Assessing Concepts and Developing High-Performing Landing Pages

by Mohammed Aaser
This semester I worked on developing and launching Noor Kids, which is a magazine for Muslim Children.  The goal is to build a brand around our characters and launch additional business lines in the future.  In order to assess the demand for the product, I created Facebook ads.  Based on the performance of these ads, I decided to launch the business, and created an 11-page sample version for prospective customers.  In addition, I am currently working on driving sales through landing page optimization.  While I learned a tremendous amount through this experience, I would like two share two key insights – 1) How to assess a business concept through Facebook Ads, and 2) How to optimize landing pages.
1) How to assess a business concept through Facebook Ads
Facebook can be a great way to test a business concept before launching.  You can place an ad on Facebook targeting a very specific group of people, and can see what proportion sign up for a free trial, or submit their contact information to receive launch updates.   While people may sign up for a service, this may not necessarily mean they will pay for it; however it can still give you an idea about demand.  The objective of my test was to see if we could get individuals to submit their information at less than $1 an email.   Here are the key things that I learned: 
·       Targeting:  You need to have a clear idea of who your customer will be.  Even if your business is very broad, in order to get good conversions, you should target very specific groups and use specific ad copy and images. Overly generic targeting will lead to low clickthroughs, high CPC, and high conversion costs.  What’s more, if you don’t know who your customer is, then it might not make sense to use Facebook Ads. 

·       Image:  Use a picture that resonates with your audience.  For example supplement ads, Groupon/Livingsocial ads, and gaming ads seem to have high conversions.  All of these companies use images that stand out.  You will see some things in common with many of these ads.  Most use “attractive” individuals or show unfamiliar pictures.
·       Copy:  In addition, the copy should be short and targeted.  Usually one sentence is sufficient.  Adding the term “FREE” in the copy could increase clickthroughs, but may not increase conversions since customers may not be willing to pay.  Recently a company called “Flat-Club” targeted me on Facebook.  The business enables MBA students and professionals to rent out their apartments on a short-term basis.  It had the term “McKinsey” and “MBA” in the copy, so I clicked on it and signed up.

·       Landing page:  The advertisement should go to a Facebook fan page.  I’ve found that Facebook gives preference to fan page advertisements, often reducing your CPC.  What’s more, on the fan page, you should setup a custom landing page and a Google Docs form to capture customer information.  More information on setting up a tab can be found here.

·       Persuasion theory - You should use elements of scarcity, reciprocity, and social proof to increase conversions.  For example you can give a free whitepaper if someone signs up.  In addition, you can limit the number of whitepapers you plan to give out or limit the time period for signing up (make sure you communicate this).  Finally, try to get hundreds of “Likes” so your concept looks supported by most individuals.   More on persuasion theory here.

·       Metrics:  Keep track of your clicks and what proportion converts.  You can continue to modify your ads and landing page to see what leads to higher conversions.

·       Investment:  You will likely have to spend between $100 and $200 to test your concept. 
So how did we perform?  Our click through rate was 0.5%, or about 5x higher than most ads.  Roughly 33% of people landing on our page submitted their information, which is almost double industry standard.  We designed our landing page so visitors entered their email address on the first page, and were sent to a longer survey.  Our landing page was very simple, and we highlighted the submission form in yellow.  Our total acquisition cost per fan was ~$0.20 and per survey was ~$0.23.  This figure is approximately 1/4 of best in class email acquisition costs (e.g., Groupon and Living Social are said to pay between $1-$2 per email acquisition).  Further, we were able to secure a very low CPC since our ads were performing exceptionally well ($0.07 per click vs. average of $0.50 per click). If you would like examples of our ads, please contact me directly @mohammedaaser.  Below is an example of our landing page:

Step 1.  Fill out email on Facebook

Step 2 – Takes user to a survey page.  The survey had about one dozen questions.

2) Optimizing landing pages
Once we tested the concept, we decided to invest in developing a sample.  We developed a landing page where we showed off the sample and sell subscriptions.  We held our ads constant, and just modified the design and flow of our landing pages.  We learned a few things:
·       Keep the page very simple – Usually, there are too many things going on in Facebook at one time and visitors can get confused.  We wanted individuals to “like” the page, share with friends, and subscribe to the magazine.  We found this very difficult since there is limited space in Facebook.  For this reason, it might make sense to break the purchase process in multiple steps.  

·       Develop an overall checkout process– we started with a very simple process, but decided instead to use a multi-step process.  Our initial subscription process was just a landing page with a purchase button.  Our new process features an email sign-up to get a free sample.  Visitors are shown the sample with a special offer.  When they add the item to their cart, they are asked for their email address.  We think this process will enable us to triage our customers – those that are interested, and those that are ready to make a purchase but just need an incentive to do so.  

·       Build an emotional connection – We created a 90 second video that explained our concept.  It was very simple.  My younger brother was in front of his webcam explaining our goal and how we needed help in launching the magazine.  When I talked with many of my friends, most said they didn’t think the video was that great, so I decided to drop it.  To my surprise, I found that the landing page with the video converted much better than those that did not have it (almost 3x better).  We believe the personal connection and a quick explanation of the product made all the difference.

·       Improve shopping cart abandonment rates –  About 4% of individuals added the product to their shopping cart, however, only 1% actually purchased.  Based on a discussion with our advisor (Jeff Steves at CSN Stores), typical add to cart rates are about 2%, so we are performing well on this metric.  However, usually 40% of individuals who add to cart checkout, so we are not performing as well here.  To combat this, we added an additional step in the checkout process where we collect customer information.  If the cart is abandoned, we can connect with the customer and offer them incentives to purchase.

·       Hack metrics together – While there are a ton of good solutions out there, very few analytics tools are real-time and cheap. I used Google and Facebook analytics, but since they report after 24 hours, I just used a bunch of bitly links and tracked clicks on each page.  I made an excel spreadsheet and manually updated the analytics every few hours to see how things were performing. While there are many expensive analytics tools out there, I think manually hacking for the first few weeks is a good idea, and then relying on Google Analytics over the long term should be fine. In addition, I used ClickTale to do recordings of visitors.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have much success with ClickTale (only had two recording out of 2,000 page views), and it’s likely that I didn’t set it up properly.   

I am hoping these insights will be helpful for many of you.  If you have any questions, please tweet me at @mohammedaaser.


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