Learn How to Crawl with a Minimal Viable Product
14 min read
In the last article Master the Challenges of Digital Marketing, we learned the importance of agile mindsets and how to eat an elephant: ‘piece by piece’. Today, we want to focus on how to build a ‘minimal viable product’ (MVP). The ability to scope an MVP is key to kick-starting digital marketing in your organization. When done right, it paves the way for you to accelerate from crawl to run. Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Table of Contents
Above image : minimal viable product overview
The Minimal Viable Product (MVP) is defined as "a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers, and to provide feedback" (source: wikipedia.com) for the future product. As such, it can serve as a perfect tactic to address some of the challenges we have learned about in the article Master the Challenges of Digital Marketing.
Scoping an MVP can be tough. However, with the right structure in place, you will be able to master it. Our recommended practice is to use the Six Dimensions of Success and Failure as the starting point.
Below, you will find the six dimensions including a recommendation for each of them. We have added the basic activities that should be part of every project, regardless of your project approach. Our recommendations are derived from various customer projects and should serve as an indication. You should not consider them as a strict rule, but rather as a guide that you will need to validate based on your specific objectives. In the conclusion section, you will find a cross-reference to real-life MVP examples.
Business Scenarios: Max Three
As we have already learned, the best way of looking at business scenarios is to interpret them as campaigns. Ideally, as a starting point, you would select two to three scenarios. This might not sound like a lot, but you will be able to spin off additional variants from them later. For example, "Happy Birthday" campaigns can be used as a baseline for "Address Changed" campaigns. Both campaigns usually have the same channels (for example, e-mail), similar data sets (for example, customer master data) and functions (for example, periodic campaign, personalized creative content) that are needed to run them.
The decision criteria for the best MVP scenarios should include:
- Added value per scenario derived from the contribution towards the overarching marketing objectives. For example, increase the reach of the brand in social media could be covered by the example illustrated below.
- Legal or internal compliance necessity of specific scenarios. For example, if you do not fully migrate an e-mail newsletter, you might not be able to guarantee marketing permission integrity between a legacy system and SAP Marketing Cloud.
- Readiness of the campaign team to go beyond the drawing board to define, create, execute, monitor and optimize the campaign. No team means no campaign and this means no value at the end of the MVP. Readiness is defined as having a named person with availability and the mandate to define the first steps of your marketing journey.
- Strategic internal decisions. For example, to prove the value of very specific scenarios. It is important to stay aligned with the agile mindset, especially with the progressive value realization. Strategic directions tend to promote a big bang kind of behavior.
- Feasibility and cross-dependency check from a channel, functional, data and geographical perspective. See below for more details.
To learn more about business scenarios, examples and how to define them, please read the articles located in the conclusion section at the end of this article.
Outbound Channels: Max Two
Communication outbound channels describe your mediums to get in touch with your customers. We recommend to begin with one or two channels in the MVP, to minimize the risk and duration of your MVP.
The decision criteria for the best MVP communication outbound channels should include:
- Fit to business scenarios
Your business scenarios will come with a definition of communication outbound channels to achieve the expected objectives and to be able to build the needed journeys, streams and creative content. The best channels are the ones that cover the journeys and streams as thoroughly as possible and work best for your creative content.
- Fit to communication strategy and tactics
Ideally, you have an overall strategy in place for your outbound communication channel mix. The selection of your first one or two channels should fit in it. Your strategy should include general considerations related to pull versus push, direct versus broadcast, classical versus digital and many more. In the conclusion section of this article, you will find more information about how to build a communication outbound channel mix strategy.
- Audience preference
Depending on your selected business scenarios, organizational unit, and geography, you will need to identify the channels that best work for your audience. A few examples are WeChat versus WhatsApp in China, paid search versus call center for life-insurance promotions in central Europe, social ad versus e-mail to promote sneakers for post-millennials.
Depending on the business scenario, you might have identified the need to start with high volume campaigns. If that is the case, it is key to select the outbound communication channels where you have the permission (opt-in) from your customers.
The MVP will pave the way for your acceleration. Therefore, you should consider the reusability of your communication outbound channels. Ideally, do not pick the ones that work only for the MVP scenarios but will work well for your audience, budget and objectives. Experimenting with a new communication outbound channel is a great idea, but it should go along with another rock-solid channel.
Data Sources: Max Three
Data sources describe the inbound side of your marketing tactics. They should allow you to target the audience, as described in the business scenario.
The decision criteria for the best MVP data sources should include:
- Fit to business scenarios
Your business scenarios will come with a definition of audiences (also referred to as segments or target groups). Each audience can be described by a set of attributes. Those attributes are based on master and/or behavioral data. The master and behavioral data can be extracted from one or multiple source systems. For the MVP you should identify a maximum of three data sources that fulfill your audience requirements in accordance with considerations below.
This might seem obvious, but the availability aspect has caused substantial delays for some of our customers in the past. The safest road to take is by starting with data sources that are in your control (first party). Furthermore, you should start with data sources that have no cross-dependencies to ongoing projects. For example, if your webshop is currently under construction, you should find a better data source for the MVP. In addition, sources with the option of a restful API data retrieval for the initial as well as the delta (incremental) load, will significantly reduce the duration and complexity of your first steps. Another indicator for a good data source is an existing data owner. This owner should clearly describe the APIs, the data model as well as the create, read, update and delete operations (CRUD) of your data source candidate.
- Quality versus quantity
Generally, less is more. The quality of the data supersedes the quantity. This applies to the number of data sources, data objects, attributes as well as the number of records you want to extract. For the MVP, you want to make sure that the attributes you need are complete (values are populated). In case you have doubts, you can run a fill ratio check of the most important attributes up front. The typical attributes to check are country, first name, last name, e-mail, and date of birth. The data validity check is more sophisticated than the one for completeness. For example, how do you know if a first name is correct or not? Therefore, the best practice for the MVP is to apply assumptions on the data quality depending on where that data comes from. For example, webshops usually provide the highest level of address data quality since customers want their goods to be shipped to the right address. Last but not least, we do not want to overwhelm marketers during their first steps with their new marketing technology solution. By giving marketers a chance to learn first and then to request additions in the audience builder/segmentation tool, allows them to utilize the solution thoroughly.
- Legal and internal policy compliance
Legal and internal policy compliance is probably one of the least popular topics with marketers. However, with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and a rising data privacy attitude, this becomes more important than ever. This should be on top of your mind after you run through all the other considerations. Ideally, you should run your data source and attribute shortlist through your legal team before investing further.
Features: Minimal Set
Features describe a set of functionalities needed to operate your business from a functionality and technology point of view. We recommend beginning with a minimal set of features, regardless of the fact that you run a software-as-a-service marketing solution.
The decision criteria for the best MVP features should include:
- Fit to business scenarios
Generally, you have all features available out of the box. However, they only come to life if you put them into context. The context is your business scenarios and your organizational setup that will define how you are going to use them.
- Less is more
Focusing on the minimal feature set required to run your MVP, helps to condense your education curriculum. This improves the initial experience for the first users. You want to expand the features quickly after the MVP go-live. However, the lean function set in the beginning will give you a kick-start in terms of usage rates resulting in greater realization value.
Organization: One Unit
The organization is about people and how to move with them towards digital marketing. Simply using state-of-the-art technology will not make you successful, but a team of people with the right mandate and mindset will.
Unfortunately, you are not able to move a big organization towards digital marketing within an MVP time frame. Therefore, it is important to land and expand your organizational transformation. The MVP is a great chance to build up internal advocates for your digital marketing journey. Furthermore, this team of advocates can be the seed to grow your future marketing operation and business teams.
For the selection of your transformation advocates, your decision criteria should include the following:
- Organizational span
The organizational dimension can make even the simplest functional scope the most complex to implement. The beauty of the MVP is that you can start with minimal organizational impact. As a result, you can keep the number of stakeholders to a minimum. This will help you to make pragmatic decisions and move fast in the early days, regardless of how diverse your organizational agendas are. Based on experience, we have seen that identifying one business team, within one organizational unit, and being responsible for one brand is the best starting condition. Please keep in mind, that the need to limit the organizational span is crucial if your company's marketing business teams are highly decentralized.
- Mandate and decision power
The identified team needs to make decisions within the MVP setup, knowing that potentially some of those decision will be questioned by other organizational units. The decisions will create a tangible and practical product as basis for discussion. We have seen MVP based decision cycles to be far more concrete and faster, in contrast to making all design (functional, data and organization) decisions upfront.
- Agile mindset
As we have learned in the article Master the Challenges of Digital Marketing, the agile mindset is crucial to be successful. The business team in charge needs to live up to progressive value realization, quick time to value, pragmatism, working beyond reporting lines, challenging the status quo and being hungry to learn.
Geography: One Country or Region
The geographical span has an impact on all other dimensions. The more countries and regions you try to go live with, the more complex the MVP will become. Unfortunately, this effect always applies regardless of how simple or complex you scope the other five dimensions. We recommend starting with one country or region for the MVP.
The decision criteria for the best MVP country or region should include:
- Geographical cluster of culture
Depending on your customer's cultural background, they will have different expectations towards the way you market to them. As a result, the cultural background impacts your business scenarios significantly. Therefore, the MVP needs to be limited either by country or in some cases by region.
- Geographical cluster of organization
Often, organizational setups can be mapped against either regions or countries. As a result, the complexity and decision cycle tend to become long lasting and more complex as we add more countries and regions.
Business Foundation: Product and Process Activation
The business foundation ensures that you configure your product and processes according to the MVP and beyond. The MVP configuration can be easily derived from the feature set paired with the business scenarios. Unfortunately, you will also need to perform some initial configurations that have an effect beyond the MVP. This configuration set is challenging. If done properly, you will be able to grow your MVP across all dimensions.
You should consider the following areas as part of the 'beyond MVP' decisions:
- Profiling match and merge generic tactic
- Marketing area common denominator identification
- Permission marketing configuration in compliance with internal policies
- Authorization granularity
- Data model and API enhancement options
- Item of interest concept
High-level Design for Next Phase
The exercise of designing the next phase on a high-level will help you to keep your momentum. By running this exercise, you will be able to build a value-realization and roll out a roadmap. This serves as a beneficial change management tactic when you want to expand your MVP organizationally.
On-the-job Training for your Operation and Business Team
As part of the MVP, your teams should start with on-the-job training. This should be considered as additional activity, next to the design and decision workshops. Usually, the business team actively drives the user-acceptance-tests (based on business scenarios). In addition, the business team is involved in planning, defining and executing the campaign warm up.
The operation team should shadow all recurring activities like data load monitoring, email bounce rate monitoring, and quarterly upgrade actions.
MVP example: SAP Model Company
To learn more about how SAP has configured their own MVP’s for organizations kick-starting their digital transformations, review the SAP Model Company for SAP Customer Experience. SAP’s Model Company offerings are preconfigured MVPs designed for the purpose of meeting MVP timeframes and setting up for the next wave of implementation. As per SAP's implementation process for SAP Marketing Cloud, there are marketing related MVPs serving specific business scenarios, addressing the “The Six Dimensions of Success and Failure”, which are delivered based on a bill of materials purchased by our customers.
This article introduced you to the scoping approach of a minimal viable product for SAP Marketing Cloud. Now, you know the key dimensions of well-tuned MVPs.
The articles below provide you with more in-depth information to help you better understand the MVP approach: