May 18, 2022

How to Market Your MVP

In 2012, the Dollar Shave Club launched with a YouTube video where founder Michael Dubin looked into the camera and said: “For $1 a month, we send high-quality razors right to your door.” The video went viral, and the brand gained over 12,000 customers within 72 hours, making Dollar Shave Club’s approach the lodestone of marketing a minimum viable product (MVP). Over the last decade, as this approach has grown, two critical lessons from this product launch remain best practices for effective minimum viable product (MVP) marketing.

First, understanding your users and the benefits you provide is essential for creating messaging that attracts customers. People want to know what’s in it for them. So, if you can deliver a future that your audience wants, they’ll flock to you.

Second, even the best products need a solid marketing plan, and your MVP is no exception. Without a plan to continue getting in front of your target market, you’ll lose top-of-mind awareness. Even Coca-Cola, arguably one of the biggest brands on the planet, still has a humongous advertising budget to continue building its brand.

Coming up with an MVP marketing strategy can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re starting from scratch with no brand recognition. The good news is that you’ve done a lot of the work already. It includes steps like understanding your audience, their pain points, and the solution you’ll offer them. Now it’s time to plan how you’ll package and present your message to attract your target audience and get the word out.

This article will offer a framework to help you map out your strategy for marketing a minimum viable product.

Understand the Market

Before investing any efforts in bringing awareness to your MVP, the marketing team must understand the customer and the need the MVP fills. And the first place to start is establishing clear avenues of communication between the marketing and product teams. Clear communication will help ensure teams are working together toward common goals and that everyone involved is on the same page.

Additionally, using existing research gives you a leg up on understanding your users and their problems, allowing you to fast-track your MVP marketing plan. For example, if your audience skews younger, SnapChat and TikTok may be more effective than Facebook.

Finally, never stop testing and growing. Just as you can continuously improve your products, your messaging can—and should—be an ongoing effort. Repeatedly test your messaging with real potential users to understand what resonates best.

Understand the Competition

Just as it’s important to understand the market and your target audience, it’s also essential to understand your competition when marketing a minimum viable product. Taking time to conduct an in-depth analysis of your competitors and their marketing strategies allows you to differentiate your company and your product. If you aren’t sure where to start, ask questions like:

  • Who is offering a similar product?
  • What problem(s) are they solving?
  • What are people saying about that product?
  • What sets your product apart?

Identifying possible gaps in your competitors’ positioning allows you to leverage previously unknown opportunities. In turn, you can better serve your market, make your messaging stand out, and create a stronger product-market fit.

Articulate Your Positioning

Positioning is a crucial aspect of MVP marketing and guides and informs all of your public-facing messaging. Drawing on your unique value proposition and highlighting the benefits you offer your users.

It should be no surprise, then, that clearly articulating your positioning is critical.

This HubSpot blog elaborates: “Your positioning impacts all aspects of your branding and how your market sees you—it influences everything your business presents and shares about your product and brand to your target audience. Your internal teams benefit greatly from effective positioning, too. It helps sales reps, marketers, and service and support teams create more delightful and on-brand experiences for customers.”

Define Your Objectives

Understanding the success of your MVP marketing starts with defining how you’ll measure your efforts.

First, determine what metrics, or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), you can track. Here are a few that might be helpful based on the minimum viable product you’re marketing:

  • Number of New Acquisitions: How many new customers you’ve gained through your marketing efforts.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): Measures the amount of money spent on gaining each customer, which is valuable for understanding ROI and costing your services.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): Measures the effectiveness of your investment, or how much money that investment brought in.
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): The ratio of how many people are clicking your links. Understanding this metric allows you to modify your advertising and website to increase the probability of people clicking your links.
  • Conversion Funnel: How many of those who started at the top of the funnel make their way through to becoming customers?

If you’re using social media as part of your MVP marketing plan, some relevant metrics might include:

  • Impressions tells you how many times people viewed your piece of content.
  • Reach tells you how many unique accounts your content reached.

Next, decide how frequently you’ll check in to review your metrics, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or some combination thereof.

Finally, watch for trends to identify how and when you’ll evaluate and tweak your approach.

Choose Your Channels Wisely

Determining your MVP marketing channels depends on a few factors, starting with your target market and their preferred platforms. Based on this information, you can decide whether you want to use social (and which channels), web, print, radio, or tv.

If social media is a key avenue, carefully consider the platforms. It’s not just with regard to whether your target audience hangs out there, but also with regard to your product’s ability to stand out on that platform. For example, everyone wants to advertise on Facebook because it’s easy to implement, and the reach is (supposedly) there. But remember, it’s harder than ever to target the right market since the iOS 14 update and its privacy updates (cross site tracking). And ask yourself if your product will actually stand out on that platform.

Next, spend some time revisiting your audience’s journey. What stage are they in? If they’re in the awareness stage, the platforms you choose likely differ from those in the conversion stage.

Finally, your product or service itself is also a deciding factor. Does it make sense to promote this type of product through this channel?

For example, if it’s a “sit down and focus on your portfolio” type of product, will people really be able to make the cognitive switch from their feed to an in-depth financial product?

Putting yourself in your users’ shoes allows you to make the right decisions based on realistic expectations.

Narrow Your Focus

Just as your product can’t appeal to everyone, you can’t set out to target “everyone.”

3 Pillar Global recently helped an insuretech partner who wanted to target all millennials in the US. “From the start, we narrowed [our audience] to millennials in the suburbs in a specific state, a professional, in their second job, with 0 kids, 50% married, etc.,” explained Kathryn Rosaaen, Manager of Product Development at 3 Pillar Global.

The team spent two weeks diving deep into this market through interviews and market analysis, learning about their environment, hopes, motivations, frustrations, and competing products. As a result, 3 Pillar Global prevented the client from wasting time.

Rosaaen explains, “If we had not done our homework, we would have had too wide a target market. Additionally, we would have spent 2 or 3 times as long in the development effort. We may be wrong, but focus helps us get to market sooner and learn, which is what it’s all about!”

Bigger Isn’t Better (at least not at first)

When you’re marketing a minimum viable product, you must be careful not to blow it up too fast. Many companies with a “go big or go home” mentality often fail. Remember, the point of MVP marketing is to learn. Focusing on quality over quantity will allow you to spend wisely and target the audience you believe are most likely to buy. When you roll out a minimum viable product, you can start with smaller benchmarks and a more straightforward approach. Starting out bigger isn’t better. It’s just bigger—with more risk.

Scott Varho, SVP, Product Development at 3 Pillar Global, says, “Bigger means the team will be distracted away from feedback and insights. Maximize the opportunity to learn what buyers and users have to say. This will inform how you pitch, how you market, and what you build.”

So how do you take a minimum viable product to market?

Instead of asking, “How many people are using my product?”, consider asking, “How many raving fans do we have?” Fans help spread the news of your launch via word of mouth, which is essentially free marketing.

Take kitchen tools company OXO, for example. Fast Company states, “To this day, these tools are the best articulation of the potential of inclusive design: Developed for people with arthritis, Good Grips had thick rubbery handles that were also better tools for everyone to use.” Using metrics like NPS (net promoter score) and qualitative data gathered from in-app surveys can help you gauge user enthusiasm.

Tell The Right Story

If you’re thinking of creating and marketing a minimum viable product, make sure you set the right expectations.

Lindsay Kloepping, Director, Product Strategy at 3 Pillar Global, advises, “Be careful not to grossly overpromise and underdeliver; you don’t want to get a reputation for yourself. Also, don’t worry about telling [the customer] how it works. Focus on what value they’re going to get from it. If it’s a novel concept, this is especially important. Focus on what they get before [you focus on] how to do it.”

The bottom line here is that the “right story” may not be what excites YOU the most, but instead, what excites your audience the most.

Don’t Forget Your Pitch Deck

You’re probably also marketing to investors at this stage of MVP development and marketing. And while your pitch deck isn’t critical to your primary marketing plan, it’s an excellent time to encapsulate critical data and messaging. Having your pitch deck lined up means you’re prepared when opportunities arise. Your pitch deck should include:

  • The problem you’re solving
  • Results of your target market research
  • A competition map and your advantages over the competition
  • Your customer profile and acquisition models
  • Your financials

However, keep in mind that this information should remain confidential and only share your pitch deck with investors to attain funding.

The Bottom Line of Your MVP Marketing Strategy

While it’s crucial to do your due diligence and create a data-informed marketing strategy, use a Fast, Flexible, and Focused approach. Find existing research to expedite your initial stages, focus on a narrow market, and choose quality over quantity to get to market sooner. This will allow you to start learning—the entire purpose of an MVP.

To learn more about 3Pillar Global’s services and how we can help you create and market your minimum viable product to test and validate your assumptions with real customers, contact us today.

Special thanks to these members of FORCE, 3Pillar’s expert network, for their contributions to this article.

FORCE is 3Pillar Global’s Thought Leadership Team comprised of technologists and industry experts offering their knowledge on important trends and topics in digital product development.