If "preach what you teach" still holds, this better be a minimum viable blog post. As far as I put the slide deck together in under 1o minutes, did the research for it during a quick train trip this morning, and publish this as soon as possible (even if it's a bad time to post), it would need iterations.
By leveraging the web in creation of rapid prototypes for testing business model assumptions, and using customer feedback to develop them, companies will be able to advance in its' search for a repeatable business model and reduce risk in new-product introduction.
In creation of such rapid prototypes the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) idea is key. Neverthless, open source platforms such as WordPress are key enablers to the Lean Startup. As my previous post on 9 Minimum Viable Product WordPress Themes received pretty good interest among aspiring enterpreneurs, I decided to share some more recent WordPress themes that can help you in quickly launching your minimum viable product.
Inspire, a clean-cut theme from the rockstars at Woothemes. The theme leverages a clear value proposition and call-to-action alongside usable design.
SaaS Web App. This one I liked so much that I kept it in my browser tab for days. The makers knows all about sizing and positioning elements for increased conversion. The Plans & Pricing is simply right-out-the-box.
Apz, also by Woothemes, is a simple theme aimed at iPhone application developers. Simple and landing page-ish, perfect for that Minimum Viable Product version zero-point-something.
Coming Soon is a dead-simple landing page theme. Change the picture and do some copywriting, and you'll be up and running.
SaaS Web App II is based on the same ideas as the SaaS Web App above, but with some modifications. Myself, I like the 1-2-3 description at the bottom.
Fullside is AppPress' brother theme, having some different design options. Have a look at the 37 Signals inspired decleration module at the bottom of the page. Get ready for ramping your conversion funnel.
What I love about WordPress is its take on simplicity and modularity. It allows you to do rapid testing of features, design and value propositions, and easily integrate third party forms and survey modules for getting customer feedback critical to customer development.
Going forward I would really want to see one Lean Startup-specific theme that leverages the back-end dashboard with consumer-focused metrics for testing business model hypothesis.
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Mark Twain said "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead." Similar, every business model needs a clear and compelling proposition - a short description of the value or benefit your product creates for a specific customer segment.
In his seminal tech marketing book, Crossing the Chasm, Geoff Moore provided a very useful template for making and baking your elevator test. But as I needed an even more high-concept positioning–one that goes with your social media accounts, your tweets or Google ads–I turned to successful web startups for help. What I found is something that I call the VAD technique.
- Alltop: Stay on top of all the topics.
- CoTweet: Manage Twitter with a CRM service.
- Garage Technology Ventures: Raise venture capital for your tech company.
- JaJah: Make VOIP calls easily and cheaply.
- Posterous: Create and write blogs via email.
- Slideshare: Share PowerPoint and Keynote slides including audio.
- Tweetmeme: ReTweet good stuff.
- uStream: Stream video live.
I like these. They are short, simple, playful and to-the-point. Guy is not afraid of polarizing people. Its premise is that you will rather take a sniper than shotgun approach when targeting your customers with value propositions. Guy seems to put a verb or call-to-action first, followed by the application and a differentiator.
That is [verb; application; differentiator], or VAD if you like.
Another interesting value proposition is that of Xobni. By highlighting "Drowning in Email?", Xobni immediately makes you aware of your problem and invokes some kind of thank-god-I'm-not-alone-feeling. Instead of being everything to everyone, Xobni makes it clear that it offers you an Outlook sidebar plug-in. Following, Xobni highlights it main features and user perceived values - "searching your inbox and finding information about your contacts fast and easy".
Now, consider EasyPeasy, a software startup that I helped found. Its current value propostions are:
- EasyPeasy: an open source cloud OS for netbooks.
- EasyPeasy: Linux for the rest of us.
By using the VAD technique we came up with the following high-concept pitches:
- EasyPeasy: Rediscover your netbook.
- EasyPeasy: Make your netbook a lean, mean surfing machine.
- EasyPeasy: Run any web app inside the operating system
I admit being scared of polarizing main audiences within open source and Linux. Yet, VAD helped us drill down customer segments and perceived user value. From a positioning point of view these value propositions polarize new netbook users, and focus on solving the problem of current netbook users that feel pain with their pre-installed OS.
Feel free to slaughter or embrace the high-level EasyPeasy pitch, or throw away the shotgun, load your rifle and share your own VAD-style value proposition.
Minimum Viable Product is an essential part of of the Lean Startup and Customer Development methodologies. According to Eric Ries "the Minimum Viable Product is that product which has just those features (and no more) that allows you to ship a product that resonates with early adopters; some of whom will pay you money or give you feedback."
With the raise of cloud computing and SaaS, the website often makes the product itself. Nevertheless, commoditization of Amazon-ish hosing services, search marketing, free and open source software such as the LAMP stack and publishing systems like WordPress - allows startups to build and market their products at a lower cost. This is a simple overview of - cut to the chase - minimum viable WordPress themes.
1. Optimize by WooThemes is a product and feature-centric theme that emphasizes a clear value statement and sense of call to action.
2.iPhone App theme by Templatic. The name speaks for itself. The theme is designed for, but not limited to marketing of iPhone apps. The call to action button is nicely positioned in the mid of the screen. Although the blue area/the header is static, I'm sure that this can be changed with ease.
3. Feature Pitch by WooThemes is an out of the box theme suitable for marketing that one compelling product of yours. Also take a notice of that lighting orange tab at the upper right. Good thinking.
4. eBook theme by Templatic. Although the name implies a focus on eBooks, its message can easily be changed to work for any product. It comes with widgets for testimonials and newsletter sign-up right out of the box.
5. Coffee Break by WooThemes has unlike the others put the call to action buttons at the leftmost side. It is clean and clearly built with usability in mind. The slider can easily be disabled.
6. iProduct Theme by Templatic. Yes it is a product-centric theme. Its layout differs from the others as its download buttons are centered underneath the product image. iProduct comes with a pricing plan module, as well as a testimonials and customer service widget by default.
7. Eminent is a simple company-product hybrid. It provides call to action along with Twitter aggregation and client list features.
8. Ignite is one dead simple theme. It is primarily a landing page, but it might make a good basis for starting the design of a minimum viable product site.
9. GetBusiness is a Web2.0-style theme more focused on company profiling. However, with slight modifications it would work as well as a minimum viable product theme. The call to action button and value proposition is at the heart of the front page.
The themes have in common the emphasis on minimum viable product techniques. Their design is built around the product rather than the other way around. There is a clear slogan and value proposition, as well as product feature listings. Call to action buttons, along with testimonials and customer service widgets are at the center of the templates. Perhaps the most important, the minimum viable theme should organize for customer feedback and simple testing of ideas.
You may have noticed that WooThemes and Templatic themes dominate the list. I believe that this is not by accident. If you have a look at their respective sites, you'll see that they make good examples of how to design a compelling reason to buy.
If you like this post you may also enjoy Business Model Press, a WordPress Plugin for Lean Startups.