A short guide.

Landing Pages for Early-Stage Startups

I’ve built landing pages or wrote copy for ~100 startups. Inspired by @andreasklinger, I put together a TLDR on how founders with no marketing background can put together a good enough landing page. 

What is a landing Page?

  • Your landing pages are often the first impression people get of your company. The better your first impression, the better chance you have to get a customer.
  • A landing page has one goal – to get a visitor to do something.
  • In the early-stages (think pre-idea to Seed) the goal of that landing page is to (a) get customers on the phone or using your product, and (b) help you learn. 
  • In typical marketing lingo, your homepage and your landing pages are, usually, not the same thing.
  • ~Homepage – an introduction to the company. Converting traffic should be taken into account but it is not the main focus. Example.
  • ~Landing page – a page for specific campaigns. The main focus is converting traffic to something.Example
  • When working with founders, I just use the term landing pages. 
  • A landing page should answer the following questions: 
  • ~What can I do for you?
  • ~Why I can do it?
  • ~Is this for you?
  • ~How can I do it?
  • ~What are the next steps?
  • A landing page should have everything the visitor might need to make a decision right there, in that URL.
  • When you’re still trying to figure out exactly who your customer is, that is not easy.
  • This makes landing pages for startups a mix of art and science. There is no perfect way.
  • A few good examples:
  • ~Descript
  • ~Ahrefs
  • ~Maze
  • ~MorningBrew

Building a landing page – step-by-step.

Google Sheets template (create a new copy)

1/ Define ICP, RCP & Persona

  • Define your Ideal Customer Profile
  • ~Who is your ideal customer? 
  • ~Ideal = the perfect, highest paying, most engaged customer who solves a big problem by using your product.
  • ~It’s good to know who they are but your chances of getting your ideal customer are very low if you’re a startup.
  • Define your Realistic Customer Profile
  • ~That’s why you will further define your realistic customer profile, or RCP. 
  • ~This is who can you get as a customer right now? Yes, with a rough alpha product, no Enterprise-grade security, and no sales team. 
  • ~Take the time to define this RCP, it will be your bread and butter.
  • Define your Customer Persona
  • ~If you are selling to consumers, then this is just your RCP.
  • ~If you are selling to businesses, who is the persona you are selling to? This is usually not a business, but a persona (i.e. a Marketing Manager who struggles with something in their day to day.)
  • Imagine you sell a tool that helps ecommerce companies ship stuff – FastShip. FastShip’s ideal customer is a huge DTC company but most likely your first 100 customers will be small ecommerce businesses doing less than $5m/year:

Great artists steal. I didn’t invent the wheel here, I just re-use a ton of material I’ve absorbed over the years. When relevant, I’m going to quote the source. In this case, h/t Ryan Kulp for the ICP/RCP framework.

2/ Define your value props

  • The most compelling copy on the planet does you no good if you're not conveying your value propositions ("Value Props" for short).
  • A Value Prop is a simple statement that summarizes why a customer would choose your product or service.
  • Without clearly identified value props, you risk attracting the wrong customers and delivering the wrong message. This means you have to position your product around what the customer values and needs.
  • Going back to the FastShip example – what is FastShip and what does it do for your Customer Persona?
  • But having clear value props is not easy. You have to dig deep. If you can’t figure out a really strong value prop for your product <> customer persona, then you’re probably working on the wrong product. 
  • For that, let’s use the Value Prop > Problem > Implication > Solution > Benefit framework. Think about:
  • ~What problems does your Customer Persona has right now?
  • ~~Get super specific about the moment your target audience has urgently experienced the problem. This should be written in past tense.‌
  • ~~If you’re B2B, most often, the problem involves wasting substantial time or money. If you're B2C, you might be a "vitamin" instead of a "painkiller". This means there might not be a burning problem to solve. Focus on the solution and benefits section more
  • ~What are the implications of those problems?
  • ~~Drill into the bad things that happen if someone hits that problem. As you write out the implications of the problem, find the specific person whose butt is on the line when things fail. Get super specific.
  • ~What are the solutions?
  • ~~How your product solves the problem.
  • ~What are the benefits of those solutions?
  • ~~Flip the implications of the problem around and talk about the great things that naturally come from the solution.‌ 
  • ~~This is what will allow you to be benefit-oriented (i.e. “you save time”) vs. feature-oriented (“my company has this cool thing”)
  • FastShip’s flagship feature allows companies to print shipping labels in seconds.
Google Sheets Template

h/t DemandCurve for versions of this framework. More on how to write great headlines here.

3/ Write copy in Google Docs

  • Remember the structure:
  • ~Intro to your company.
  • ~~What can I do for you? – section: Hero section.
  • ~~Why I can do it? – section: Social proof
  • ~~Is this for you?  – section: Personas
  • ~~How can I do it? – section: How it works
  • ~~What are the next steps? – section: Call-to-action
  • Hero section:
  • ~This is designer jargon for headline, subheadline and call-to-action.
  • ~Here’s the litmus test for having a sufficiently descriptive header: If the visitor reads nothing else on your page, they’d still know who you are and why they should use you.
  • ~Some frameworks:
  • ~~"{{Benefit}}. Without {{problem}}."
  • ~~~Build beautiful websites. Without technical expertise.
  • ~~~Get vendor quotes. Without reaching out manually.
  • ~~~Sign in visitors. Without wasting front desk time.
  • ~~"The only {{solution}} with {{value prop}}"
  • ~~~The only off-road electric scooter.
  • ~~~The only coding bootcamp with a 5:1 teacher-student ratio.
  • ~~~The only keto powder that's additive-free.
  • ~~"{{Solution}} — so you {{benefit}}"
  • ~~~Fantasy football without budgets — so you can draft any player you want.
  • ~~~Rent pop-up spaces instantly — so you don't waste time searching.
  • ~~~Track app errors automatically — so you don't write custom code.
  • Social Proof:
  • ~Add logos from recognizabel companies in your space.
  • ~If you don’t have logos, ask for customer testimonials that speak to the pain point you’re solving. 
  • ~If you have impressive usage or results, you can add those too but given you’re a startup it won’t be easy. 
  • ~This should be, ideally, visible above the fold.
  • ~If you have nothing, just provide your product for free and add logos if customers are happy. If they’re not happy, you have bigger problems than logos.
  • How it works:
  • ~This is where you go over features and objections.
  • ~Each feature consists of three elements: Title, Paragraph, Image. Almost every landing page has this.
  • ~The copy for this comes directly from the value prop exercise we did.
  • ~Aim for 3-5 features. The more expensive or unintuitive your product is, the more objections you should address.
  • ~Order your features by which you think are most important to users.
  • ~Use this template, copy comes from the Persona and Value Props exercise (sometimes literally).

  • Recommendations:
  • ~Address objections & concerns preemptively. 
  • ~Have a call-to-action (just one!). If you’re a B2B company, then your CTA is to request a demo with you. You should do this so you can learn more about your customer.
  • ~Copy needs to be clear and easy to read.
  • ~~“Never make a shipping mistake again” ✅
  • ~~“Reinventing the future of ecommerce shipping.” ☠️
  • ~Copy needs to be about your customer, not you.
  • ~~“You can do X” ✅
  • ~~“We do Y” ☠️
  • ~Structure is an art, not a science. Play around with it.

4/ Design it and build it

  • Use Webflow.
  • Use Webflow.
  • Use Webflow.

5/ Learning from landing pages

  • Measuring success when you don’t have a lot of traffic and you don’t even know what success means is, well, hard.
  • So looking at typical LP metrics like conversion rates is not super helpful. At this stage, you are trying to do three things:
  • ~Find out if your solution works
  • ~Understand if your Customer Personas cares about that solution
  • ~Discover how to reach your Customer Personas
  • For this I have a framework I like to call battleship (yes, like the game). You have an X axis with numbers and a Y axis with letters. The game is about making educated guesses to figure out where you opponent’s ships are.

Battleship Game | IncPart Services Ltd
  • You can do the same with Growth. The X axis has your value props/messages and the Y axis your channels.
  • With that knowledge, you can systematically start testing the combination of persona / messaging and channels that works.
  • ~I.e. You combine {Channel} + {Value Prop} and set up 16 campaigns.
  • ~~Cold Outreach + Value Prop 1
  • ~~Cold Outreach + Value Prop 2
  • ~~Cold Outreach + Value Prop 3
  • ~~Cold Outreach + Value Prop 4
  • ~~Linkedin Ads + Value Prop 1
  • ~~Linkedin Ads + Value Prop 2
  • ~~Linkedin Ads + Value Prop 3
  • ~~Linkedin Ads + Value Prop 4
  • ~~Newsletter Sponsorships + Value Prop 1
  • ~~Newsletter Sponsorships + Value Prop 2
  • ~~and so on….
  • You can do the same with your Buyer Personas. The X axis has your Buyer Personas and the Y axis your channels.
  • You don’t need to be fancy. You just need to be clear and get shit done. After all, you started a startup.

That's it. Obviously you can go 10x fancier than this but at this stage, you don't need to. Just go talk to users. If you want me to do a quick review of your landing page  just DM on Twitter.