By Zoe Merchant, Managing Director, Bright Innovation

Today’s business leaders expect to see measurable results and tangible ROI from their marketing investment. Gone are the days of bloated teams, big budgets and agency away days. Like every other discipline marketing must deliver, at speed and generate the expected ROI. Welcome to the era of Minimum Viable Marketing ™ (MVM).

Minimum Viable Marketing (MVM) builds on some of the business practices from Lean and Agile project management and applies these techniques to the marketing function. MVM moves away from the strictly linear approach to marketing planning with its cycle of define, design and develop a plan and marketing mix, budget and then finally execute and report. Instead it emphasises testing and learning through measuring iterative cycles of activity. The idea is to deliver the best marketing outcome through a plan based on optimised marketing communication and delivery. It is a common sense approach to marketing – based on testing a proposition, idea or campaign and then building on its successful elements.

The MVM approach follows four key steps:

  • Validate - test and optimise your tactics and propositions
  • Measure - the emphasis here is on gathering and analysing data to evaluate the impact of your campaign
  • Learn - learn from your work to refine your approach
  • Improve – look at the areas that didn't work so well and improve them
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.

Reducing wastage

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.

The obvious weakness is that we didn’t test or measure the effectiveness of our activity until the very end, when potentially large amounts of money and time have already been committed. How do we know what we are saying or offering is resonating with the target audience? Are we sure they are the right target audience in the first place?

While, marketing professionals have always sought to research, test and refine their thinking and the function has long emphasized the need for data and rigorous analysis, can this front loaded approach really allow for understanding how the campaign is being received with prospects?

A typical MVM approach first validates the suggested approach with a small group; honing it, discarding poorly performing elements such as messages or calls to action that fail to resonate. Then more is added 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. The result is a reduction in wastage, quicker results and lower costs among other benefits.

Enabling innovation

MVM is particularly useful for enabling innovation. It allows organisations to test a radical new approach without the costs of a traditional campaign or the risk of alienating key target segments.

Budget control

MVM allows for greater budget control, as with continual 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.

Speed to market

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.

Focused on results

As MVM focuses on exploiting the marketing elements that perform best, results are continually improved as the campaign progresses. By starting with a minimal level of activity which helps you go to market quickly, adjustments can be made later based on the elements that meet your business objectives.

Rather than focusing on full definition and detailed planning of a marketing campaign at the outset, MVM takes a proposition out to a market with the minimum viable messaging and mix of activities, which can be tested and improved. The focus on measurability gives you tangible evidence for the ROI and the knowledge that your campaign is supporting the wider business goals.