How To Market Your Minimum Viable Product
Marketing an MVP is nothing like marketing a mature product
“I’m not a marketer.”
That’s exactly what I told Dr. Aaron Dinin when he asked me to speak at his Social Media Marketing class at Duke University last week. As it turned out, that was part of the plan.
“You’re an entrepreneur,” he replied. “You know how to market.”
Dinin’s class is full of entrepreneurs. He wanted me to talk about how to market a product before it actually becomes the product — when it’s still in that nascent MVP stage and no one knows exactly what the product is yet — not the founder, not the marketing team, and certainly not the customer.
“Oh,” I said. “I do that all the time.”
Here’s what I talked about.
Rule 1: You’re Starting From Zero
When you’re marketing an MVP, you can’t use crutches. First of all, you don’t have brand to lean on. No one knows the name of your product. If you’re a startup, no one knows the name of your company either. No one knows what your credentials are or how much time or science you’ve put into the product. Customers don’t care. It’s all about what you can do for them.
But what’s even more daunting is that you and your product don’t have a track record. You don’t have data. You can’t prove, empirically, that the product will do what you say it will do. You’re the one with arms outstretched, smiling, and saying “Trust me.”
And finally, with an MVP, you don’t know what will go wrong. When something does go wrong, you won’t know what the quickest, easiest fix is. And while you’re pretty sure you can scale to whatever end point you’ve chosen, you won’t know until you hit the first edge case.
Mistake to avoid: Overreach is the first critical error in the MVP marketing plan. We tend to get so worried about whether or not someone will buy the product that we don’t plan for what needs to happen when they do.
Start the marketing plan conservatively. Market and serve with a “one customer at a time” mindset, then ratchet up both the audience and the messaging as the system reaches equilibrium.