Prototyping in online marketing

The term 'prototyping' is familiar to many that work in the areas of web design and software development. In order to test the feasibility of a project and the usability of individual features and transitions, different types of prototypes are used. Mock-ups and wireframes test strengths and weaknesses of a concept. The results provide developers with valuable insights that help to identify errors early on and can therefore save time as well as costs.

Prototyping is also a useful technique in online marketing. It is used when designing online marketing campaigns so that a realistic analysis of the market potential can be carried out. Prototyping provides marketers with data and figures, which they need in order to design their marketing measures in the most effective way.

How to implement prototyping in online marketing

Just like in web design, there are also complex prototypes in online marketing. On the one hand, there are very elaborate and relatively costly implementations, such as functional websites. However, a prototype doesn’t need to be complex in order to deliver results. The implementation can also be very simple – what’s important is that the prototype fulfills the given purpose. In prototyping, you often work with offer pages such as simple standalone landing pages.

What does it look like?

If you plan to sell a product as part of a new project, you first need to create an offer page that contains all important information and the appropriate CTAs (Call To Action). However, the 'buy now' button merely leads to a page informing you that the product is not yet available. This landing page is just a 'dummy' where a product can’t actually be ordered.

In order to reach the target group, for example, search on Google AdWords for relevant keywords. You will start to get the first results after a few days, but the data will, of course, be more conclusive if you run the ads for several weeks.

What knowledge does the marketer gain?

By analyzing the test campaign, the marketer gains insight into the market potential of the planned project. The number of clicks indicates whether there is any need for the product. Many clicks on the CTAs suggest that the target group does have a concrete purchase intention and therefore shows that the future looks positive for this business idea.

The test campaign enables you to calculate search volumes and click-though prices more accurately, and to carry out a more precise profitability analysis. If the prototyping campaign doesn’t achieve the desired results, then this also provides you with a valuable insight. This could mean that the planned product does not interest the target group, or that the dummy website isn’t designed well enough.

It can be interesting to analyze competitors’ reactions. If the competition is already reacting strongly to the prototype e.g. by advertising aggressively, then this shows that the market is highly competitive. You have to decide whether continuing with the project is worth it now you know there is strong competition.

In addition to the aforementioned analysis of paid advertisements (SEA), this marketing technique is also used in other fields. In content marketing, prototyping is frequently used for preseeding. In a social media context, prototyping serves as a kind of resonance value to test a project’s viral potential.

When is using prototypes worthwhile?

In online marketing, prototyping is almost always a worthwhile initiative. Except, of course, if you are already in possession of valuable figures and precise information about the target group, what’s on offer, the various possible channels, and also well informed about the competition. However, this is rarely the case with new products and concepts, which is precisely why it makes sense to create a prototype. You should start a test run as early as possible in the development phase, even before large investments have taken place.

What you should never underestimate, however, is that if you put your product out there quite early on, there’s always the risk of your competition gaining additional time to react. But generally, prototyping is useful in all phases of the online marketing concept.

Creating prototypes obviously costs money, but investing a small amount in the testing phase could save your company from losses later on in the development process.

Analyzing using prototypes provides evaluable data. If product ideas and concepts do not deliver the outstanding results you were expecting, you can scrap the idea before the actual marketing campaigns start, avoiding costly mistakes.

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