Smokescreen Tests

12th October, 2022

A key stage in the product development journey is gaining an indication that people want what you’re about to create. We call this idea validation.

There are many stages of the product development journey in which you could determine that an idea is validated. It could come when talking with potential customers, when they start using your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or after the product has launched.

Product development is expensive. The aim is to validate your idea at the lowest cost, both monetary and time.

Let me introduce you to the smokescreen test.

A smokescreen test is a pre-launch landing page you’ll create for your product. You can build these at little cost, quickly and get them in front of your potential customers before you spend time building a product nobody wants.

What should a smokescreen test include?

  • Headline - A headline that clearly indicates what value your product will offer.
  • Tagline - A complimentary description of what your product will do and for who.
  • CTA - A way for people visiting to show their interest in your product. Usually this will be a prompt to enter their email.
  • Visual (optional) - A picture is worth a thousand words. Mock up a screen and capture the imagination of your customers.
  • Features (optional) - Expand on the headline and tagline by describing the features your product will offer. This could be a simple list or can include visuals.

Driving eyeballs

Driving traffic to your smokescreen test can be challenging and the volume can depend on your financial investment. Here are some ideas:

  • Share it on social media
  • Share it with colleagues and peers
  • Share it in online communities where your target audience hang out
  • Submit it to Betalist
  • Cold email people you think are your target audience
  • Create an advert with your favourite ad platform

What to measure?

Now you people visiting, you need to use it to determine whether there any interest in your offering.

You can do this by measuring:

  • Page views
  • CTA clicks
  • Signups

You can then create funnel diagram to illustrate how many people who visit, click the ‘Find out more’ button and how many of them actually leave an email.

What’s next?

You have a live smokescreen test, people are visiting and some are signalling their interest. Here’s what you can do next:

  • Determine if the right kind of people have signalled interest. Look at their email and do some research.
  • Determine if the volume of interest is what you expect. Do 1 in 50 people visit leave their email or do 1 in 1000? The former might show more promise than the latter.
  • Reach out to the list of people to gain more insights. Set up calls, send out a survey etc.

Final words

If the idea has shown little promise, you’ve saved yourself the time and monetary cost of building a full product.

Rinse and repeat the process until you find a product idea that people want.

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