Marketing has changed; long gone are those halcyon days of large marketing teams, big budgets and slow burning campaigns. Today’s business leaders expect to see measurable results and tangible ROI from their marketing investment. But there is a new way of thinking and working which combines rapid time to market with continual improvement to create the best marketing approach. Welcome to the era of Minimum Viable Marketing™.
Minimum Viable Marketing™ (MVM) allows marketers to get back to basics. It focuses on experimentation and validated learning through measuring iterative cycles of activity. The goal is to quickly build a plan based on content and marketing activities that deliver the best marketing outcome. It is a common sense approach to marketing – based on testing a proposition, idea or campaign and then building on its successful elements. By relaxing some of the marketing planning disciplines, and taking ideas from the Lean methodology, marketers can transform how they go about B2B marketing. The MVM framework follows four key steps:
• Validate – test and validate your ideas or propositions
• Measure – examine the data in order to measure the impact of your campaign
• Learn – learn from your experiences and take the best ideas forward
• Improve – improve the aspects of the campaign that didn’t work as well
Typically business – to – business (B2B) marketing has been run along a linear cycle of define, design a plan of action and marketing mix, agree budget and then execute and report. Where this may have worked well in the past for mass marketing and generated some impact on reaching key targets, effectiveness is often questionable. It is also risky – why wait until the very end to measure and report? Isn’t it better to know which messages, tactics and communications get the best response, pique your decision makers’ interest and drive results? Understanding what is effective is key for the modern marketer.
There is a huge amount of wastage in traditional marketing – with such investment in planning and preparation up front, marketers are often only just validating the proposition and messaging with their audience as part of a large campaign. Let’s take a typical campaign for an IT consultancy:
1. The business develops and agrees a new proposition idea. A go to market strategy and marketing campaign need to be developed, fast
2. Campaign planning begins including defining a full marketing mix
3. Campaign elements are created including data building, writing content, designing collaterals etc. – this can be time consuming and costly
4. Big push / launch to go to market – elements executed into market based on a defined timeline
5. Campaign measured and results analysed
So what is wrong with this picture? For a start you have invested a considerable amount of resource and effort before the proposition has been tested with your target audience. Are they in fact the right target for this proposition, did you even check?
Of course the modern marketer is always trying to analyse and learn from results but can such a front loaded process really allow for a true understanding of how the proposition is landing with prospects? Or accommodate more creative ideas to be included and tested before you push out the campaign to your entire target database?
A typical MVM approach validates the proposition idea or the campaign theme with a small group; honing it, discarding poorly performing elements such as messages or calls to action that don’t resonate or interest the target audience. Then adding more to the marketing mix, extending the audience etc. to expand the successful elements. It constantly measures results and evaluates against the business, marketing and campaign objectives.
Enabling innovation makes MVM even more valuable. It is particularly useful when you want to try a radical new approach but want to avoid the costs of a traditional campaign or the risk of alienating key target segments. MVM can really help at two key stages:
1. At the inception of a new proposition or campaign, experimenting with new channels, audiences or tactics on a small scale to prove or disprove effectiveness enables marketers to quickly go to market and drive results
2. To reinvigorate existing propositions or campaigns where marketing impact is in decline. Adding a cycle of MVM to try out some new ideas with a sub-set of your target audience which can then be rolled out across the campaign if successful
As MVM focuses on exploiting the marketing elements that perform best you continually improve results as you move through a campaign.
You can start with a minimal level of activity which helps you go to market quickly, measuring as you go. Adjustments can be made based on the results and new elements added, measuring the impact of each one. The idea is to gradually layer the marketing mix with high performing elements that contribute to meeting your objectives and business goals.
Greater budget control
MVM allows for greater budget control, as you are continually measuring and learning, the return on investment becomes easier to foresee and quantify.
Digital tools lend themselves particularly well to MVM such as paid search or online advertising strategies – where a small budget pot can be allocated to validate the approach before a more sustained investment is made once the tactic is proven.
Core campaign components such as content can be expensive but by validating which elements of the messaging, topic or theme resonate most, any further investment is focused on additional content that will drive results.
Marketers should always set up metrics to report and understand the success of the marketing initiatives being undertaken. The difference with MVM is the continual learning and improvements mean any underperforming activity can be reviewed, changed and turned into an element with positive return.
Getting to market first can be a key advantage for firms in fast moving environments such as technology. MVM enables a rapid time to market by starting with a minimal marketing mix and building on it. This means you can start to grow market share and build your brand whilst investing in the marketing elements that work best.
“What gets measured gets improved”
By taking some of the best ways of working from start-up culture, and applying it to your marketing in this controlled framework of Minimum Viable Marketing, you can explore more creative and innovative ideas, test them and add those that work to your marketing plan. The focus on measurability gives you tangible evidence for the marketing investments being made. This means that you know that they are supporting and contributing to the wider business goals. Peter Drucker was right: “What gets measured gets improved”. Otherwise, how can marketing be held accountable?