In order to validate your learnings, using the Lean Startup terminology, or in order to make data-driven conclusion using a Growth Hacking terminology, you need a significant amount of feedback and a significant number of users – where significant is an undefined number, whatever it takes to make conclusions – to validate that model. In three words, you need volume. You need to perform several tests and verify several hypotheses using a significant sample of data, and you do really need to have a large number of users in order to make this happen. The Lean Startup approach implies a large user base for performing tests. However, if you are a startup, you probably don’t have a large user base, and if you are an established or semi-established company using this approach for bringing innovation, you probably don’t want to use your existing clients for validating hypotheses on a product at a mere MVP stage. Thus, you want to guarantee to your experiments the shortest possible duration and you want to spend as little as you can as this is just one of the many experiments you will be running for the sake of growth.
On top of this dilemma, also to be noted that growth hackers look for ways to promote marketing from. However, that assumes you already have a valid – or semi-valid – product in place, but many companies don’t.
The P.I.B. framework described here tells you exactly which marketing channels should be applied in each phase in order to produce growth and build your product according to the results of your experiment.
The role of MVP
Most of the criticism related to the lean process is in regards to the MVP (minimum viable product). “A minimum viable product (MVP) is a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product’s initial users.” However, in many cases, building an MVP is an expensive operation, and for certain products, you can’t just make a simplified version of your final product to test.
To overcome this issue, I suggest utilizing, as much as you can, the concept of “sell before you build.” Starting to sell something before you even have started building it is actually a really good approach for building your business as it’s going to save you a lot of time, agony and stress. It is like testing if the idea sticks around without wasting time and money on it. The traditional way of creating a product, investing a lot of time and effort into building something such as a program, a membership site, a seminar or a platform and only once completed trying to sell it. Now what happens is that if nobody invests in their product that they just have spent all this time and effort to build with no return on investment. So the concept of selling it before you build it says, hey, listen, I’ve got x coming up and I’d like you to be a part of it. It’s not live yet it’s not happening tomorrow, it’s happening a week from now, a month from now two months from now, and I’d like to get you in at the entry level at the ground floor. These people are what we call your early adopter.
You can add elements to these this pre-launch so that people are more inclined to sign up. That could be a discount for signing up, some kind of bonuses or whatever incentivizes them to purchase your product before it’s even launched. The main idea here is to ask to buy or invest in a product or service that’s going to help them, and regardless if that is coming out in a couple of weeks or a couple of months, you can verify if people are willing to invest in your product or service ahead of time. If so, you know that you’ve got a market for it, and you know that you should build it and you should launch it ASAP.
The role of traditional marketing and branding
As already explained, the role of marketing for hackers is limited to whatever it takes to bring growth in the short term. The final goal for hackers is reaching the marketing fit, which puts all the standard marketing approaches out of the picture. This is because many entrepreneurs following the lean startup approach put brand and brand awareness aside, as something that being by nature impossible to validate through data experiments is useless for business growth.
It is a difficult and controversial matter whether a company in its early stage should or not invest in brand awareness (whether its lean brand, Minimum viable brand or others). In my opinion, it is extremely important to build a brand from the early stages of development. You probably wouldn’t buy a carbonated unknown drink if this wasn’t called Pepsi. Even when your product is not finalized, you need that minimum credibility added to get accepted in the market. It is absolutely crucial building a strong foundation and making sure that you’re building that in line with your business strategy, as this creates a lot of efficiencies. In an ideal scenario, you start building that brand foundation as soon as you get to know your target audience and while you’re doing customer validation and discovery. In this way, you will ensure you have a connection and that you’re putting value out there. So if you start early, building awareness, and you are consistently using that message and you build connection and value in your early stages, you’ll be on the road to success.