Forget the product, build the marketing website!

Not too long ago I discovered that designing the marketing website is the best way to start your startup. I have five reasons for you.

Gert Hans Berghuis

‘Start with the end result in mind’ is one of Stephen Covey’s seven habits of highly effective people. In my experience this is a powerful way of thinking: as soon as you have visualised your end goal, it becomes self-fulfilling. Works for everything.

I was reminded of this when a group of us in a corporate venture — that I am involved with as a consultant — started working on the marketing website. The product itself was 90% finished, we had done a lot of validated learning, and now it was time to develop our marketing medium.

And suddenly I realised that next time, this shouldn’t be the last step, it should be the first. I have no fewer than five reasons why that’s a good idea. Hold on tight!

1. You will be checking out your competition. Just like your users.

When you start thinking about and designing your marketing website, you will of course take a look at how others have done it, so that you do not have to reinvent the wheel. There will be some things that you share with your competition, but on certain aspects your brand or value proposition you will be fundamentally different. So looking at their websites will give you insights into your positioning; who are we and what do we stand for? The next step is: why should people choose us? Why are we more relevant than others? And guess what; those are exactly the considerations you should start any startup with, so if you do not yet have those answers, it is time well-spent.

2. You will get a good handle on your branding and tone of voice

Lorem Ipsum is strictly forbidden, so you will have to find your own words, and fast. Good words. Fitting words. But what is our tone of voice, guys? Formal or informal? How do we channel our brand in our texts and photographs? Because when you slap in some stock photos you will quickly discover that that’s not who you want to be. It’s a source of meaningful discussion and it also tests if all the decisions and the brand guide — do you have one yet? — are actually useful in practice.

3. It helps you tweak your backlog and MVP

When you describe your product or service from the user’s point of view (which is of course what you are doing), then you will also be gaining a clear idea of what it actually is you need to be building to make your users happy. This will help you prioritise your backlog, and it also automatically opens the discussion about what to include in the MVP.

And once you type those three little words terms and conditions, then you will suddenly have a week’s worth of work, because those damn things don’t write themselves. In short: designing the marketing website will guarantee you new user stories. Which you will want to add to the backlog asap.

4. It's great material to test your proposition

The marketing website is ideal material to test your proposition, for example with interviews or panels. It's a medium that users know, and are able to use and understand.
After all, it is also the way that they would get to know a product or service at home or at work when you aren't looking over their shoulders. You will see what they think is important and which aspects they want to know more about. If you ask them to think aloud while clickin through the website, you will be gathering insights at lightning speed.

5. It is the first step of your website optimisation process

This website will literally be selling your product or service in the future. Not only that, it will probably be the most important touchpoint during the information search and purchasing phases. So you will want to know how effective it is, and how you van make it more effective. And you can only achieve that by testing the website, measuring, adapting and creating new releases. That is a lot of work so it is best to make a start as soon as possible.

In short.

Don't wait until your product is finished before you design your marketing website, but start immediately.

After all, the marketing website is an ideal medium to motivate your team, and a good way to keep in mind what your promise to the public was exactly. Because that is where your success starts: a promise that makes people want to know more.