Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup has become something of a bible in the tech scene. At the book’s core is the principle of releasing a Minimum Viable Product, with minimum input and maximum learning. Release, learn and iterate quickly. Given the tools we have access to for virtually no cost, it makes complete sense. The ability to capture data, learn from behaviour and watch responses, live, is only getting better.
Not only can you record someone’s browser behaviour, but you can now track their emotional reaction using device cameras. It’s data to the nth degree and, of course, it makes sense to use the data you have to build a product that you will see people love. Less telling people what they need, more giving them what they want.
Although the core of The Lean Startup emerged from product principles, it has branched out into every element in a start-up, particularly marketing. Unfortunately, early stage start-ups are pretty much priced out of the old-school marketing spaces. But beyond just price, a pre-Series A business is going to be held accountable for every penny spent. If you can’t track it, you can’t show how you’re going to scale it, so, for almost all early stage start-ups, digital marketing is the only viable option. Every campaign, creative and headline is optimised based on clicks and response data. There may be low budgets of £10 a day, but every day is optimising something new. Although each company will have an element of customisation, there are some basic principles that just work, no matter who you are. Facebook ads?
With predictability comes little space for creativity. The basic formulas work, so why mess with them?
Change the creative every four days; images are the highest drive to action. Tweeting for clicks? Leave a cliffhanger question. The ease of success is so predictable, with Upworthy showing us every day what works; even CNN is being tempted to the pattern.
However, with such predictability comes little space for creativity. The basic formulas work, so why mess with them? Well, for our product, the lesbian dating app Dattch, it comes down to brand. The creatives, the campaigns – the personality that you can deliver online – are where your individuality gets to come out. The tactical is now the brand. They are timely, intuitive, always social and, hopefully, funny. Plus, with the absurd levels of targeting you can get from Facebook, your relevancy can be scarily personal – as long as you have the time and inclination to create hundreds of ads per week.
In start-ups, you don’t really have much choice. The one thing going for you against the big corporates and agencies is your ability to move quickly, make mistakes and learn fast.
The viral opportunities are now the brand opportunities where you can really stand out, show off your personality and get people smiling and knowing who you are.
Robyn Exton is the founder of Dattch