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The 5 Stages of Lean Analytics (I) – Empathy And Stickiness
Many theoreticians and practitioners highlight that startups don’t fail because they lack a product, but because they lack customers and a profitable business model.
Of course, you believe your idea is unique and original, so there has to be a market for you out there. There have to be clients recognizing its potential and originality, right? But things are almost never this straightforward. The path to success is sinuous and sometimes even painful when your goal is to build an audience for your startup.
The Product/Market fit encompasses the active principles of the Lean Startup Model, that practitioners such as Eric Ries have dissected so far. Based on this model, additional ones have been set up, such as the one we’re investigating for our present purpose – the Lean Analytics model. In the end, based on the latter, building a startup adds up to Empathy, Stickiness, Virality and, finally, Revenue and Scale.
For a startup to succeed, a single but fundamental metric should be followed at a given moment. Each startup needs to identify the right countable data they can measure their success by – number of subscribers, number of apps downloaded, number of contact messages received, website bounce rate, presence on search engines etc.
What is Lean Content Marketing?
Not only startups benefit from the Lean Model. Any type of strategy (the content one included) can learn to follow the structured path. In his post on Lean Content Marketing, Liam Gooding defines the best practices for obtaining “lean content marketing”, especially if you’re a startup:
1. Have one specific pain point that your content is trying to solve
Just as your startup’s UVP, your content marketing efforts need to be strategically thought in a way that it answers any questions your customers might have. With regard to customer service, mobile apps, telemarketing or whatever. Writing everything for everybody can prove to be extremely harmful; at the same time, however, your content marketing material needs to be broad enough so that as many people as possible come back to it for guidance.
2. Define benchmarks which will be the point of reference for proving the pain point as valid or not
Benchmarks are important for knowing what to post/write/comment/use in the relationship with your customers. Receiving feedback from customers with regard to how useful the content marketing efforts were for them can be a potential benchmark.
3. Always start small – only tweets or blog posts, before moving to higher investment content formats
Not that there’s any possibility of starting big if you have the limited budget most startups do. Even if you plan on allotting an extended budget to content creation and content distribution, you should take each of them one step at a time. In spite of the fact that, undoubtedly, each and every content format has a specific impact on your website traffic or visibility. Write some (interesting!) blog posts and then see how many visitors they attract to your website. Further on, share useful pieces of news from the area your startup activates in and see what return social media channels have.
4. Publish content following an 80/20 principle, and iterate on each piece of published content over time.
Don’t be afraid to publish a 250-word blog post before editing it and building it into a 1,000-word post.
5. Once again, start small.
Small (but constant) baby steps are crucial for your content creation strategy. Regularly write pieces of content that you proficiently document and, once in a while, tackle one of the subjects more in-depth, referring to previous materials and fine-tuning eventual statements you’ve made.
Content marketing and the first two stages of the Lean Analytics model.
Let’s see how a content marketing strategy accompanies the five stages of the Lean Analytics process and if content really is necessary throughout the whole process. (More on what Lean Analytics really stand for can be found here and here).
As Croll and Yoskowits state, this stage – that marks the beginning of a startup – can be defined by finding a real, poorly met need that can eventually be addressed with the right means in the right market.
At this earliest stage, things are extremely qualitative. It’s more about the problem you believe your prospects are experiencing than it is about actually validating the durability of your assumptions.
It all revolves around validating your idea among as many potential prospects as possible. Although this stage is synonymous with plainly “walking out of the building” and identifying a problem worth solving, early conversion is possible and it will help prepare your further endeavors.
Some authors would place early conversions within the next stage – stickiness. However, it isn’t always the case.
Ash Maurya advises us to start by designing a website following a customer journey map and getting people to reach it. Or by creating a minimal version of a mobile app to see how people feel about it. It’s up to you. You may decide it’s better to get to the execution phase after having thoroughly researched the pool of competitors and having spoken to many people that might provide valuable insight.
The role content marketing plays here depends on your will and your resources. Have you got the money to design a website or a mobile app prototype? Then make it popular to the extent in which you find what the main objections are.
More on creating early value here.
Stickiness defines the stage in which a small community of potential clients is created. Once the community is formed, an MVP can be created and consistent feedback can be collected for that matter.
Andreas Klinger gives useful advice on how to make sure you design a proper landing page to build an audience for your first customers. With this onboard, you will be able to test important metrics that will help you fine-tune your approach.
Ideally, a properly designed content marketing strategy should help here. By focusing on quality content creation, in which you clearly state how and why your business solves the problem it solves. Rendering written pieces popular among the (deemed) target groups via social networking would be the next natural step.
The questions you should ask yourself here are the following: How do you find the product the market wants, as Andreas Klinger puts it? If this stage is part of the product and customer development process, how do you make sure you show your customers what you’re up to?
It looks evident that content marketing, along with social media marketing should play a crucial role here. Content marketing should become an integral part of the whole inbound marketing approach: email, blogs and customer communication in general. Nevertheless, many startups don’t see it this way and fail from their early beginnings, in spite of a creative and useful idea and, sometimes even a small MVP.
Startups that failed due to lack of general/overall empathy
Things don’t always come in handy, in spite of all the theory on the market. The lack of resources or the mismanagement thereof come as significant causes for failure, but none of them compare to the poor estimation of the target.
The owners of Devver – an online service for turning desktop-used development tools into cloud-based ones – claim that they should have focused more on customer development and building a proper MVP. Instead, their main concern was getting the job done as well as possible from a technical point of view. The result was a perfectly sound service that people found hard to use and, hence, had little interest in. After 500k Series A funding, Devver exited the market in 2010.
Vijay Ganesan, from SMSNoodle, another failed startup from Asia, claims that the main actions people should imperatively take when embarking on this journey are validating their startup idea, getting to market sooner, focusing on customers and using social media.
It may look like the foremost cause for your potential failure is the lack of sufficient resources to target your audience. While this is often the case, mismanagement thereof can also lead to product failure. Microsoft’s Zune is one of the best examples. An attempted competitor for iTunes, Zune failed to retrieve any of the iPod market share, in spite of having signed licensing agreements with major music labels.
Startup failure is due to many factors, some of them external and some of them intrinsic. A bit of luck never hurt anyone and luck can play a huge part in future success. Maximizing business potential following coordinated steps can help a lot more than pure luck. As can close coordination with a lean content marketing strategy, starting from an early stage.