I’m sure I’m not the first to use the term “minimum viable content.” And to avoid being affected by someone else’s definition, I’m not going to Google the term before writing this.
But I do know for a fact that two other terms with the phrase “minimum viable” in front of them have been talked about extensively: minimum viable product and minimum viable audience.
Minimum viable product (MVP) means launching a product with the least amount of features and most amount of value. Doing this lets you see if the product idea resonates with people before building it out further. This was first coined by Frank Robinson and made popular by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup.
Minimum viable audience (MVA) means building an audience first (most likely through content creation) to learn what people’s pain points really are. You do this before building an actual product. Brian Clark coined this term. He also used it to build a badass business called Copyblogger.
Minimum viable content (MVC) is a bit simpler than these two terms, in the sense that it’s not attached to a lofty goal like building a product or a massive audience. Rather, it’s content that achieves a specific goal with the minimum amount of time, cash, and effort.
Minimum viable content is great for startups with a limited budget and staff. It’s equally as relevant for enterprises experimenting with content marketing. You can also use MVC to create an MVA.
How to Approach minimum viable content
- Choose a goal.Your goal for the content will be the most logical result of your efforts. For example, if you’re creating a webinar, the goal wouldn’t be organic traffic. It would be leads and/or engagement.
- Choose an MVC type. I give you examples below. But if you put some heads together, you’ll be amazed at the ideas you come up with. Having limited resources forces you to get creative.
- Choose a topic. The topic should resonate with a bulk of your audience. This will allow you to get the most from the content.
- Create the content. I suggest making the first piece on your own. This will allow you to nail the process down and create necessary documentation. After that, outsource to scale.
- Distribute the content. Share it on social media, throw it in your next newsletter, link to it from other places on your website, repurpose it, and let relevant influencers and bloggers know about it.
- Measure success. Did you hit your goal? Make sure there is a way to track this.
Types of Minimum Viable Content
Visual Glossary Articles
At MaxCDN we define terms related to web performance and web security on a content platform called the Visual Glossary. These aren’t just text definitions; we include “how it works” images at the top of each article. This is our much-needed differentiating factor. If we were to define terms with text only, we’d be no different than Techopedia or Webopedia.
Because we had this differentiating factor – and focused on quality – just two months after launching with 20 articles in January 2015, organic search engine traffic started to rise. And after those two months, we didn’t add any more terms. But as you can see below, the platform was working for us even when we weren’t working for it:
And this is just organic traffic. We recently saw a huge spike in referral traffic after getting a link from an article published by the Google Developers team. I’m confident these backlinks will keep coming in, and as they do, we’ll start getting more search engine wins like this:
In terms of content creation, I created the first article and outsourced the rest. They cost about $100 to create (including the image). The goal with them right now is organic search engine and referral traffic, but in the future I see us “upgrading” this goal to subscriptions. People could subscribe for something like a “tech term of the day” or our weekly newsletter.
Considering the early and continuing success we’re experiencing with this type of MVC, I have to consider this my go-to MVC. And as long as you add that differentiating factor, I’m confident it will work for you.
Note: I noticed while writing this that Copyblogger is doing something similar. Their differentiating factor is a whiteboard animated video.
From creating the visual glossary articles, I realized content doesn’t have to be long to be successful. Give people the answer they want, and they’ll come back to it (and link to it). This is where my idea for short answers came from.
I haven’t experimented with this content type yet, but it’s on my to-do list. The only difference between this type and the visual glossary article is that you’re answering “long-tail” questions rather than directing “short tail” terms.
The short answer section on your website could be divided into two parts:
- Industry (web performance and security): This part would answer general questions relevant to your audience at large. The goal might be organic traffic at first.
- Product (MaxCDN): This part would answer product-specific questions relevant for your customers and prospects. It’s similar to an FAQ but just a little longer. The goal might be decreasing your support team’s time spent on live chats. Instead of typing out answers, your support team could send people links to these short answers.
The differentiating factor of the short answer might be a 1-minute video explanation (filmed on a smartphone). The backdrop would be your brand color (a painted wall) and you could insert screenshare snippets to break up face time. This could then be distributed through YouTube. Get scrappy and experiment, it’s all good!
Note: Our support team uses Intercom for live chats and there are #shortcuts you can use to insert links to these short answers.
As an in-house content marketer, I have access to interactions people have with our sales and support team. This lets me hear real questions from real prospects and customers that I can use as content topics for a Short Answers-like initiative.
But what do you do if you don’t have access to a sales and support team? I would suggest holding a Q&A webinar.
If you already have a webinar platform, great. If you don’t, start out by holding a Google Hangout for free. This will save you some dough. Google Hangouts also offers more engaging experiences with prospects as they’re seeing your face and you’re seeing theirs’.
The primary goal with this might be the creation of short answer topics; the secondary goal might be capturing leads. As for getting people to sign up or pledge to attend, share the event on social media, to your existing email list, and to influencers in your space. Tell them you’re holding a free event where people can ask you anything about Topic X.
If your organic audience isn’t that big, put some money into advertising the event on social media. I find that Facebook works best for B2C and Twitter for B2B.
This is an idea I got from reading the Tech Bits newsletter by the New York Times, a daily opinion piece that focuses on trending news stories. The content is distributed to subscribers of Bits, then published on the NYT website. It’s short form content that builds an audience while bringing in organic traffic.
Because the opinion is based on a news story that has already been published, I’m guessing it’s not very difficult to put together. And because the Bits newsletter is featured on the NYT Tech page, I’m guessing it’s seeing a good deal of success.
For MaxCDN I plan on doing something similar. But instead of publishing daily, I will publish weekly. This is what we can achieve with the current resources we have. The primary goal will be subscribers (it will be our main CTA on the blog and other owned content channels); the second goal will be organic/referral/social traffic coming from blog post versions of the newsletter.
Tips for Success
- I personally use Upwork to find content creators. The platform makes it easy to manage your freelancers and spend.
- To achieve your goal, you must balance budget and quality. Spend too little and quality will suffer. Spend too much and it ceases to be minimum viable content.
- It’s not MVC if you’re not tracking time spent, cash spent, and goals reached. Track these things to know whether you should stick with your MVC or try another.
- Have fun with MVC! This is an opportunity to get scrappy and creative and win big with very little.