If you’re building a minimum viable product, there’s a valuable metric you should start monitoring, one that a lot of entrepreneurs ignore. And it’s not customer revenue.
While MVP revenue is important, it’s not as critical as it will be once the product has found market fit. Don’t get me wrong, zero or close-to-zero revenue is one thing, and that’s still a bad sign. But unless you’re one of those rare and — let’s face it — lucky startups to launch an MVP to immediate mass acceptance, you’ll always be questioning whether your run rate is tracking towards fit or if it’s just hitting its peak on the way back down to, well, zero or close-to-zero.
So if I had to pick the best quantitative health metric for an MVP, it would have to be valid email addresses: prospects who have proactively opted in to receive emails from your company.
What you do or don’t do to tap the value of those email addresses might end up being the difference in eventually finding that elusive market fit.
The Sneaky Value of the Lowly Email Address
Email has seen its peak usefulness, for sure. But in 2022, a valid, opted-in email address is still more valuable than a social follower or even a mobile phone number, mainly because of the nature of those marketing “touches.”
Social messaging is blasted from one to many, viewed by few and then usually swiped away in less than a second. Mobile messaging, while almost always viewed, is usually discarded unless there’s a built-in urgency to act immediately.
Email messaging offers the possibility of a more intimate and trusted communication channel that at least feels one-to-one. In most cases, the email subject gets viewed, and when that subject draws the prospect to open the email, you usually have their attention for at least a few seconds.
But that means an email address is only as valuable as the content you send to it.
4 Truths About Email Content
- Send a poorly written subject line, and no one will open the email.
- Send spammy or low-value content, and you’ll get unsubscribed or spam-trapped.
- Send infrequently, and no one will remember who you are.
- Send too frequently, and you’re looking at unsubscribes again.
An email campaign gives your product, especially your MVP, its best chance at discovery and engagement. It’s an opportunity you need to take advantage of.
Getting Over the Spam Hump
The email content campaign is the underrated workhorse of the MVP marketing push. But there are a few things working against it.
For one thing, unless you’re buying email lists, the top of your funnel is not only narrow, but also difficult to expand. People don’t give up their email address easily — let alone to an unknown entity pitching an unproven product.
Along with that, the threshold for spammy or low-value content is a lot lower for an MVP compared to a mature product from a known company. It’s almost as if customers expect spam from their favorite brick-and-mortar or their trusted SaaS solution; it’s just something they wade through to get to the really good offers that led them to sign up for the spam in the first place.
Thus, an MVP email audience is not only more difficult to grow, it’s far easier to lose. Fortunately, there are ways to counter this with content that you can only serve with an MVP.
Early Access Content
With an MVP, you’re not just building a customer base, you’re building a base of early adopters. This gives you an opportunity to offer and discuss special pricing, tiers and features for these early adopters that can fuel both interest in your email list and engagement with the content. You can start this kind of content campaign well before launch — even before the product is built — by delivering information about the problem and how your product intends to solve it.
The only drawback to this kind of campaign is that it has a relatively short shelf life. A “coming soon” campaign that lasts for more than a few months will definitely tune prospects out. So, like any other campaign, it needs to be planned in advance, in this case using milestones in product development as markers for the campaign timeline.
But with an MVP, it’s also easy to evolve the message.
New Features Content
Once the MVP is on the market, there will be new versions and new features to preview and announce. With software and most tech, these are pre-planned and easy to tell stories about. But even with service MVPs and early version physical products, there are always upgrades and add-ons to offer.
Either way, when you create content around new features, stick to talking about customer value, not cool tech.
Onboarding and Customer Success Content
Any innovative product requires at least a little onboarding and instruction — sometimes a lot — for the customer to get the best experience and the most value out of the solution.
You can deliver this kind of content even after early access and even after new feature releases. It never hurts to go back and remind your customers how to best use what you’ve already given them. You might even learn new tricks and ideal paths from some of your better customers, and you can pass that information along to your entire prospect base in the form of case studies.
The great thing about an MVP and an early adopter customer base is that on some level, you’re in this together, working to innovate a new solution to an old problem. You provide the vision and the execution, while they bring the experience and the feedback. It’s a virtuous cycle that is almost always engaging.
Not every email you send should “stir the revolution,” so to speak, but there should always be a vibe that you and your customers are a team working toward the same goal: their success.
A Hand in the Process
Teamwork should never be just lip service. The truth is, in the MVP days and even beyond, you and your customers are indeed a team, working on delivering them what they need to be successful.
Sure, they’ll tell you what they want, and you can listen to them. But the only real way to figure out what they need is to discover it together, using your MVP to solve actual real-world problems in real time.
An email content campaign is a way to give them a hand in the process of developing the solution they need. Email is two-way communication, so always keep that email channel open, highlighting ways to reply and respond.
You’ll not only increase customer engagement, you’ll increase customer success and product value as well.