Why do the product managers get to have all the fun shipping an MVP, while product marketers are expected to launch an MVP like a full-featured product?
Sometimes there’s a good reason to — and sometimes you should soft launch with what I call the minimum viable product launch (free templates for you to grab at the bottom of this post, or here if you can’t wait).
The case for a full-scale marketing launch of an MVP
There are three scenarios when I believe the full-scale marketing launch for an MVP is the right move:
- When your MVP is your only P. When you’re a startup, and you’re starting to unveil, this is definitely time to hit it hard. You might be in private beta – great. This still warrants a full-scale launch because it provides your first big opportunity to make a statement about the market you’re in and problem you’re solving. It’s ok that some of what you’re marketing is futures, you’re a startup. You can afford to sustain the risk of over promising because the world knows you’re just getting started.
- When your MVP is taking you into a new market or audience. As you grow and build upon your core product, your new products should also take the MVP approach. Some of those new products will take you into a new market, and some won’t. For instance, in my last job, our core product offering was initially for developers. When we launched a new product that would test code quality, it was for the same audience — and not a new market. So for the early days, it should have had an MVPL. However, when we launched a product for marketers – that was the moment to capture in a full-scale launch.
- When your MVP is a net new feature or solution no one else has. This one is trickier because when staring at pure product differentiation, my inclination is to shout that from the rooftops. True product differentiation is fleeting, so the moment something good-ish is ready, I’m all in. However; because it’s fleeting, if this isn’t your only product you may want to pump the break, because someone could see your MVP and trump it in a tech heartbeat.
The case for an MVPL of an MVP
When the scope is pared back last minute.
I see this pretty often. I’ll work with product management to understand what the product is going to do, and we’ll start working on the value proposition.I’m working on the marketing launch while they’re working on the product, the messaging is up and running and approved, web content published, etc… and then: BOOM “Oh, we didn’t get to that feature.” I feel like someone closelined me. If a leg has been taken from your value-prop stool, hold the phone and MVPL. A good way to make this an easier discussion with product management is to agree upon a “Working backwards” press release. Werner Vogels, Amazon Web Services CTO, popularized this term and approach by having their product managers commit to what’s newsworthy about a product before it’s built. It’s a good place for management and marketing to align not only on the product features, but why they’re meaningful and newsworthy. And if something changes in the product process that changes the working backwards press release, there’s your sign that the launch should be reigned in.
When the MVP is part of an incremental improvement.
A good example of how to spot this is if you look at the MVP, and you don’t have any new value prop, just slightly better. If your core value isn’t changing, you don’t have news; you have feature-release worthiness.
When the MVP is targeted at helping angry customers.
No press is bad press? Wrong. Bad press is bad press. Bad press from your customers is catastrophic. When you’ve blown it with a first launch, and customers revolted, and you rebooted to fix the problem…this is a sensitive time for your company. You have not earned the right to make a big splash, because you failed the first time. The best press you can get is soft launching to customers, and letting them advocate for you.
So I created four templates that can serve as guidance for creating your own MVPL process:
- MVPL Checklist. What do you short in this launch? A lot of external-facing and demand gen activities – Webinars, press releases, analyst relations briefings, etc. What do you not short? Messaging, web content, email, and most importantly, sales enablement.
- MVPL Messaging Guide. Button it up. I’ve seen 10 page messaging guides. Those go right into the tl;dr graveyard. Stick with the basics.
- MVPL Pitch Deck. 2-3 slides that can be inserted into an existing pitch deck letting someone know this is new, and what’s great about it.
- MVPL Measurements. The point of an MVP is to quickly learn via the build-measure-learn loop, so make sure you’re measuring your marketing launch effectiveness, too.
If you have questions or want to talk through a launch, send me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org