Good news: early-stage investors don’t expect you to have a fully-functional product. In fact, waiting until you’ve developed one can actually backfire if you wind up over-developing something customers don’t actually want.
That said, investors still want a clear description of your product or solution plus data that demonstrates clear interest from your target audience. At the MVP stage, your goal is to be able to tell an investor, “We identified an audience of X amount and qualified that they’re a fit using Y, so we’d like Z amount of money to:
- build a beta product
- continue to engage our leads and find more leads while we build
- convert leads into paying customers by this date.
Step 1: Set yourself up for success
Before diving directly into your digital marketing activities, you may want to do some “warm up” activities to set yourself up for success. The best pre-launch warm up activity is building up your email list so that you have a group of people to whom you can market your MVP. You can build up this list by:
- telling people in your network about your solution
- posting about your idea on social media with a contact form
- networking at startup events or industry-specific events
This email list will help you maximize the value of the following targeted digital marketing activities.
Step 2: Build a landing page
Your landing page is the web page that will describe your solution, your brand, and your unique value proposition. The success criteria for your landing page are:
- copy that clearly describes your value prop
- a form for collecting emails
- early testimonials to offer social proof
- key benefits that support the value proposition
HubSpot, Unbounce, and Instapage are all great tools for building professional-looking landing pages with limited time and graphic design skills.
Step 3: Launch a PPC campaign for generating leads
Once you’ve set up your landing page, it’s time to help people find it. Set up pay-per-click (PPC) ads to find people.
Select your platform
How many platforms should you choose? This depends on your budget. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are cost-effective options. If you want to go the Google Ads route, keep in mind that this can be more expensive and competitive depending on the category. Search engines are the top source of brand discovery, beating ads on television, word-of-mouth recommendations, and social media ads, and Google has over 90% of search engine market share.
Generally speaking, if you think people will be searching about a problem that your product solves, Google Ads can be a good investment. If you’re uncertain, consider sticking with social media platforms. If you have a limited budget, stick with Google Ads to get the most bang for your buck.
Conduct keyword research
Brainstorm a list of topics and use tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Google Keyword Planner to find the most searched long tail keywords. Your focus is to target searchers with high commercial intent, so it’s best to stick to the kinds of keywords you focused on during your market research validation – keywords with words like buy, deal, discounts, best, comparison, review. The only difference is that you’re investing more and you have a more refined list of topics.
Set your budget
Recall in chapter 1 when we said that you don’t pay for a PPC ad unless a searcher takes a specific action like clicking the link.
The trouble is that you don’t always know how many people will click on your ad in a day. If a bunch of people click and then spend, no harm done. But if people click and don’t spend, or they click, but the ROI isn’t high enough, you may wind up with a massive ad bill.
To prevent this, you can set a budget. This is the amount of money that your ad spending cannot exceed on a daily or monthly basis.
How much do you pay per click? In other words, what is the cost per click (CPC)? This depends on a combination of factors that each ad platform sets. On Google, this is a combination of:
who else is bidding on your keyword your Ad Rank or positioning
When someone types in “top grocery discounts app”, the search engine rapidly determines who is bidding on this keyword. If someone else is bidding on it, they don’t automatically get preferential treatment based on their budget. Google’s business model relies on serving searchers relevant, helpful information. So while they want to make money, they also want to show ads that will help their users. So they calculate an Ad Rank or positioning based on maximum CPC bid and quality score (determined by relevance of your ad and the associated landing page).
Maximum CPC Bid x Quality Score = Ad Rank
They then use your Ad Rank in the formula below each time there’s a search on your chosen keyword:
The Ad Rank of the Advertiser Below You / Your Quality Score + $0.01 = Your Price
This is why it’s important to consider how competitive your keywords are, which is something your chosen ad platform will show you. If it’s very competitive, the CPC will be higher. While you won’t go over budget, you may blow your entire budget on a minimal number of clicks.
Optimize your PPC campaign
Keep an eye on which keywords and ads have high click-through rates (CTR) and which have a high CPC and low CTR. Eliminate ads that aren’t working and redirect your funds to the successful ads.
There are several ways that you can optimize your ads. A few popular options are:
- creating a negative keywords list
- enhancing your ad copy
- sharpening your call to action (CTA)
- pumping up your landing page content
- focusing on conversions not clicks (aka post-click optimization)
Step 4: Nurture your contact list
Once you’ve generated leads, it’s time to keep them warm. You’ll be asking a lot of your users in the early days of your product, from putting up with bugs to providing feedback. In response, you want to be engaged, informative, and helpful.
Distribute a newsletter
A newsletter is a smart way to develop community and keep your brand top of mind for your audience.
Establish a manageable, regular cadence. In the beginning, try to stick to monthly newsletters. Avoid over-committing to a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter since this can be tough to maintain with changing priorities.
Pack these newsletters with links to recent blog posts, product updates, helpful guides for using the product features, and announcements about upcoming releases.
Done right, your newsletter can help get your audience invested in your product’s development.
You can also throw in goodies like coupons or social proof like testimonials.
Once you start publishing your newsletter, keep an eye on the metrics. You want to know:
- which headlines lead to the highest open rates
- which links people click on the most
- how long people spend within the newsletter
You can use tools such as Mailchimp, HubSpot, and MailerLite to build, distribute, and review the analytics of your newsletter.
TIP: If you’re in the B2B space, you should already have a list
of emails compiled from your market research. Leverage LinkedIn, company websites, and other directories to refine
who you want to contact. Just be mindful of any laws around unsolicited emails.
Select a social media channel
Social media is one of the top 3 sources for brand discovery alongside search engines and television ads.
When you’re marketing your MVP, focus on one social media channel. While it’s tempting to simply “lift and shift” content across networks, this is not the best strategy since each platform has its own best practices.
You can post prompts about common customer problems, stats about your industry, and links to your blog posts and product releases. You can also tease the premium content that’s available exclusively in your newsletter to attract more subscribers.
Once you start posting, keep track of your engagement numbers. This serves as an additional form of market research. Use these engagement numbers to understand:
- which features interest your target audience most
- which industries engage the most with your solution
- which use cases are most compelling
Step 5: Develop B2b Sales enablement content
If you’re a B2B company, the early days of your business will be more sales heavy than a B2C business. You’ll be reaching out to contacts and pitching your solution. If you’re reaching the right people, they’ll ask for collateral they can review. So be prepared with documents such as PDF one-pagers or landing pages outlining the problem and how your solution addresses it. Convert these PDF one pagers into blog posts that you can share across your social media channels.
Translate marketing speak into investor speak
Your targeted digital marketing activities help you build up metrics that demonstrate traction to investors. Remember: Early-stage investors don’t expect a final product, but they do want proof that people are interested in your future final product.
To demonstrate this, track the following metrics over time. It’s important to track it over time, rather than just providing your most recent number, in order to demonstrate growth – hopefully exponential growth!
- customer acquisition cost (CAC): Demonstrates the cost of getting a customer to purchase your product or service
- cost per lead (CPL): Demonstrates that the amount of money it costs to get new leads has lowered as your brand awareness grows and you receive more word-of-mouth on social media
- # of leads: Demonstrates the growing interest in your solution over time
- click-through rate (CTR): Demonstrates that your solution is relevant to a problem your target audience has and that your messaging is resonating
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