As many in the entrepreneurial world, I have become a big fan of Eric Ries and his Lean Start-up philosophy. The big idea is that instead of creating a fully featured, branded, buttoned up product or service, you instead create a series of Minimum Viable Products (or MVPs).
The beauty of the MVP approach is that you shift your thinking from building the perfect product to instead testing your “hypotheses” about what customers really want. Your goal is learning from real customer feedback as quickly as possible, rather than wasting time going down wrong paths.
While the MVP is especially useful for new product/service creation, I find the MVP concept to be an incredibly useful structure for all aspects of lean businesses.
Here’s the approach. You start by admitting that any idea is nothing more than a “best guess” for what will grow your business. You then state your hypothesis clearly and in writing so you have a record. Finally you test that idea against real customer reactions.
Here are some ways that I have been using the MVP approach in marketing:
- Email Marketing: I split the mailing list and try different versions of subject lines, different content styles, different images, and different calls to actions. With each send I document the results and the winner so I can incrementally increase open, click thru and conversion rates.
- Websites: I change elements on key landing pages and then monitor my analytics for any shifts in page views, time on page and clicks.
- Social Media: I experiment with different types of posts (informative, funny, news, etc.), timing on posts and the use of images.
- Online Ads: This is an easy way to not only test ads but also new product/service offerings.
- Pricing: This is trickier but it is possible to show different pricing to different groups and note the differences in purchase patterns.
The reason that I love this approach is twofold.
- The business team gets pulled out of the ego / opinion debate. Instead of arguing over who has the best idea, all ideas are equally worthy and customers are the final judges.
- I see real progress no matter what. Even if a test “fails”, we go back to status quo and are wiser about where to spend time and money.
Ultimately with a constant stream of MVPs, you know that each iteration gets you a step closer to building your business (or takes you just one, temporary step off track).