Pilot-pitch your big marketing ideas with short-form content

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The start of summer in Hollywood is the start of pilot season. That’s when hundreds of writers and producers pitch new TV show ideas to the major studios. It’s also a great example of the minimum viable product idea, made famous by Eric Ries in his book, The Lean Startup.

During pilot season studio execs wade through hundreds of pitches and scripts, trying to find the one idea that will be successful. They film several pilots, seeing which will end up being the MVP of their season (that’s minimum viable pilot.) Entrepreneurs and B2B product developers go through similar processes, trying to find the one idea that will be successful enough to merit investing time and resources into it to develop.

B2B marketers can adapt this idea for their content marketing programs and use short-form content to see if it’s worth a deeper investment. That is, develop short-form content (a pilot) to see if the larger content idea (TV series) is worth it. So, how can you do that, figure out your minimum viable content (MVC) for a B2B marketing campaign?

Step 1: Choose the short-form content to test

Based on your market and idea, decide which short-form content to use as your MVC. Avoid overthinking it and over-producing it and just go for the first level of your idea. You’re trying to get the most amount of feedback and audience information with the least amount of time and financial investment.

For example, you could:

Try a single blog post

Research one part of your idea and write a blog post on it; not a series of posts, but a single one. Then ask yourself:

  • Was it hard to research and find sources to support your idea?
  • Did the post get any reaction from your target audience? How many comments/questions/other feedback did you get?

Real-world B2B example: Intercom, a customer communication company, does this very well by creating ebooks from their blog, Inside Intercom.

Before diving in to full-on ebook creation process, they look at their blog and see which posts are generating buzz and conversations, and attracting impressive traffic. Then they simply take the posts and package them together into an ebook on product management or customer support. They reduce their up-front ebook costs, their overall production investment, and save money by ignoring the posts that aren’t worth their time.

Try a sponsored ad on social media

Here’s another example of something short that doesn’t require a big investment to see if it’ll work. Gauge the reaction to your next B2B marketing campaign or asset before you create it. You can even test out different ads/content to see if one works better than the other. That may lead you in a different direction than you initially thought for the campaign.

Try a short video

Video marketing is gaining a lot of traction these days, so it’s a great way to test your B2B marketing idea. Just look at these stats:

B2B execs like live streamed videos because they’re the closest we get to emulating in-person conversations and meetings. They invite viewers to participate in the moment, experiencing what’s going on right then.

Try a lead generation form

This is another quick way to gauge interest in your idea. Ask your audience a question and see how many sign-ups you get from it. Depending on how you set up the lead gen page, you can even test out different questions or sign-up introductions to see which has more traction.

Real-world B2B example: Danny Maloney, CEO and co founder of Tailwind, a Pinterest and Instagram analytics tool, took this a step further by combining a few of these tactics before starting the company. His team created a signup page and bought some AdWords traffic to test their idea. Turns out it was a good one, as they had hundreds of signups offering to pay for the product before it was even designed!

Step 2: Determine the milestones to reach

Next up is determining the milestones your MVCs have to reach before you take them to the next level. Is it a certain number of clicks, views, or shares? Perhaps a certain number of comments and/or questions for your blog post? Set up Google Analytics and any other analytic tool you use to measure this and then collect the data.

Brian Clark over at Copyblogger calls this the Minimum Viable Audience (MVA) number, as it helps his team find out what people are willing to buy.

He states that you’ve got a solid MVA when:

  1. “You’re receiving enough feedback from comments, emails, social networks, and social media news sites in order to adapt and evolve your content to better serve the audience.
  2. You’re growing your audience organically thanks to social media sharing by existing audience members and earned media.
  3. You’re gaining enough insight into what the audience needs to solve their problems or satisfy their desires beyond the free education you’re providing.”

Metrics to Measure Your MVC

The numbers you’ll want to track depend on the type of MVC you choose, but at a basic level you’ll want to see the following data:

  • the number of views, clicks, and social media shares (RTs, regrams, etc.)
  • the number of comments a blog posts gets
  • the bounce rate of your landing page or blog post
  • the number of signups on a landing page or lead gen sign up page

Real-world B2B example: Joel Gascoigne used the MVC idea at each stage of development of Buffer, the social media scheduling solution for individuals and businesses. He started with a short, two-page landing page series to see if people would be interested in the product.

He got the word out to his community through Twitter and other social media platforms before he’d even started work on Buffer. He set a minimum number of email signups before he considered moving forward. Then he used Brian Clark’s MVA idea to see if people would pay for the service, and set out with an addition to the landing page. He added a mini survey to the landing page to see what people’s price tolerance was for such a product. Again he set up a minimum number of clicks through this version of the landing page to determine whether he moved forward, but also the amount of money people would pay for Buffer.

After these small MVC steps, Gascoigne was convinced that Buffer was a viable product, and he moved forward to the next stages of his business.

Step 3: Plan your next move

Now it’s time to take your MVC information and plan your next move. That may mean ditching the idea that you were SURE was going to be successful, or moving ahead with an idea you were skeptical about initially. You just don’t know how things are going to turn out, which is why you end test it with MVC first.

Rob Walling, creator of Drip, an email marketing tool, knew that his MVC for Drip had to be good enough in order to move forward with it. He emailed a number of people he knew that shared the same pain email marketing pain point and gathered their feedback. He folded that feedback in to the development of the product itself, but also used it to decide on whether to move forward with the rest of his marketing plan for Drip. A single email was the genesis of an entire product development stream of work, along with the accompanying marketing campaign and all the assets that entailed.

Translating the data into your next move

Take your MVC’s data and map it to your marketing campaign and see if it’s worth moving forward with future marketing. For example, if you were looking to create a course on a topic relating to your business, you may have tested an MVC offering a comprehensive video series course against a shorter, email course on the same topic. The former was an exit pop-up, while the latter was a email signup form in the sidebar of your website.

You feel like the comprehensive course would be the way to go, but it would require a massive amount of time and resources to create — but the payoff could be big. Both MVCs are small and take a little amount of time to produce, yet could yield some interesting information. You discover that the idea of the course is a good one, but the format (the long video series course) was wrong; so you decide to create a shorter, email-based course instead, at a significantly lower time and financial cost.

Start small and then go BIG

Whether you’re a Hollywood studio head looking for your next TV hit or a B2B marketer trying to figure out your next best marketing campaign, it pays to always be testing — the smallest thing you can test at least. That way you’ll know exactly what ideas to invest in and what ones could give you a much bigger return on that investment. Start with the smallest nugget you can, your MVC, and then move forward with it. You’ll save time, money, and aggravation, as you’ll have an exact idea of where to focus your energies, on the BIG ideas that’ll give you BIG returns.

 

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Julia Borgini

Julia Borgini

Julia Borgini is a technology writer, copywriter and consultant for B2B technology companies. She helps them connect with people and grow their business with helpful content and copy. Visit her website to see who she’s helping today: www.spacebarpress.com