The Lean Startup seems to be on the minds of our team this month, as we get ready to launch the beta version of Vianza. I'm reading the book, Megan went to a lecture about it (at SFMade) and the whole team is (quite naturally) practicing the Lean Startup method as we create, test, get feedback and tweak the platform.
For the next few weeks, we'll be sharing our take on the Lean Startup method and how it can work for all kind of businesses (not just tech start-ups). First, we're going to talk about the principles, and then we'll apply them to your business, whether you're a designer or a indie retailer.
The first thing to get a handle on before you begin to launch anything new (whether it's your Fall line or a Spring 20% off sale), is Experimentation.
When you experiment, you test your theories and your assumptions. And when you're done testing, you observe the results - were you right? Where were you wrong? What does that mean for what you do next? And the last step is take what you've learned and turn it into action. What needs to change based on what you've learned?
The author calls this validated learning and it's different from just trying stuff, failing, and moving on. In a useful experiment, you are intentional. You dig up your assumptions and you apply rigorous testing (note: you don't just think about them, you actually try them out).
Experimenting may take some extra time, but it's well worth it. You'll save time on creating something no one wants. You'll save money on marketing in a way that doesn't reach your right people. You'll save your sanity by knowing, without a doubt, that your new product will sell, or your new promotion will get results.
Get those assumptions.
Don’t just experiment to see what works, but also all your hidden assumptions. Take the big vision and break it down into its component parts. What are you assuming about each part?
The author points out two common assumptions:
● the value hypothesis (that your product or promotion actually delivers value to the customer)
● the growth hypothesis (that new customers will discover it)
Some common assumptions I find in my work with creative businesses:
● the price assumption (my customers couldn't afford that!)
● the Right People assumption (my people are like this, not that)
● the saturated assumption (when you assume that everyone is reading everything you do- every tweet, every blog post, every email...and thus that they have already heard your marketing message, and you shouldn't repeat it)
● the marketing is gross assumption (oh, I could never market, that's so gross!)
The only way to prove (or disprove) these assumptions is to experiment - set up a test, or look at the data you already have (in your web analytics, in response rates, in customer comments).
Most of the people I lead in experiments are completely shocked by what they learn - maybe your highest priced product is your best-selling, or maybe your people never read your blog, so they don't know about your new sale, or maybe they want to hear from you more, not less!
What are the assumptions you're making about your project?
How can you test them?
Tara Swiger is our Community Concierge, a voracious business book reader and a Starship Captain. Her upcoming book, Market Yourself, is all about finding what your people really want. She’d love to know what you’re reading, so tweet tweet.