Landing pages don’t validate product ideas

or, why distribution doesn’t matter anymore.

There’s a popular idea buzzing around the world of SaaS entrepreneurs: kickstart your product by building a landing page first and seeing if people sign up for the launch.

I’ll be honest with you, I fell for this at first. It seemed like a no-brainer: nail your marketing before you pour hours into building a product. Build the distribution first, and then worry about your product.

This advice is kind of old-school. Distribution used to matter a lot more because people + products were much less connected. This advice comes from decades when nothing was a tap away. Even in the early 2000s, digital products were hard to market. Now, we’re all addicted to our phones. It’s a different world.

I also think the landing page test doesn’t work because products aren’t just sold by rattling off a list of benefits or screenshots. They’re sold by the experiences they provide – by giving people a particular ‘feeling.’

This ‘feeling’ is tricky to pin down, and even if you could put it into words, splashing it on a landing page won’t confirm if your product’s a winner or even if people want it. They have to actually experience the product, even if its just for a few minutes.

Think about this: most products fly off the shelves for reasons very different from why people end up loving them. Picture stumbling onto a landing page for the iPhone a few years before it came out. Most people would be scratching their heads thinking about why they would need it.

So, would it be fair then for someone with an innovative idea to toss their idea in the trash because people don’t get the benefits through a landing page?

Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic bullet to validate your idea. But here’s what I do think: keep your MVP lean, and get people to experience it, even if its just partially. Listen to what those experiences are like. In fact, sometimes you can gain a lot from even an unviable product or a half product. Just let people poke around, you’ll see if there’s some excitement there.

Here’s another thing: you also start learning how to pick up on valuable insights and how to assess the potential of a product idea from early conversations, even before you’ve built anything. It’s all about trusting your gut, learning from your experiences, and constantly adapting.

Conversations and qualitative research in general is really undervalued. Many consider it unscientific, but talking to people and understanding the reality of how they might use your product will put you ahead of 99% of entrepreneurs.

I (still) firmly believe that early marketing experimentation is beneficial, and overall, I still appreciate the landing page concept. This is largely because it encourages tech-centric builders to foster connections with people. If you’re already savvy in marketing, it might be wiser to shift your focus more towards the product and technology components.

So, while a landing page may not effectively validate your product, dabbling in marketing exercises can still be valuable. Staying innovative in your marketing and enhancing your communication skills are crucial aspects of the entire product development process.

To wrap it all up, the takeaway here is not to disregard the landing page or marketing strategy outright. Instead, it’s about understanding the value and limitations of these tools in the larger scope of your product journey. Both the product itself and the experiences it offers should play central roles in your validation process. If you lean too heavily on marketing without a solid product backing it up, you might find yourself with plenty of interest but no real engagement or satisfaction.

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