At Hubspot’s INBOUND 2015 conference, Nichole Kelly, CEO of Social Media Explorer, spoke to a room of wall-to-wall Marketers, eager to learn about ways they can increase ROI.
As I sat in the audience for her presentation, I was in awe of her progressive and actionable “lean rapid prototyping” process. Kelly and her team have been using this 6 step process with great success in increasing ROI for Marketing.
Nichole Kelly and her team at Social Media Explorer coined this term by combining “Lean Startup” principles and “Rapid Prototyping.” These principles, formally used in the creation of the infamous “Google Glass” have been adjusted by Kelly to work for Marketing.
In Marketing, specifically in the realm of Inbound and Digital Marketing - there is an immense amount of trends and strategies that can be implemented every day. It’s impossible for any Marketing team to execute on every new idea they have and successfully produce ROI from the program. This is where Lean Rapid Prototyping comes in.
Kelly recommended using LRP for any new idea that comes in - Marketing project, campaign or any use of resources from your Marketing team.
To start, it’s an excellent way to test ideas, but more importantly, it helps you develop a framework for more concise project management and integrates feedback earlier into processes to ensure better ROI long and short term.
The Rules of Lean Rapid Prototyping
Kelly used Tom Chi and the Google Glass as an example of inspiration for Lean Rapid Prototyping is. Chi defined three rules in order to properly build prototypes.
Rule 1: Find the quickest path to experience
Prototyping isn’t about building a perfect eBook, blog article, or entire Marketing campaign. It’s about finding the quickest way to execute on something that will be as close to the experience as you set out to create.
For example, let’s say you want to launch an eBook campaign on a certain topic you think will resonate with your target audience.
It’d be valuable to prototype this campaign before putting in all the time and resources into creating the eBook content and its campaign assets.
So you can start with a small “version” of that campaign - a blog article on that same topic, targeting the same audience.
Rule 2: Doing is the best kind of thinking
The biggest takeaway to this rule is - don’t overthink. Often Marketers want to provide research and set aside time to think through a strategy and solution, but you need to just do it.
Start working and testing; that’s the best way to collect the data that you need in order to understand the best way to actually get there.
When you overthink you may start creating complex solutions that will be much more difficult to implement. Get started with your prototype and start testing.
Rule 3: Use materials that move at the speed of thought to maximize your rate of learning
This goes along with rules number 1 and 2. You don’t need all those fancy graphics or fully designed images in your post before it’s published. Use the least amount of materials possible to get this prototype out fast. (This is also known as the Minimum Viable Product.)
Getting Started with Lean Rapid Prototyping
Nichole Kelly lays out seven specific steps in her process to execute on Lean Rapid Prototyping. To summarize:
Step 1: Define conditions of satisfaction
Identify who is invested in this project and ensure that everyone who has a role has defined their conditions of satisfaction. This could include your Marketing team, CEO, CFO, and possibly others.
It’s important that all parties who would be involved in the end product or results are also involved in defining these conditions.
Step 2: Define your Minimum Viable Product For Feedback
For example, if you are using this process to test out content you may start with something as simple as a social media post or a blog article to test your persona’s response. The goal is to get something in front of your target audience and begin compiling feedback from that audience.
Note: Your audience for this test should not just be your Marketing team.
Often when teams try to “test” strategies they review within their circle and only gather feedback internally -- leading to bias.
This part of the process allows you to remove subjectivity. During this step, you should decide on what the Minimum Viable Product is and agree on it.
Step 3: Define your Learn, Measure, and Build
This includes asking three key questions:
What is the first thing you need to learn to move forward?
How can you measure what you’ve learned?
What can you build in under two hours to test it?
Step 4: Check “risk assessment” to determine you have the correct first Learn, Measure, Build.
Kelly warns newbies about this step, saying that many times during this process your first thought for a build will have something more to do with the end result or take much longer than two hours.
Make sure that what you are working on is the right “learn” for what you are trying to deliver, the right “measure” to show you have achieved, and is the right “build” for this stage.
Step 5: Build your prototype!
You have two hours. This is very important - do not go over two hours.
In Kelly’s presentation, she told her audience that if a build takes more than two hours “just stop” and re-assess steps 3 & 4.
Step 6: Get feedback from the target audience
This is the final step before you move forward to “rinse and repeat.” Here’s what you should ask about your build:
What really worked?
What could have made it better?
What do you want more of?
What do you want less of?
People often get stuck on this step because we are not used to getting feedback on something that isn’t a final product. However, this step is critical because the feedback you receive will help you get a final result that is perfect for your audience.
After completing step 6, you should be able to continue building upon your prototype until the feedback is 100% perfect.
As Nichole Kelly states in her article, “this is a big mindset shift for how to manage projects.”
It may take a bunch of tries for you and your team to get into the groove of prototyping for each Marketing project, but if you are ready to take your Marketing strategies to the next level and increase ROI, lean rapid prototyping is the perfect methodology to create that path.
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