convert much better than Android users in my ads. Targeting desktop can be more expensive, but they are usually much more engaged as well.

Relevance and Cost
Did you select the Pay Per Click option? If not, you should. Don’t let Facebook charge you for impressions. That’s wasting money. If you chose Pay Per Click, you should also be able to override the automatic bid option. Try something stupid on a manual bid like $0.23 a click. See what happens. Tweak it as needed if you don’t get enough traffic. Put it back to automatic if need be.

The other component is - what were your relevance scores? Facebook will give you cheaper clicks (a lot cheaper in fact) if you have high relevance.

Regardless, you should be able to get a fair amount of clicks every day for a budget as low as even $5-10 a day. Specify how much you want to spend daily and let Facebook chew on that. $5 is nothing in the long run. Just skip lunch if you need to.

How long did you run these ads for, and were they over a weekend?

This is pretty important. Run your ads for at least a week, ideally through the week. Weekends are typically pretty bad for conversions, IMHO.

Let us know what you’ve got, maybe post some of the ads you’re running. I’m pretty sure at least one of us here can give you some input that will help to move the needle for you.


Thank you so much for the replies @Clay_Nichols, @mijustin and @cliffordoravec , the generosity of this community is unbelievable!

I really appreciate you taking the time to write such detailed responses.

I was trying to make my question more general to help others too, but actually it was to vague for anybody to help :slight_smile:

To be more specific:
My target is bloggers/content marketers.
I’ve just started blogging myself in the last few months. I’ve seen reasonable improvements in bounce-rate and social shares by taking adding subtle ‘You might also be interested in …’ toast-notifications that link to other related content on the posts that generate the most traffic.
My idea was for a similar service that shows your readers targeted ‘related posts’ links at the right time. This would either be based on historical data (e.g. people who read post X, then post Y are more likely to sign up for the newsletter), or the user could define their own funnels to guide the user towards converting.
Essentially, an intelligent ‘related posts’ widget.

This seems to be working for me, but I have no idea whether anybody else would even be interested (hence this experiment to try and validate it).

This is me ‘scratching my own itch’. Although I am part of the audience, and have a very small network of similar people. I’ve only just started blogging myself, so I’m slowly building that audience, but I’m definitely not there yet (hence the FB ads - I have a very small mailing list).

I haven’t done any customer interviews yet. My intention was to build a small list from the ads, then approach them directly for interviews. I’m not sure if I’m going about this correctly though.

I know I need to spend time building an audience, but I was hoping to validate this idea in the meantime. Whatever the result of this experiment, I am concentrating on audience building regardless - it’s definitely something I need to work on.

That is great advice, thank you! I have made some changes to my landing page as you mentioned. I’m using a simple template and the site is fairly vague, so I think I still have work to do to make it convert better. If I don’t get the information I need from this experiment, I will take some more time and try to set up something more likely to convert.

@Clay_Nichols and @cliffordoravec
From reading your posts, my ads weren’t targeted enough. Since reading everybody’s advice I’ve been made some changes to the demographic and my call to action. I’m already seeing improved click-rates (now 3-4% @ £0.15 per-click). Time will tell whether this is better quality traffic or not.

I did see some poor results over the weekend as you said, and a high number of clicks from the Audience Network. I’m now only targeting FB on Desktop now.

If nothing else, this is teaching me just how much I don’t know! :slight_smile:

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Hey @Dave! Just curious how things are going for you now?

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I think your approach is spot on. I do not see why you need to build an audience before getting some level of validation.

At the very least, you need to talk to enough of “your market” to get an idea of a consistent need and whether you can solve it. I think TALKING to them about their problem would be a good start.

BTW, I assume that this is for people with over 50 or so blog artiicles, right?
I started blogging about a year ago (in a very specialized niche). I’ve only got about 15 or so articles. For me, I’d rather hand-pick the related articles, rather than hoping an algorithm can do it for me. Also I’d figure you need a fair amount of traffic for that.

Are you planning to prototype this manually? Where you go in and manually add the links (or your software figures out which pages should be linked to “as related”)?
(The idea being: how quickly can you vet this idea?
If you can get then on 10 high traffic blogs and then A/B test it and prove to THEIR satisfaction that it’s improved things ANd they are willing to pay the cost, then you may have a winner)

As programmers we tend to want to PROGRAM 99% of the time. But if we put 30% of our effort into choosing WHAT to program we can program 70% of the time but actually make a living at it :slight_smile: