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How to Test a Business Idea Without Spending a Fortune Use landing pages to validate demand and build a pre-marketing list.

By Dustin Mathews

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Aspiring entrepreneurs are a dime a dozen.

Almost everyone has dreamed of following through on a business idea they've been nursing for months or years, especially when Monday mornings roll around. But then reality hits, and they're reminded of all those grim statistics about how most new small businesses don't last long.

Why do they fail?

It's not because they didn't have thousands of dollars in the bank to invest. Nor is it because they weren't buddy-buddy with some hotshot VC with lots of connections.

It's because they didn't test their business ideas before launching -- just because you can start a business in almost anything doesn't make it logical to do so.

It's true that you don't need a "good idea" like Uber or Airbnb in order to be successful. Heck, there is a company selling custom messages on a potato -- and profiting!

But does that mean you can launch whatever pops up into your head? Of course not. You have to make sure there is market demand for the problem your business solves. Without market testing, even an elaborate business plan won't save you.

This is where landing pages come in.

Related: How to Build a Website, Go Viral and Develop Your Digital Brand

Landing pages and how they validate business ideas

A landing page is a standalone web page built for the sole purpose of marketing.

The logic behind these pages is simple. You create a single page, advertise your value proposition, and wait to see if your idea gains traction. Here's what's great about landing pages:

  1. You don't need to have a product ready to build such pages.
  2. Anyone can create them.

However, if you are building a landing page without an operational business, make it a point to inform your visitors of an impending launch. Also, provide them with an opportunity to share their contact information.

Beside being good manners, collecting email data helps validate your idea. Think about what email collection really means. A growing email database means your target market approves of your idea whereas a page that receives little to no sign-ups indicates lack of demand.

Keep one thing in mind, though: Just because people are handing you their email doesn't mean they'll buy when you launch. This is why you must optimize for learnings and not email signups.

To do this, make sharing of contact information a multi-step process and make it a point to follow up with these people. Now that you're up to speed, here's how to test a business idea with landing pages in three steps:

Related: 4 Ways to Build a Profitable Website From Your Own Experience

1. Create your landing page (the right way).

Obviously, you need a landing page. Not a computer whiz or coding guru? No sweat! Well-designed web pages are no longer limited to the realm of programmers. If you can use Office Suite, you can navigate software solutions like ClickFunnels and UnBounce.

These tools let you design landing pages using a drag-and-drop interface. If design is a challenge for you, use pre-made templates. There are hundreds available online, either for free or a small fee.

Don't get too caught up in the design part. Focus on advertising your minimum viable product. This is something you can provide right away if needed. Write copy that communicates how your product will benefit your target audience. Then have them perform some actions in order to share their email. For example, Buffer hid their email capture behind a pricing page.

How was this beneficial?

First, it gave visitors a vibe that the product was real. It also meant that if someone was genuinely interested in it, they would click on the pricing plans, which then led them to the sign-up form.

Because people had to be proactive, sign-ups received by Buffer were more valuable.

Now that your page is live, the next step is to attract visitors to your page.

Related: Need a Business Idea? Here are 55

2. Direct traffic to your landing page with Google Ads.

The maths isn't terribly difficult here. If you can't attract traffic, you can't validate your idea.

There are a couple ways to go about this. You can play the search engine optimization game, but that's a time-consuming process. Waiting around for months for traffic to trickle through is hardly ideal.

The other option is to run paid Google Ads campaigns.

You may ask why Google instead of social media ads on platforms like Facebook

Well, for one, Google processes 3.5 billion searches per day, making it extremely likely that you'll find a potential pool of people interested in your business.

More importantly, Google lets you bid on keywords that relate to your offer. If someone searches for a keyword that is either an exact match or relates to what you've bid for, that person will see your ad.

The trick then is to target keywords that have high commercial intent (the intent to buy) to draw people in.

For example, if you're selling accounting software, run an ad targeting "accounting software to reduce inventory" (if your business solves this problem) instead of "best accounting software."

Notice how the first search carries more intent than the latter, which is merely informational.

How do you pick the right keywords for ads without burning a hole through your credit card? Focus on the benefits your business provides to customers. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and target phrases they might be looking up.

Once your ad is live, take a break, sit back and wait for the traffic to roll in.

3. Follow up, tweak and repeat.

With visitors pouring in, it's the moment of truth.

How is your target demographic reacting your page? Are they signing up?

If target customers are biting, it's likely your business solves a problem. Follow up with these people to learn whether they'll really use your product.

If there is no doubt of their commitment, your email list can double-down as a pre-marketing list of customers who will buy from you when you launch.

But if there isn't a complete buy-in, you will have to tweak your offer and repeat this process until you get something that sticks.

Time to start validating your own ideas!

Validating a business idea doesn't have to be a complicated or money-draining task.

Landing pages provide an easy and inexpensive way to test the waters before you commit to an idea. There's no reason not to launch your next business without them!

Dustin Mathews

Familyman. Entrepreneur. Speaker. Author. Tennis enthusiast.

DUSTIN MATHEWS is the co-author of No B.S. Guide to Powerful Presentations with Dan S. Kennedy, a trusted marketing advisor and investor.

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