Have you ever been to a wedding reception that was so opulent that you wondered the entire evening how much it cost?
I was. It was Pete and Mel’s wedding and it was a night to remember.
The food was fantastic – Prime rib topped with crab, perfectly done vegetables, and to die for mashed potatoes with just a hint of horseradish for a kick. The music was a live 6 piece band who was amazingly good, and the hall was nothing short of stunning. It was a wonderful event and a perfect evening.
I’m sure Pete and Mel will remember it forever. They had thought of every single detail, and nothing was left to chance.
Many people try to run their business like Pete and Mel ran their wedding. Every “i” dotted and “t” crossed from the very beginning. Every single thing perfect. It works great for weddings, but not so great for business.
Of course, a few smart business owners are embracing what is called Lean Marketing and don’t run their business trying to get everything perfect from the get-go.
That’s because business is not a one-time event where you need to get everything perfect. It’s also not really important what the business owner thinks will sell. It’s important to figure out what actually WILL sell.
In this article, I’ll go into how not to treat your business like you are planning a wedding, and how to use Lean Marketing principles to grow your business FAST.
Sidenote: Before we get into the magic of Lean Marketing, I want to make sure you read my previous post on The Fail Factor. When you truly embrace the power of Failing Forward you will become nearly unstoppable in your business efforts.
A lot of the ideas for Lean Marketing come originally from manufacturing principles and have been popularized in large part by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup. I recommend reading it to get a more in-depth look at this topic. It’s very good.
Before we get into the real nitty-gritty there are three terms that it’s important to know as we are talking about Lean Marketing, because they help us to understand why Lean Marketing works so unbelievably well.
- Minimum Viable Ideas
- Minimum Viable Products
- Minimum Viable Launch
You’ll notice a common thread here, “Minimum Viable”. The idea is to get from idea to product to launch as quickly and inexpensively as possible so you can Test Quickly, Gather Data, and Test Again. I’ll go into what each of these terms means more in-depth later in a bit.
It’s so important you get these three steps that the Minimum Viable Trio allows you to do that I’m going to write them again here in bold and bigger.
Test Quickly, Gather Data, and Test Again
This is the essence of Lean Marketing and it’s the 3 steps that will help you grow BEYOND your wildest imaginations.
It’s great to have those three steps, but what do they really mean? How do you test? What do you test? How do you figure out what your testing data means and what you should do with it?
All great questions. I’m going to give you the answers to how I do it, but I want you to remember one thing. The principles here are FAR more important than the techniques. There is more than one way to skin this cat so to speak.
How to Determine What to Test
This is where the idea of the Minimum Viable Idea comes in. It’s also the place where I see people get the most hung up and stuck. Which is why the Minimum Viable Idea is so important.
I have a friend, Heather, who has started a pretty successful e-commerce company, but at the beginning, she had no idea what to sell. She’s the kind of person who likes to make the register go cha-ching, but doesn’t really care what she sells as long as her customers LOVE it.
So she used the Minimum Viable Idea concept to get her store up and running and make her first sale and then many sales after that.
- Her first idea was Dr. Who, so she put some items up on her store (we’ll go into how this relates to Minimum Viable Product next) and sold one or two.
- Then she thought about the TV series Firefly and tried that – Minimum Viable Idea 2.
- Then even though Heather had made some sales, she realized that it would be hard to source properly licensed products, so she came up with Minimum Viable Idea 3. Dogs!
And that’s what finally took off. She’s since made almost 6,000 sales and is about ready to open her next store.
Because Heather didn’t try to figure everything out at the beginning and was willing to try out different ideas to figure out what the customer actually wanted she was able to start her store and get into her first profit in 8 weeks and grow to nearly 6,000 sales in 5 months.
That’s the power of the Minimum Viable Idea.
So that brings us back to the question – what do you test?
Answer: Anything that seems remotely promising that you can get in front of a targeted audience.
And that leads us to Brian’s Big Lean Marketing Rule:
The market ALWAYS knows what it wants and business owners only know what the market wants about 2 out of 10 times. So to get it right, you must test Minimum Viable Ideas and embrace the Fail Factor.
How to Quickly (and cheaply) Set Up a Lean Marketing Test
Most business owners are VERY resistant to this next idea, in part, because they fall into the perfect wedding syndrome before they want to test anything.
If that is you, please, I beg you to step out of your comfort zone and start testing like a maniac. Your business will thank you for it. Because there is nothing in terms of results that can beat the power of getting your offer or message in front of your target audience fast.
Even if it isn’t quite right and isn’t refined yet.
You’ll make far more money with the Test Quickly, Gather Data, Test Again formula than you will trying to get everything perfect before you start testing it.
Testing is how you figure out your Market-Message-Match; or the product or marketing that your audience will respond to.
There are two ways to put up a down and dirty test. Heather used the first one when starting her e-com store, and my friend Blake used the second when launching the information product he authored.
Let’s look at what Heather did first.
Testing Physical Products
Heather knew she wanted to start an e-commerce store, but didn’t want to invest money in a product. So she set up a drop-ship test. That way she wouldn’t have to inventory any product that didn’t sell and she kept her risk to a minimum. This is a true Minimum Viable Product. She didn’t even own what she was selling at first!
Heather researched several products on eBay that were in her Minimum Viable Idea category and listed them on her site. She didn’t even care if she made much profit. Her only goal was to gather data as to what customers would respond to. She even picked a generic domain name so she could test as many Minimum Viable Ideas as it took to become successful.
Then she listed these products on her store and advertised them with $15 budgets each on Facebook. If she got a sale in $15 she kept going. If she didn’t she killed it. She ordered the products she sold from her eBay vendor at first, and then eventually Heather started carrying stock (at a lower price than it was selling on eBay) on her successful items because she already knew they would sell.
That’s a great example of both a Minimum Viable Launch and a Minimum Viable Product. Heather was able to launch a successful store with very little out-of-pocket cost by following Lean Marketing Principles.
Now Heather is taking the next step and starting to build a true Sales Funnel around her most successful products.
This is a great route for e-commerce and other physical products and is VERY successful for most people who try it (as long as they also embrace the Fear Factor)
Testing Services, Books, and Info Products
When you are testing non-physical goods, it’s far less about the pictures of the products and WAY more about the way you frame your message. This is the Market-Message-Match I mentioned earlier.
And I have an unorthodox, but very effective way to find your first Market-Message-Match. It’s the method my friend Blake used.
Blake is brilliant at creating info products that take very complex health topics and break them down into average Joe terms. And Blake had a new product that he wanted to develop that would benefit many people, but he had no idea how to position it in the marketplace so it would sell.
He didn’t have a website or a product yet. Just a Minimum Viable Idea that he wanted to turn into a Minimum Viable Product.
So Blake did something ingenious. He figured out how to spend $100 on Google AdWords and get the data he needed to build out his Minimum Viable Product in a way the market was much more likely to respond to.
This saved him countless hours and tons of money and gave him a high chance of success at Minimum Viable Launch.
Blake wrote 10 different ads and ran $5 of traffic to each one of them. Because he didn’t have a site and didn’t know what his message would be, he linked to a relevant page on Web MD. Also, by linking to an authority site with a relevant page, Blake kept his ad costs low.
Then Blake took the data from those 10 ads and looked at which ones got the lowest cost per click and wrote a new batch based on those.
In this way, he was able to gauge which message resonated with his audience and write his product and sales letter around that messaging.
Blake could have written a different landing page for each ad, but that would have taken up a huge amount of time and resources. By only testing his Minimum Viable Ideas he was able to test quickly and get accurate data to move forward toward his Minimum Viable Product and Minimum Viable Launch.
The Biggest Hurdle All Businesses Face
The biggest hurdle that any business owner faces is figuring out how to effectively bring their product or service to market in a way that will actually sell.
By using the Test Quickly, Gather Data, and Test Again formula you can avoid the perfect wedding syndrome and get your products to market quickly and effectively. Because that is what Lean Marketing does best.