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Smoke Test Variations 🧯 by Sam Dickie @ ucreate
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A definitive list of modern, alternative 'Smoke Test' techniques to help
test early signs of desirability with your target market.

For those new to the term 'Smoke Test' it's a technique that enables
you to gather real-world, purchase intent data on your product or service
idea as if it was ready for launch.

Each of these alternative techniques i have curated in the spreadsheet
below have a similar goal!

‍"To help you test early signs of desirability fast and with limited cost."
KEYCostRun Time
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💲<£2501-3 hours
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💲💲<£500⏰⏰1-3 days
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💲💲💲£500-1000⏰⏰⏰1-3 weeks
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💲💲💲💲£1000 - 5000⏰⏰⏰⏰4-8 weeks
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💲💲💲💲💲£5000+⏰⏰⏰⏰⏰1-3 months
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Experiment TypeDescription😅 EffortValidation
Strength 💪🏼
Measure 📈Cost 💰Business model 🗃Run Time ⏰Advantages ✅Disadvantages ❌Helpful Links/ Examples
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Basic coming soon pageA basic one page website (landing page) clearly stating the value proposition, benefits and call to action with email capture form.~1 day🟩 ⬜️ ⬜️ ⬜️ ⬜️ • Conversion rate (email signups)
• Bounce rate
• Session time
• Conversions based on traffic source
💲All⏰⏰⏰• Quick and cheap to create
• Easy to update as you learn more
• Ability to acquire email addresses
• Low level of validation
• No guarantee they will buy at launch
Landing Page examples
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- Variation #1 (Pricing page)Create a pricing page for your product or service and track the number of clicks on the CTA to measure which plan is getting the most clicks. Once clicked show a coming soon page and allow users to leave their email address to be notified when you launch. ~1-2 days🟩 🟩 ⬜️ ⬜️ ⬜️ • Number of clicks on each pricing tier
• Conversion rate (email signups)
• Bounce rate
• Session time
• Conversions based on traffic source
💲All⏰⏰⏰• Quick and cheap to create
• Easy to update as you learn more
• Ability to acquire email addresses
• Early understanding of pricing validation
• No guarantee they will buy at launch
• Hard to commit to features at this stage for each pricing tier as you are most likely still validating them. They might be different when you launch - therefore this should be factored in.
• Buffer example
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- Variation #2 (High bar technique)Add in an additional step to your registration flow to understand how much they want access to your product or service. Ask your new subscribers to perform a task. For example, get them to complete a form (couple of questions) so you can test their motivation but also get insight into who they are and what their expectations are, their frustrations, how they do x etc. ~1 day🟩 🟩 ⬜️ ⬜️ ⬜️ • Conversion rate (email signups)
• Types of people interested
• Patterns in pains and frustrations
• Bounce rate
• Conversions based on traffic source
💲All⏰⏰⏰• Gauge intend by asking them to complete an additional action. Shows they are interested and aren't simply signing up
• Quick and cheap to create
• Easy to update as you learn more
• Ability to acquire email addresses
• Understand more about your target audience
• Segment your audience based on responses and invite in others once you have satisfied your initial beta group.
• Adding an additional step can deter people and you might experience a lower conversion rate
MyMind example
Levels Health
Hey
• Mighty App
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- Variation #3 (Broken promise Test)Secret/ exclusive closed coming soon beta. By telling your new subscribers they are part of an exclusive group of users - you are actually measuring if they share this with others. This approach allows you to test virality of your product. Create a dedicated web page with a call-to-action. On the thank-you page or in follow-up communication, the copy explicitly asks the registrant NOT to share the idea with others. After some time passes, you compare the original list of people you contacted with the actual list of signups. Anyone who wasn't in your original list of people you told about the idea is counted as a referral. ~2-3 days🟩 🟩 🟩 ⬜️ ⬜️ • Conversion rate (email signups)
• Number of shares
• Average shares per person
• Conversions based on traffic source
💲💲SAAS, digital product, hardware⏰⏰⏰⏰• Easy to update as you learn more
• Ability to acquire email addresses
• Test the virality of your product before you launch
• Understand the desirability - people sharing is a strong sign
• You need to have a very compelling product in order to encourage people to share it.
• Requires more time to implement correctly in order to track UTM codes so you know if people have shared the url.
• Some plugin tools can be expensive. See 'Helpful links/examples'.
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- Variation #4 (Explainer video)Video explainer on your landing page explaining your proposed product or service in more detail. You can include recorded prototypes or stitched together mockups to give the viewer an idea of what your future product or service will look like and it's proposed features. Consider creating multiple videos on different landing pages tailored to your audience types (personas) and run targeted ads towards the page to determine which converts best. ~4-5 days🟩 🟩 🟩 ⬜️ ⬜️ • Conversion rate (email signups)
• Number of impressions
• Conversions based on traffic source
• Number of shares
💲💲💲All⏰⏰⏰• Easy to update as you learn more
• Ability to acquire email addresses
• Provides people with a better understanding of what your product or service is - what it looks like, features. Looks real.
• Tricky to make a good explainer video
• Can take time depending on the quality of the video
• Additional expense should be factored in.
Dropbox example
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Invite only/ waiting listSimilar to the coming soon page but with a slight difference as you can add in referral systems to create virality. Each person is provided a number in the que and if they want to move up to list to be the first to get access to the product they need to refer x number of people by providing their email address. ~3-4 days🟩 🟩 🟩 🟩 ⬜️ • Conversion rate (email signups)
• Bounce rate
• Average referrals per person
• Conversions based on traffic source
💲💲SAAS, digital product, hardware⏰⏰⏰⏰• Can create a viral growth effect
• Out of the box referral solutions available to speed setup process
• Inexpensive to create
• Can reduce spend on marketing short term
• Referrals can provide further evidence to validation
• Tricky to pull off successfully
• No guarantee they will buy at launch
Viral Plugins
• RobinHood Example
Kickofflabs
UpViral
• KingSumo
ViralLoops
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Social paymentThis approach consists of a basic coming soon landing page with and added step to get early access to the product. In order to get early access and jump up the list for first access users must provide their email address and then share a predefined message via social media - typically twitter due to the availability of plugins. This approach allows you to test virality of your product and provide free marketing for your product in the process. This option should be optional as not everyone has twitter. ~1-2 days 🟩 🟩 ⬜️ ⬜️ ⬜️ • Number of emails received
• Number of social shares
• Engagement level of social shares (likes, retweets, comments)
• Traffic received from twitter
💲Physical good, digital good, SAAS, App⏰⏰⏰• Can create a viral growth effect
• Allows you to test twitter with your target market
• Monitor sentiment from engagement on twitter
• Free marketing
• Inexpensive to create
• Referrals can provide further evidence to validation
• Need to integrate the 'Pay a tweet' plugin some very minor technical experience required
• Doesn't provide purchase intent
• If the user doesn't have twitter it can be off putting or confusing
• Pay with a tweet case study
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Pre-order form (Mock Sale) Create a mockup of a product(s) on a website. The user selects the item they wish to purchase and provides their details - if the user completes and submits the form it's a positive sign of desirability. If you have multiple pricing tiers then make them select the pricing tier or if it's a physical product ask for the spec and the quantity. Tell the user they will be notified when it's ready and payment ill be taken at that point. ~2-4 days🟩 🟩 🟩 ⬜️ ⬜️• Number of pre-order forms submitted
• Click through rate
• Views of pricing options
• Email addresses provided
• Conversions based on traffic source
💲e-commerce, Digital good, B2B, Services⏰⏰⏰• There is no pressure to ship the item because no money has been exchanged.
• Positive sign of desirability when form has been submitted
• Quick and cheap to create
• Not a sure sign they will actually follow through and pay when the time comes.
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Fake Door TestCreate a mockup of a product(s) on a website. When the user clicks the buy CTA for the product they are taken to a coming soon page. Email address should be captured to follow up with the user when the product is ready to launch. ~2-4 days🟩 🟩 🟩 ⬜️ ⬜️ • The number of clicks on the 'buy now' or 'add to basket' CTA.
• Conversions based on traffic source
• Number of email addresses provided
💲💲e-commerce, digital good, SAAS⏰⏰⏰• Reasonable sign of buying intent.
• Reasonability quick and cheap to create
• No logistics or money exchanging hands
• Still no guarantee they would actually complete the transaction after the item is added to the basket. The typical shopping cart abandonment rate for online retailers is 67.91%.
• Can be frustrating to users
• Fake Door test info
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Pre-sale (Smoke test)Offering a product or services at a discounted rate for a limited time before you launch. Users pay in advance for the product or service and either get an early version of the product or given an approximate launch date when the product or service will be available. As the name says most folk tend to offer the product/service for a discounted price for a limited amount of time. Typically a few weeks. ~1-2 weeks 🟩 🟩 🟩 🟩 🟩• Number of paid conversions
• Conversion rate
• Conversions based on traffic source
💲💲💲e-commerce, digital good, SAAS, Services⏰⏰• Allows you gauge interest before creating the product or service in some instances.
• The up-front payments act as a form of validation
• The up-front payments can fund the creation of your product or service in advance.
• You are taking payment up-front in some cases for a product which is yet to be created or fully defined. You need to ensure you can deliver that product or service in advance
• If you don't get enough paid conversions you will need to issue refunds
• Can be seen as a grey hate validation technique
• Takes longer to set up due to payment processing, shipping, customer support etc.
• Bone Broth Example
• Knoxlabs Example
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Pocket PrototypeThis smoke test applies to physical goods or products with hardware components — at minimum a mobile phone. It entails interviewing a prospect or customer, then physically pulling a prototype out of our pocket and using the prototype to drive further discussion and exploration.~1-2 weeks 🟩 🟩 🟩 ⬜️ ⬜️ • Quantify how likely the participant would use such a product
• Number of verbal agreements
💲App or physical good⏰⏰• Allows you to get quick feedback by providing a visual artifact
• Quick and cheap approach as it's built using prototyping software
• You can make changes in minutes based on feedback and re-test
• Verbal agreements are not strong indicators of purchase intent
• Need some design experience albeit not a lot
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- Variation #1 (Crowdfunding)Crowdfunding is an alternative example of a pre-sale strategy - more specifically for a physical good. This approach allows you to set a pledge amount you need in order to fund the production of the good. If you meet the pledge goal the money will be released and you can start producing the product.
~2-3 Months
🟩 🟩 🟩 🟩 🟩• Number of pledges
• Average pledge amount
• % of goal complete
• Social shares
• Conversions based on traffic source
💲💲💲💲💲Physical goods ⏰⏰⏰⏰⏰• Allows you to receive funding to create your product before investing time and money into creating the product before you know if anyone would buy it
• Provides great exposure, SEO and traffic to your site
• Save time and money creating the product before testing desirability
• You need to ensure you can manufacture the product or at least create the product before asking for the pledge amount
• Expensive to pull off. The digital assets required can cost a lot. Designed mockups, renders and especially the explainer video.
• Indiegogo
Kickstarter
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