Lean Marketing, Building a Minimum Viable Website

Patrick Sheridan

February 1, 2012
lean-website

As someone with a design background, I’ve always felt working on your own website is one of the hardest nuts to crack. With the launch of our new website IA and responsive design, I wanted to take a minute and share some thoughts on how we’ve used Lean Principles to refine the site and drive new customer acquisition and product-market fit.

### Define Your Primary Assumptions

For our first website launch we decided to use the blog posts to drive analytics on our primary market assumptions:

1. Many developers want to improve their skills with HTML5 and JavaScript.
2. As the mobile app maturity index increases, customers will increasingly prefer HTML5 and Hybrid apps over native apps.

### Build
- **A WordPress site** – *Will people read, comments & contact us?*
- **Partner channels** – *Can we build a word-of-mouth referral network?*
- **Meetup.com** – *Will developers sign up and show up?*
- **Eventbrite** – *Will developer pay for trainings and bootcamps?*

### Measure
- **Google Analytics** – Goals Conversions (website contact form)
- **SugarCRM** – Word of mouth lead generation funnels (how many leads do we need to generate to close an actual opportunity? what is the cost to acquire 1 training registration?)

### Experiment
Our v1.0 website ‘Content Recipe’ was a basic articulation of our primary assumptions and a value statement on our products and services.

We used a Lean Canvas to organize our thinking and surprisingly it also helped us craft the website content strategy and messaging.

### Speak to Actual Customers
Luckily for us, we run Meetup groups in New York and NoVa and many of the members are representative of our potential customers.  In a very real way, Meetup attendee interest in certain topics is a clear indicator for training course topics.

In order to identify signals worth following, we first had to create a lot of noise.  *Activity*, as they say, *is meaningless without visibility.  *So we focused on cross-linking our content into the following obvious outlets:

- Twitter
- LinkedIn
- Meetup.com
- Sencha Forums
- SlideShare
- Personal networks

### Learn

This is quite possibly the hardest simple thing to do. Analytics and numbers can get overwhelming quickly and evaluating contradicting customer feedback can get frustrating. What we’ve found that has worked best is to *look for harmonizing patterns*, which means paying attention when two completely different people ask you for the same thing.  Often times with customers, failing to listening is the single biggest mistake entrepreneurs make.

### Adjust (Pivot)

What we learned from our customers really, really surprised us. It allowed us to pivot our ideas to better increase our chances of achieving scale.  **We learned that not only do individual developers want this training, but very large companies want to train very large development teams on our courses.  **Additionally, we learned that companies are also interested in licensing our training and subscribing to online training materials we create.

# Website Iteration

### v1.0 – Get to market

Our v1.0 website allowed us to get to market in a weekend and start learning asap.  We focused on content more than style and getting the maximum reach and engagement for our content and offerings.  We focused on building a lead gen machine and on qualifying opportunities into sales.

### v2.0 - Branding, Positioning, and a Marketing Plan

For v2.0, (and our 6 month anniversary) we planned our ‘Coming out party’ as a company and coordinated a website refresh/relaunch timed with SenchaCon 2011.  With even a short history and paying customer track record, we re-organized our site content to focus on third-party validation of our products and services.

- Crowd-sourced a logo and identity system
- Redesigned our WordPress Template (thanks to our friends at SpryFly)
- Created a Facebook Page
- Content/Information Architecture refresh

### v3.0 – Learn From New Mistakes

As we continued to work on our content strategy and messaging, we felt the site was becoming overly static and lacked a sense of activity, recency, and motion.  In an effort to more accurately have the site reflect our HTML5-ness, we built a kitchen sink of sorts with video, keyboard navigation, and the works.

### v4.0 – Device as Market Share – Leading with Mobile

We have spent the better part of the past nine months optimizing our web content in line with our services.  As a company that is embedded in the center of mobile web app development, it’s no surprise that our site is optimized for phone and tablet devices.  We’ve also experimented enough to know that our website is one part of a content-ecosystem that connects and distributes our content among various content destinations: Facebook, G+, Twitter, Slideshare, Stack Overflow, Sencha Forums, Github, and Quora.

In as close to real time as we can make it, our content is curated and correlated to business performance.

In defining and refining your product or service to achieve scale, treat your website like a garden that needs constant attention: constantly plant ideas and weed out non performing content.


  • Mitchell Simoens

    Very nice post! This blog post proves that Modus Create is pushing themselves to be a very efficient and powerful company! You have people with the right skills to have a very lethal company in the web site/application world!

    Best of luck to you!

  • Anonymous

    It’s great to see how far we’ve come in our website iterations, and scary to see what we thought would be acceptable. 

    Another thing to mention is that we spent a lot of time figuring out actual content for this iteration, whereas on other versions it was very ad-hoc in terms of actual copy. Writing good copy is hard.

  • http://twitter.com/RHGeek Redheaded Geek

    Great post. I love that it’s very much a “practice what you preach” approach and making sure your own site reflects what you say. Sadly, you don’t always see that reflection.

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