Only one in 12 startups succeeds.
Many times, failure is due to an inefficient allocation of the marketing budget. Murray Newlands’s recent article on Inc.com makes it very clear that hiring a PR team too early on, copying strategies that were previously chosen by your competitors or simply trying to handle it all by yourself can be fatal.
There are many reasons why startup failure occurs, apart from the inefficient understanding of marketing mechanisms. Not sticking to a coherent business model or simply neglecting the benefits of an early minimum viable product are among the main ones.
What exactly is the MVP?
Eric Ries defines it as
“that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort”.
Since the definition is self-explanatory,we’ll present a number of subsuming principles that can help you acquire your goals if properly correlated with consistent content creation.
a. Release early, release often.
Optimimizations don’t really matter that much during this phase of the product development cycle. People need to be attracted, so that valuable feedback is offered and the product can subsequently be improved. Andreas Klinger’s presentation on SlideShare makes it a mission out of pointing out the importance of “not getting too fancy” very early during the process. This is, however, the moment when customers need to be lured into trying your product.
b. Monitor and evaluate. And then monitor and evaluate again.
The importance of Analytics in every possible startup context is maximal. For your MVP, though, it’s all the more important. Know how your product evolves on the market, what the public’s reaction to it is and what adjustments have to be made in order to reach the next level. We’ve written an article about how the process of analytics, undergone on a regular basis, assists the startup and the startup owner from the earliest stage. Empathy and stickiness are the first two most important stages your customers should reach when coming in contact with your product.
On top of that, make sure you always interpret the data you collect and that you place it into the right context. Do those figures really matter? If so, how much? Do they mean you’re close to signing the best contract of your life? Or are they simply a sign that people are starting to acknowledge your presence?
Whether you’re just launching a primary version of your website or releasing your product in a beta stage, a good analysis of the impact can tell you which way to go.
c. Always watch your conversion funnels.
As explained in a blog post by Crazyegg, every conversion funnel should have the following elements:
– awareness – prospects come in contact with your product for the first time; it’s the moment they acknowledge your existence;
– consideration – they start to explore the possibility of actually trying your product features;
– conversion – they like/love you and decide your product is worth paying a subscription fee.
Knowing exacly where your prospective buyers are at during their quests on your website will help you strengthen your relationship and better understand them. You will see that some / most) of them stop at approximately the exact point in their website/product journey and you will need to understand why.
Here’s a KissMetrics article on how to setup a conversion funnel the right way. You will end up analyzing something like this:
Where do content marketing and your minimum viable product interfere?
a. Content marketing is not fluffy.
Some startup owners tend to reject content marketing mostly due to budget concerns. Some of our prospective customers tell us they would love to be able spread the word around with a few blog posts, but they “just haven’t got there yet”.
[Photo credits: Colin Frankland cc]
Others regard it as a whim, a mere waste of money, assimilated to all the traditional marketing bla-bla that doesn’t really do much. After all – they say – a good product sells by itself. And this particular type of clients is not rare, as many business owners nowadays still fail to understand the benefits of a well-articulated marketing campaign.
The benefits of content marketing during the early days of a startup are numerous and extremely visible. Accompany your MVP with as many equally consistent content marketing efforts as you can, during all stages of its existence. Here’s an article on how to combine lean analytics with content.
The moment you plan on getting the product out and measuring the public’s pulse, the landing page and the blog post become your two best friends.
b. The Landing page eases your customer’s journey
The landing page will work for you during all stages of your product development.
Set aside the technicalities of the landing page – the UVP clearly stated, the innovative design, the complex but easy-to-grasp architecture – the landing page is the ultimate vehicle on which your MVP is placed. The package, the platform, the hook.
Probably one of the most famous posts on how to design “a landing page that converts”, Chance Barnett’s article can teach you how to deal with all there is to know: calls to action, social proof (testimonials, for instance) and any type of endorsement that can picture you as more trustworthy to your prospective customers.
Ash Maurya offers an extensive list of testing possibilities, once the landing page is up and running: AdWords, Facebook, StumbleUpon. You will not just get it out there without monitoring its performance, right?
c. Blog about your “go to market steps” as you’re taking them
Just as products, in general, are different, minimum viable products can also be varied in their approach. Vladimir Blagojevic, from Scalemybusiness, does a wonderful job of extensively presenting several types.
“A minimum viable product is therefore not a product. It is a minimum viable go to market step”.
And, just like MVPs, blog posts accompany each “go to market step”.
In one of our blog categories, we take a closer look at how startups that are now famous used to approach their product when they first started out – from a content marketing and a business strategy perspective. The main conclusion that we’ve arrived at is that successful ones have placed great emphasis on communicating all the steps they took along the way. Whether it was the case of an explanatory video, a blog post or a landing page, each phase in the product evolution was openly displayed.
Dropbox offers one of the best examples of continuous, dedicated, MVP communication. On both their blog and their company website. We’ve written an article analyzing how their marketing strategy encompasses talking to as wide a variety of customers as possible – the reason why there currently are 4 Dropbox blogs. But even in Dropbox’s early years, when they hadn’t yet got rich and famous, they placed massive importance on improving their features and on communicating each modification to their customers.
Some blog posts were meant to announce the arrival of Dropbox on the market (in 2008), others presented the arrival of an iOS or Android version of the app – bottom line: they understood the idea of “talking to their customers”.
Mailchimp, another one of those role-model startups, has been blogging since 2005. That’s right, ever since their very beginning. Posts weren’t really that nifty and didn’t encourage engagement quite a lot, but it was still a thing to keep in mind.
d. Build the right MVP for the right MVA
You will never know how to trim your product unless you show it to your minimum viable audience from the very beginning. Finding the right audience – both for your product and for your blog posts is not an easy thing to do. It takes time and constant testing.
Brian Clark from Copyblogger states that the minimum viable audience exists provided that the following three conditions are met:
– there is sufficient feedback after market launch;
– social media sharing is helping you grow your audience organically;
– you are getting more and more insight into what your audience needs and how you can solve their problems.
Finding the right audience is a matter of agile content marketing. Otherwise put, a matter of writing consistently, after having done intensive research on your target audience. We have written about the importance of a good research process before starting to write your piece of content or designing your landing page.
There is no secret to a perfect MVP. Nor is there to immediate startup success. Judging by the sinuous road startups like Dropbox or even Facebook took, it actually takes a lot of testing to reach perfection. And patience. And the right content strategy won’t take all the uncertainties away. It will only guide you throughout the process, making sure that your product gets the coverage and the feedback it needs in order to develop gradually. So go ahead and start blogging, you’ll be amazed what it can do for you.