What Every Marketer Should Know about MVPs in Agile

Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) may be strongly associated with Lean, startups, and product development in general, but it turns out there’s a lot Agile marketers can get from them as well.

Understanding how to create and use MVPs is a fantastic way to save time, create better marketing materials, and supercharge your team’s learning. So before you spend weeks working on a marketing strategy you aren’t sure will get the results you need, it’s time to master the marketing MVP.

What is an MVP?

Explanation of MVP: Minimum, Viable, Product presented as three boxed elements.

The easiest way to understand what an MVP is in an Agile marketing context is to break it down by word. An MVP must be “minimum” meaning it should aim to achieve its mission with the absolute minimum amount of input.

For example, if you want to gauge whether there’s interest in a whitepaper, instead of creating the whitepaper you can use paid ads to promote a signup page. The signups will give you a sense of the level of interest with minimal effort.

Next is “viable.” In other words, the thing you create has to do its job. To take the whitepaper example, removing the landing page or not putting any money behind the ads to promote it would both ensure the experiment would not be able to get an accurate gauge of interest.

Finally, “product” is fairly straightforward. It simply means that the thing you create has to actually function in some way. So to take all three words together, an MVP is something which can accomplish a defined task with minimal effort.

How do MVPs Fit into Agile Marketing?

MVPs have actually been associated with Agile since the very beginning. Agile was created by software developers who were tired of spending months or years developing software which no longer met the customer’s needs. Unsurprisingly, MVPs offered a great way to avoid that problem, but MVPs without the Agile methodology to guide them wouldn’t be as effective.

The Agile Manifesto for Software Development mentions “Working software over comprehensive documentation” and “Responding to change over following a plan.” Both of these are supported by using MVPs to quickly create working products in response to changing circumstances.

Getting into Agile marketing, MVPs are what enable us to achieve nearly all of the values laid out in the Agile Marketing Manifesto. They enable us to validate learnings by conducting more experiments, to adapt and iterate campaigns by avoiding “big-bang campaigns” which take ages to create, and they generally enable us to do and learn more.

Going back to that whitepaper example, without using an MVP it’s very difficult to accurately determine whether that whitepaper would bring value for a stakeholder without creating it in full.

How Marketers Can Use an MVP in Agile

Now that the value of MVPs in Agile marketing is clear, let’s go through some examples to show you how they can be used.

Using Agile MVPs for Content

While the whitepaper example discussed above shows one way Agile content marketers can use MVPs, it’s not the only way. An actual article itself can function as an MVP. For example, if you’re considering creating a large batch of hub and spoke content, instead of creating all those articles at once, you can start with the hub.

By creating just the hub content, you can look at analytics or analysis tools like Hotjar to see which sections of that hub article attract the most interest. Now you have a sense of what spoke articles you should focus on. If one area attracts little interest, you may even abandon it entirely.

Using Agile MVPs for PPC

MVPs feel almost tailor-made for PPC campaigns. It always makes sense to use small campaigns to test ideas before investing serious resources. Only once that test has shown your hypothesis to be correct do you go all in. You can also use PPC to gauge interest in other marketing products which haven’t been created, again like in the whitepaper example.

Using Agile MVPs for Social

Much like with PPC, social media marketers can use MVPs to confirm interest in something before investing fully in it. This can even be done with accounts besides the main one used for marketing.

The Benefits of Agile MVPs

Now that we understand what an MVP is in an Agile marketing context, what advantages can we gain by using them?

Reducing Risk

Investing heavily into any kind of marketing campaign always brings some risk. But using MVPs to test the underlying assumptions of that campaign beforehand definitely reduces the risk you’re taking. It also shows stakeholders that you’re being careful and diligent in spending their resources.

Empowers More Learning

Because MVPs allow you to test hypotheses at lower cost, they enable marketers to test more ideas. This ties back into the continuous learning that’s at the core of Agile marketing. The faster marketers can test ideas and learn new things about their prospective customers, the more effective they can be.

The continuous learning cycle consisting of three elements: hypothesis, MVP, studying data.

Helps Reinforce the Agile Mindset

Agile is always built on the foundation of the Agile mindset. Relying on marketers to do things in an Agile way without an understanding of the principles behind it is a recipe for “fake Agile.” That is when you’re ostensibly doing things in an Agile way but not getting the benefits because you’re missing some key elements.

Getting into the habit of regularly creating and using MVPs to test ideas helps marketing teams think and act in an Agile way. 

Ensures Timely Release of Deliverables

The speed that MVPs enable makes it easier for marketers to deliver value to stakeholders on time and on budget. By avoiding the massive amounts of wasted time necessary for untested big-bang campaigns, marketers can be more flexible and do more with less.

MVP Mistakes Agile Marketers Should Avoid

Obviously, MVPs bring a lot of value to marketers, but there are also some things you absolutely should avoid. For one, MVPs are not an excuse to lie to your potential customers. So if you’re testing an idea, it’s wise not to claim that the full-blown product has already been created when it hasn’t.

Next, while the importance of “minimum” should be clear by now, it’s easy to forget about it when creating MVPs. It can help to ask yourself “can the MVP still do its job if X isn’t done?” That should be your guiding question, ensuring that nothing extraneous is added.

MVP product compared to a finished one. A toddler car next to a sports automobile.

Finally, bear in mind that the “minimum” part of an MVP also applies to how it’s used. In other words, don’t wait for weeks to gather as much data as possible just so you can be 100% certain the MVP is a success. Use tools like statistical significance calculators to determine whether you have enough data to confidently conclude your experiment before wasting too much time waiting for more results.

Interested in Honing Your Agile Marketing Skills?

Now that you’re equipped to use MVPs in your marketing, why stop there? We have an array of Agile marketing courses for everyone from total beginners to seasoned leaders of Agile teams. Whether you’re interested in a self-paced course or want time with an experienced instructor, we have courses to meet your needs.

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