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Contemporary start-up marketing strategies are focused primarily on the principles of the Lean methodology, an approach founded upon the book, The Lean Startup, by Eric Reis. Lean is an approach to building start-ups and running businesses that relies on the twin-pillars of customer development and agile product development. A Lean strategy to business development and marketing involves several key concepts:
1) Rapidly prototyping and launching the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) as quickly as possible.
2) Developing your product around the needs of an early adopter base.
3) “Getting outside the building” to understand customer needs through direct feedback and validated learning
4) Using this information to ‘pivot’ and drive implementation and improvement through metrics driven testing.
According to the Lean Startup website, “The fundamental activity of a start-up is to turn ideas into products, measure how customers respond, and then learn whether to pivot or persevere.”
The following article will take a look at these three vital Lean start-up principles – Build – Measure – Learn – and provide a sampling of tools that will help apply those principles to marketing your start-up. By following these practices you’ll be well ahead of the curve in adopting clear and competitive advantages for your business!
Develop Your MVP
The idea of an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is to build a product based on what people want, not what you think they need. An MVP allows you to setup a basic website to get paying customers to see your product as quickly as possible. These will be your early adopters, who will understand your vision and likely provide feedback for future iterations. You can then pivot off of their feedback and add new functionality to your product as you go.
The minimum viable product (MVP) can be an ad on Google, a PowerPoint slide, a dialog box, or a simple landing page – similar to the two examples below.
There are also a growing number of tools available today that enable startups to build a rapid prototype or mock up on the fly and get your product to the customer sooner than later. Here’s a brief review of some powerful tools.
Jetstrap is a web-based building tool for Twitter Bootstrap, which provides a collection of HTML and CSS components available for rapidly developing web applications. The dashboard offers a sleek and simple arrangement of drag and drop forms, buttons, tables, grids, and navigation features – all which can be responsively configured for different screen sizes.
Premise offers what it calls “Do-It-Yourself Functionality to ANY WordPress Site, Using ANY Theme or Design Framework.” With its Main user interface page you can build custom landing pages rapidly with an intuitive point-and-click interface. Premise also provides the user with copy-writing guidelines, templates, and suggestions, as well as a robust selection of optimization/SEO tools to help you make your landing page as efficiently as possible.
Listen to Your Customers
Once you’ve identified your MVP the next step is to introduce it into the market as quickly as possible. This boils down to “Getting outside the building” to listen to your customer; this is the most important lesson for a Lean Startup.
The following tools will help track how your customers are responding to your new MVP website.
Crazy Egg is an innovator in the use of heatmaps to optimize the process of seeing how visitors are following your website. Based on the latest marketing research in eye-tracking technology, heatmaps provide a visual representation indicating where users click on your website and what they do there. Using colored coded highlights, a heatmap reports show where the majority of traffic resides, allowing you to make rapid changes to your site to increase conversion rates.
Optimizely is one of the most popular and advanced optimization sites on the market. The technology, known as A/B Testing, allows you to build several variations of your website, which can then be tested in real time to discover which one brings in the best conversion rate.
Learn Fast, Don’t Fail Fast
The last component of the “Build -> Measure -> Learn” feedback loop involves taking the insights learned from your early customer testing experience and making quick, agile changes to your product to reflect what the customer wants, not what you think they need. This experience is known as the ‘pivot’. No simple set of tools can adequately predict whether you should pivot or not since the process really depends on a multiple set of factors based on your particular business and industry.
One newly published resource, however, that perhaps gets closest to refining these issues is Lean Analytics, a book that really attempts to measure progress through the Build -> Measure -> Learn feedback loop. Its central theme is the “One Metric That Matters” (OMTM). As co-author Ben Yoskovitz points out in a recent interview, this is “all about finding the right thing to track at the right time, based on the type of business you’re in and the stage you’re at.”
The Lean Analytics Cycle is a representation of this rapid learning process, outlined more fully in the book, but described in some detail here on Ben’s blog site.
Today, it seems like everyone and their friend’s brother’s uncle is kicking-off a startup. Undoubtedly, there are many advantages to this path: the opportunity to turn your interest or hobby into a business, the chance to change the world, the freedom of becoming your own boss . . . to name just a few. But the reality is that doing a start-up takes A LOT of work, passion, and commitment. Despite these qualities, start-up owners will most often fail.
This article has provided a brief survey of the Lean start-up principles known as “Build – Measure – Learn” and some tools for marketing your start-up based on this approach. While never a guarantee of success, these resources can help start-up owners align themselves with smart ways of thinking about what it takes to succeed in today’s competitive business market.