Test your Marketing, before spending £££’s

Paul Stratford, Creative Director

Imagine knowing exactly how much every new customer cost, exactly where they came from and how many there were… you could forecast sales figures, recruitment plans and budget more certainly. 

Monday, 11th September

Using the principles of Inbound strategy and the tactics of performance Marketing, we’ve devised a methodology to help new products go to market with a degree of certainty. Best of all, we’re confident they’re armed with features users want. We know, because we already have clients eagerly waiting…  

If you’re launching a new product, app or service, this kind of intelligence is vital, but how do you dip your toe in the water? How do you uncover your costs before you develop a product too far? How many features do you add? Without all this info, where do you even start setting aside budgets for sales and marketing?

Facebook’s mantra “Done is better than perfect” spawned many newcomers launching Minimum Viable Products (or MVP’s). This is where there is debate – what is the minimum viable product and what is so minimal, it isn’t commercially viable. This article will help to understand where the inflection point is for your product or service.

Firstly, what’s an MVP?

Using the lowest possible costs a basic prototype is launched and user feedback is sought to evolve the product into something essential and profitable. Facebook’s other motto “Move fast and break things” has proven to be a risky strategy, but one that worked for Instagram, Rovio Games (Angry Birds) and more obviously Facebook. Arguably if Facebook had waited until features & designs were tested and signed off, it would be a very different world now. That’s fine with VC Funding, but what about earlier stage development. How about the stage before even a (metaphorical) penny is spent. No product. Nothing to see. Nothing to experience. Is there a moment of opportunity to discover whether an idea is viable and in tandem – how viable. At what Cost? 

Pre-MVP

At Usable Media, we believe there is a stage before building a prototype, ‘beta model’ or mock-up. ‘Pre-MVP’ is a stage we’ve identified at Usable media. After the germ of an idea and directly before a business plan, there is the feasibility test – but its often avoided as a ‘cost’ or scaled back to avoid adding friction to the process.  Feasibility tests aren’t considered sexy or exciting. However, hearsay, gut-instinct and guesswork are.

Clients waiting…

Using the same techniques we deploy through the digital marketing lifecycle, we are able to assess size of audiences. We can define the killer channels to find prospects and give early indicators of the cost of acquiring them – or better still, How much it costs to market a product and get a customer – ‘CPA’. CPA or ‘cost per acquisition’ is the golden number, and with a bit of intelligence, you can easily make predictions and sign customers up – before you even have a product. Cue the Chicken & Egg analogy…

Ask around

I’m aware this sounds obvious. You just ask people, right? Well, you can do that too – the problem with asking people you know, is that its skewed. They might not be relevant or they might not be in the right frame of mind when you ask them. And then of course, you need to consider who – your friend will tell you what you want to hear and the people you pay to have opinions will do just that – people always have opinions, but opinions do come with different values … 

Focus groups

A popular technique borrowed from Usability testing (also known as UX testing). This is often set in a controlled environment – several workstatons with video cameras and screen recording set up to follow users reactions to questions. Again, are they the end-client with deep down motivation to purchase your product or services? What did they do just before the test – did they have an argument or big lunch and what’s currently on their minds? There are so many anomalies like this within User testing data, because its ‘forced’ or ‘synthetic’. Like asking a friend’, when respondents are paid to have opinions, what are they worth… Personally I don’t feel confident enough to bank ten’s of thousands of pounds on the hunches of several users. Again, in this scenario, there needs to be some sort of product or mockup for users to test, so it’s slightly flawed for Feasibility testing. In my view.

Live testing and ‘medium size data’

Using real, live data is by far my preferred approach. One of the central tools to marketing is Google Analytics. Looking at how visitors behave on websites is the most valuable data. They are on your website, because they need what you’re selling, they have the motivation to buy and the data is pretty black or white. Before you have a product , brand or website though, this isn’t necessarily easy. 

Thats where Pre-MVP helps.

We develop a generic brand. Build a generic webpage and host a very detailed survey. Complete with Google Analytics and video tracking tools, we can monitor every visitor and learn from their behaviour and their feedback. But we need Visitors, you’re thinking. Testing keywords across Googles ad-network, Targeting specific users in Social Media and inviting visitors to take part gives data we can use to define what people want. This can through incentivisation (“get 12 months for the price of 9 when you take part in our questionnaire”). We also use trained telesales professionals to source data for profiles with a relevance to our clients products. Again, they use the same survey on the same site as everyone else taking part.

‘The icing on the cake is the final question in our surveys – if we can solve the issues expressed within the surveys would the respondents like to hear from us again?’ I’ll let this digest. User innovation is at the heart of every successfully launched product and by asking this question, we are literally creating the first raft of customers – by giving them what they want.

We use many tactics to gather this information including;

  • Generic ’masked’ domain names – A place online for the survey to be hosted and a name to associate it for future activity
  • Ghost brands (or brands that are hidden behind another name) – so it’s clear there is a business behind the questionnaire
  • Dynamic surveys with analytics installed – so we can monitor and study behaviour
  • CRM building – Tracking social media to build profiles of likely relevant customers to target
  • Telesales Interviews – Using highly trained sales people to connect with respondents and gauge the level of motivation
  • Test Digital ad campaigns – drive traffic to the surveys and determine highest performing triggers and keywords 
  • Sponsored test-posts on social media – Again, learning what works and how much it costs to make it work.
  • Etc

These techniques come from our broader digital marketing service plan. We know each product, service and company needs it’s own bespoke approach which is why we offer Pre-MVP or Feasibility testing. In each case, we handpick and configure digital marketing tools to work for Pre-MPVP.

We’ve saved clients £££’s identifying needs of audiences before rushing into building and marketing products with fingers crossed. With investors increasingly focussed on ROI, its fast becoming the service clients request most.

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