Some of the web’s most successful businesses swear by the lean startup method. I’ve also personally used this method and I’ve written about minimum viable products as one of the pillars of successfully starting an online business.
In a nutshell, the idea is to create the smallest possible version of a product, release it and then grow the product based on user feedback. This is an idea completely opposed to the usual approach of building the “perfect” product first and only then releasing it to the public.
Creating a minimum viable product is amazingly useful, will make your business more prosperous and yourself more attractive and intelligent… BUT what if your product isn’t suitable for this model?
Read on to find the answer…
Today’s post is based on a reader question that I’ll summarize here:
I can see how a minimum viable product is useful for software businesses, but I can’t see it working for information products. After all, an information product has to deliver a result and if I release an incomplete product, it won’t deliver that result, hence my MVP will be worthless.
What’s 100% correct in this statement is this: an
information product’s value is determined by the result it delivers.
This applies to any kind of product and the misconception that is implied in the question above is that an MVP is an incomplete product. The software developer can’t afford to release an incomplete or broken product any more than the information marketer.
Let’s look at exactly how you can apply the lean startup model to information products (and even steps in your marketing of the information product).
The nature of any topic you can think of is fractal and the same is true for your expertise in any topic (given that you’ve spent enough time building that expertise). To illustrate, let’s look at this hierarchy of topics:
- Advertising on the Internet
- Google AdWords
Each of these topics is a sub-set of the topic above it. In each step, we “zoom in” to a specific segment of the previous topic. Do you see how each of these topics is equally rich and diverse? Entire books have been written about each of these sub topics. And we could easily dig several levels deeper, into ever more specialized areas.
What does that have to do with a minimum viable information product? It means that you don’t have to provide everything and the kitchen sink before your product can be useful.
Let’s make this more practical and look at two of my own products: my Build a Better Blog mini course and my RAPID Landing Pages mini course.
Each of these products was created and released in under 3 days and both of them only cover a sliver of a larger topic.
In the Better Blog product, I only talk about the 4 most essential things I think anyone who starts blogging should know about.
In the RAPID course, I teach one specific method of creating, publishing and testing landing pages as quickly as possible. As you can imagine, I have a lot more to say about landing pages, copywriting, testing and the way all this fits into a larger marketing strategy. In fact, I could easily create an expansive information product on this topic.
And as it turns out, if I had the intention to create such a product, the RAPID mini course would be the perfect MVP to start with.
The important bit: these products both deliver real value, even though they are small in scope and cover a very narrow topic. And they were both created and released very quickly. These are the two major aspects that make an MVP work.
The Pricing Question
Both of these examples are free products. Does that mean your information MVP has to be a free product?
No. I could easily charge a small amount for these products and I’m certain customers would be happy with their purchase. I’ve been told repeatedly that my free mini-courses are more valuable and useful than some paid products on similar topics. Keeping them free and using them for lead generation is simply a matter of choice.
If you’re setting out to create a new information product business, I recommend you follow one of these two strategies:
1) The Pricecalator
Release your first MVP for free, but make it clear that it’s only available for free, for a limited amount of time (ideally with a countdown to a specific end date). This provides a nice urgency factor and also emphasizes the real value of your product (it’s not just something that’s free, it’s something that’s worth money, but it’s free right now).
With this limited free offer, you get your first batch of customers through the door and with their feedback, you start growing and improving your product. Once you’ve rolled out an update or two, put a price tag on your product, but make the updates free for all existing customers. This will make your existing customers love you and help generate buzz for your product.
The best part is that you can keep repeating this cycle many times: get new customers, improve and expand the product, increase the price. Every time you are ready to roll out an update, you can have another countdown to the price increase, which can help boost sales.
Alternatively, you can keep the initial MVP free forever and use it as a lead generation tool. You provide some useful information to your subscribers and then make them an offer to upgrade to your premium product, which is where all your updates and improvements are released.
You can also combine both of these strategies, by keeping a free lead generation product while doing the Pricecalator thing with your premium product.
Value in Small Packages
Let’s look at one more example of delivering value while keeping things minimal.
Let’s say you run a site about health and fitness. A vast range of topics, no doubt. To deliver your MVP, you need to dig into some aspect of health and fitness and unearth something small, but valuable.
For example: you could recommend a healthy shake that can be made easily and that you recommend drinking daily.
This is simple advice, but it has real value. Your readers can go ahead and make that shake and drink it. In other words (and to address the original question again), you’re delivering a real and tangible end result, even though this shake recipe doesn’t cover everything there is to know about health and fitness.
And you know what? Such a shake recipe would make a nice blog post on a health and fitness blog, wouldn’t it?
If you want to create valuable content, each post you publish should be like a minimum viable information product. It should deliver real value and a real, tangible end result for your readers and it should tie into the bigger picture of what your business is about.
This is about the fractal nature of information and usefulness. Luckily, you don’t have to provide answers to everything in order to deliver a valuable product, you can zoom in on one aspect. As long as you extract some useful and actionable advice, the result is a product worth paying attention to. And whether you want to publish that product as a piece of free content, as a free report, as a video or video series or in some other form is up to you.
Principle & Execution
Once you see the fractal nature of all knowledge, all skills and all topics, it opens up infinite possibilities. You can always apply the same underlying principle: “zoom in” on a topic, extract some useful, valuable information and present it in a way that encourages your audience to get a specific result.
You can apply this over and over again and what form you publish the resulting “products” in is just a question of your marketing strategy.
Let me know i you have any further questions on how to apply this to your specific business model.