As the owner of a startup, you’re probably running a very lean operation. In business terms, being “lean” typically means that you—maybe with one or two employees—are doing everything yourselves, from sales to billing to cold calling to marketing. If you just thought, “Marketing? I don’t even have time to go to the bathroom. How can I think about marketing?” then it’s time to investigate minimum viable marketing.
The truth is that startups need marketing just as much—if not more—than any other type of business. For many entrepreneurs, however, marketing is an afterthought, especially among lean businesses. Treating marketing like an afterthought, however, leads to poor results. Those poor results discourage any further marketing attempts, which kills marketing entirely.
This is where Minimum Viable Marketing (MVM) comes in. It’s possible you’ve heard the term, Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which refers to a product that is ready enough to take to market in order to receive feedback from actual users before further enhancing the product and selling it to a larger market. Minimum Viable Marketing is similar, with the idea that you do not need to go to market with a giant, multi-million dollar marketing or advertising campaign. Instead, you can still make an impact on the market through limited-yet-strategic use of your budget and different media channels.
By taking these early baby steps with Minimum Viable Marketing, you’ll be able to better assess what marketing options work for you and your organization, which ones don’t, and which ones will be best to use when you’re ready to really make a statement. Here are six tips to help you get started.
1. It’s About Testing
You’re probably familiar with—or at least heard of—A/B testing. It’s a marketing practice where two different ads are tested on the same media channel. The one that gets the most responses during the trial period is considered more effective and therefore, is the one the client and/or agency will use going forward.
Minimum Viable Marketing is kind of like your own mini-A/B test. But instead of testing two ads within a single ad campaign, try testing two different media options. You might start by building a presence on social media and then seeing which one garners a greater response. If, after a month, you have 5,000 Twitter followers and only 1,000 Facebook likes, it would make sense to focus your attention on growing your Twitter audience.
2. It’s About Your Methodology
Before you test, you need to think for a moment about what your marketing goals are and what you think is the best way to achieve them. If you’re new to marketing, this might be tricky. Start with these questions:
- How do I expect customers to find me?
- When they find me, what do I expect (or want) them to see?
- Where did I learn of the industry or business I’ve started? Is this a viable way to reach customers?
- After customers have interacted with my company what do I want them to do?
Answering these questions should help you articulate the basics of your company, including your company’s identity, voice and core competencies. Once those are defined, you can begin trying different strategies to highlight them. Gauge your audience’s reactions for each strategy’s effectiveness, and draw conclusions about them accordingly.
3. It’s About the Basics
For the most part, Minimum Viable Marketing is about trying and testing the basics. These include: positioning and messaging, branding, pitch decks, social media and your website. Each of these five elements are the minimum you need to develop a media presence and establish yourself as a legitimate business worth paying attention to.
4. It’s About Spending Money Wisely
You don’t have to spend a fortune to get the benefits of Minimum Viable Marketing, although spending some significant money upfront on elements like branding, messaging and your website might not be a bad idea. If your startup has truly just started, however, you probably don’t even know your company’s identity yet. That’s fine. In this case, don’t shell out big bucks on a huge marketing campaign or a logo that might not accurately reflect you and your company’s brand-to-be.
Do spend time, however, on the tone and feel of your messaging. As outlined in point no. 2, the information that people find about your organization when they find you (via online search, in response to word-of-mouth, etc.) is important. From day one, you want your messaging and your presence to be positive, forward-thinking and client-centric. Make sure even your most basic messaging reflects that.
5. It’s About Trying—and Possibly Failing
Your initial attempts at marketing may not work, and that’s okay. The beauty of minimum viable marketing is that it’s minimal, meaning you can take risks and still bounce back even if it doesn’t work. If something isn’t working, let it go.
6. It’s About Tracking
In order to get the most out of any marketing, but especially MVM, you need to be aware of what’s performing and how’s it performing. Only when you’re aware of the performance can you truly track how well it’s working. This is true for any marketing campaign, including your social media, your website and your sales decks. If your website is generating traffic, but your social media isn’t generating followers and your pitch decks aren’t generating sales, then something isn’t working.
“I’m a new company” or “I have limited dollars” aren’t reasons to avoid strong marketing efforts. Instead, make small inroads by establishing your message, building your social media presence and directing traffic to your website. By laying the groundwork now, you’ll be able to really propel your business forward when you’re ready.
For some businesses, a good landing page is an excellent introduction to a product or service. Learn how to make a great one here.