Several years ago when the Lean Methodology took off, entrepreneurs were reminded that customers are really their best ally and that products sink or swim based on early adopters. Prior to that time, it was not uncommon for startups to pour tons of money and time into developing products on the belief that “if you build it, they will come.” Well, a lot of building went on and folks didn’t show up to the party.
Lean was a big, refreshing wakeup call for many entrepreneurs by helping them focus more on fact-and evidence-based product development. Lean also introduced us to the importance of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The idea behind the MVP was simple but profound; spin up a prototype to prove out the value proposition of your product. It could even be as simple as a landing page, but the point is just to introduce something that will get people’s attention and “test the waters” on a product idea.
Most folks don’t realize it but a blog can serve as a very viable and efficient MVP for a potential startup. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this post: Five Successful Startups That Started As Blogs. In that post the writer details the stories of how a number of now very successful companies started as blogs. The most well-known, and least likely of those, is Groupon. Here’s what the writer says about it.
The first version of the daily deal site was “totally ghetto,” according to an interview with founder Andrew Mason. To launch the idea, the team re-skinned a WordPress blog with the Groupon brand. Each day, they manually posted offers for heavily discounted restaurant gift certificates, concert vouchers, movie tickets, and other deals in the Chicago area. Using off-the-shelf software, they generated PDF coupons, emailing vouchers to customers using a script and Apple Mail.
Fascinating concept! If you touch a need in the community then what does it matter whether it comes through a blog, landing page, full-fledged product, or what have you? Value is value and consumers will recognize it when they see it. The article above goes on to make some excellent points about the real value a blog can bring to a community.
The beauty of the Blog-First Startup is that it allows the entrepreneur to: Validate ideas with minimal effort, Identify their customer, Build a following, Gather early user feedback. There is no best method for gathering feedback and validating startup ideas, but add blogging to your lean startup toolbox and before writing code, consider writing a blog post.
We can’t agree more! Blogging is free, low maintenance, and helps you become a thought leader in a particular niche. The only requirement is time and persistence. An occasional blog won’t cut it. Most professional bloggers recommend high posting frequency, which amounts to 5 weekday posts. Posting consistency will serve to attract new visitors and help you retain repeat visitors as well.
Perhaps you’re drawn to the idea of someday pursuing your passion and turning it into a business, but don’t quite know where to start. Then why not just start writing about it? Kickoff a blog and see where it goes. The likelihood is that you will find out soon enough if others share your passion and are interested in your ideas.
Becoming a thought leader in your niche will help you build a ready-made community of visitors, early adopters, and potential customers. Scaling up from there with a simple email campaign, newsletter, and eventually a short whitepaper, might just give you the traction you need to someday spin your blog into a real, viable product.
Start with a small step forward and see where it leads, and then pivot from there. If things work and you get some favorable responses then take another small step forward, and so on and so forth. The sky’s the limit, and if you really want to put wings on your idea then there’s nothing stopping you. All it takes is for you to take the first step!