blog post

Market: 2, Timothy: 0

In the second pretotyping experiment of my 12 in 12 businesses challenge, I learned how valuable being clear in your communications is when trying to launch a successful product.

Published December 5, 2021

It's done! As announced in my last blog post, I've completed a second attempt of my 12 in 12 businesses challenge together with my coworker Josua.

In this post I will

  • briefly explain the business idea
  • share the insights and decisions regarding both iterations
  • and assess what I learned

No further chit-chat, let's dive in!

The Idea: Custom Travel Itineraries

When I was travelling around the world in 2016/2017, I was quickly annoyed by all the touristy kinds of activities. Turns out that even the insider tips and hidden gems in the Lonely Planet were everything but (who could have known, right?)!

So I increasingly put more time and effort into researching how to do stuff the local way: food, accommodations and transportation. To find out how to take the local train to a market a bit outside of Bangkok that we wanted to visit, for example, took maybe half a day.

Motivated by this experience, I thought this could be a nice idea to test: Provide customized travel itineraries that contain all the insider information needed for authentic travel experiences.

Of course, I don't have the expertise to do this for all countries people would like to travel to, so I could obviously not provide this service in case someone's interested.

But that's actually a problem I'd have loved to have: People interested in this kind of service.

It seemed like we could very well do some Fake Door/Wizard of Oz hybrid MVP out of this: Create a landing page advertising the services, add a contact form for people to get a call with their "travel expert" (yup, that's us!) and then manually research and create the custom itinerary once I know their preferences.

This does not at all scale, of course, but it doesn't have to! I want to assess first whether or not there's value and if this actually solves a problem worth solving before worrying about scaling at all.

Iteration 1

I pulled out my Next.js starter with Tailwind, Analytics and Co. already set up and just started adding a rough outline for the sections. We wanted to stress the outcome of the service, so the main piece of information was an example itinerary for 3 days in Bangkok. For this, we just used the notes from my own travels that I've shared with friends already. Easy!

We chose a price point of 99€ per country. There was no real reasoning behind this except that for a trip that's easily spanning weeks or even months, 99€ is not a significant amount of money. And it seemed to me that this can be profitable once semi-automated.

The last thing we added was a pretty simple 3-step configurator where people could choose their destinations through a map or a list, add their dates and then leave their personal info.

Iteration one

Again, we went for paid ads on Facebook. I liked the targeting possibilities in my last experiment and this seemed to be quite similar. Also, I wanted to get a better sense on whether or not Facebook ads are a good way to do B2C pretotyping experiments.

Here are the results:

  • 10€ per day ad budget
  • 4 days campaign duration
  • ca. 50 clicks
  • 1 lead

That's less than ideal. We assumed that 5% of visitors would be interested enough to leave their personal information. But still, we got at least one person to do so. The follow-up didn't lead to anything, though, because I didn't care about validating the contact form. I hoped that simply showing fields as required and forcing a checkbox would be enough.

On the other hand, some people seemed to be quite interested. The recordings showed that people spent time reading the content on the page. Even the pricing didn't seem to throw people off. And yet, the configurator was not used beyond its first step.

It gets a bit fuzzy here, but there were two interpretations:

  • After users were scrolling through the page, there was no clear next step for them. So they scrolled back up and left. The configurator did not provide the value/credibility I hoped for, it actually only confused people.
  • It seems like people didn‘t quite understand what they get.

Iteration 2

So in the second iteration we made quite a few changes:

  • Make the service more tangible by advertising a custom „travel insider package“. I changed the visuals to show a book much like a photo book, pictures and personal notes and letters, supposedly from the personal travel expert
  • Get rid of the configurator. It was a clear symptom of „this would be so cool“, so I built it. But it was only annoying. Stupid me!
  • Make the 3 step process clearer so people know how this works.

Iteration two

The result? Still nothing. Well, it was worth a try!

The numbers were more or less the same like on the first iteration, with the difference that this time around nobody signed up.

It didn‘t feel like all is lost, though. People still showed interest reading through the sections, maybe even more so than in round 1. We could iterate over this some more, make it clearer and more concise.

But then again, we were not too attached to this idea. My goal is understanding pretotyping as a means of validation. So it makes sense to move on and test the next idea.

What‘s bugging me a bit is that this is another failed attempt using the same Fake Door MVP approach as last time. 2 is not necessarily a pattern, but maybe I need to try something else for the next idea. Spoiler alert: I will!

Learnings

To summarize, I gained two very valuable insights out of this experiment in particular.

The first is to communicate the product or service to test as clearly as possible. In these kinds of experiments, you're paying for a few seconds of the users' attention. These few seconds should not be wasted through being unclear. In this case, we should have clearly stated what people get for signing up and even the "insider package" was still not clear enough.

The second is to provide an unambiguous way to move forward. A configurator may be nice and it may be fun to build one, but it's basically just a bunch of unnecessary clicks.

I hope that this will get better in the next experiments. I feel like the Fake Door plus paid ads approach can actually work quite well, so I want to get more creative in the next ones.

Stay tuned by hitting the subscribe button!

Timothy Krechel

Innovation Consultant

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