How to Apply Lean Marketing to Your Content Based Business


Almost every entrepreneur has made this mistake…

They spend months or even years building a product or a feature they think is going to change the world.

And then the day comes to release their work to the world. Guess what happens?


Turns out, people didn’t really want a Tinder for cats. Who knew?

Some ideas seem great to us but turn out to be total duds.

And it doesn’t just happen with the obviously crazy ideas either. It can happen even with those that seem logical and feel like sure things.

There is a solution you can use to avoid this problem as long as you actually put it into action.

It’s called the lean business model. 

Download this actionable cheat sheet to learn how to apply lean marketing to your content based business.

Learn from Toyota: The whole concept of “lean” business came from lean manufacturing, which was actually derived from Toyota’s infamous production system.

You and I don’t own a factory, though, so we can’t apply those principles directly.

However, a clever guy by the name of Eric Ries figured out that those principles, with a few small adjustments, could be applied incredibly well to startups.

And so the Lean Startup was born (a great book if you get the time to read it).

If you own a business, it’s a great guide.

But I’d like to take these lean principles even further by applying them to your content marketing.

I see many parallels between a startup as a whole and content marketing, and taking a lean approach to marketing could yield several benefits.

Most importantly, you’ll be able to get:

  • a better return on investment (ROI)
  • more consistent results from your marketing
  • less stress and frustration

In this post, I’m going to break down all the different ways that you can apply lean principles to your marketing—lean marketing.

The principles of lean marketing

The “lean” concept revolves around 3 basic stages.

They have been called many different things, but they all mean the same.

Sometimes they are called “experiment, track, improve”, and other times they are called “build, measure, learn”.


The names don’t really matter much, but the concepts do.

It’s also important to recognize that lean marketing is all about iteration.

The idea is to quickly fail or succeed on a small aspect of marketing and then improve the process until it’s successful enough to invest more effort in.

Let’s quickly look at the 3 main stages:

  • Build – No matter what type of product you’re considering building, never build the entire thing without getting feedback. Instead, build only the essential parts of it.
  • Measure – Once you have an initial product built, you need to get feedback. More precisely, you need to track how users interact with it by using metrics.
  • Learn – By analyzing the data, you can see what went right and what went wrong. Then, you will know how to improve the product.

Don’t worry if you don’t see exactly how this applies to your content marketing yet. I’ll be going into each of these stages in a lot more detail in the sections to come.

Create content MVPs

The ROI of creating content is incredibly difficult to figure out.

First, there’s a big time gap between the time you publish something and the time a person who reads that becomes a customer.

In addition, one piece of content rarely leads to a sale. Instead, customers typically touch through several pieces of content first.

Even more importantly, it also depends on how effective your sales funnels are.

Getting approval to create a thousand-dollar piece of content or deciding to invest in one yourself is not easy.

You usually won’t know what results it will produce.

What if you spend all the money and effort on your new shiny piece of content only to see that it produced just a few hundred or thousand visitors?

It’s a very valid concern.

Eliminate risk with MVPs: The term MVP is often used when discussing lean business. It stands for minimum viable product.

The idea is to forget about all the frills and “nice to have” features of a product and focus only on the necessary features.

You build an initial product that consists of only the basic functionality, which is your MVP.

The reason why you do this is to avoid wasting any further time and resources in case your users don’t actually care about that functionality. If they don’t like those basic functions, they won’t care about extra features either.

But if your testing metrics are promising, you can improve the product based on the initial feedback.

Enter content MVPs: There’s no reason why the philosophy behind MVPs can’t be applied to content creation.

First, consider why these concepts might be useful.

Have you seen my advanced guides on Quick Sprout?

They are all professionally designed and have content co-written by myself and some of the smartest people in their fields.


They are incredibly in-depth. The goal was to create a resource that would be the most detailed and useful for each topic.

Even though I published most of them years ago, they remain some of the best pieces of content out there on their respective topics.

The Advanced Guide to SEO, for example, consists of 9 detailed chapters of advanced concepts and walk-throughs:


Beautiful layouts, custom images, and top-notch content.

It’s not cheap…

If you wanted to produce a similar guide, it would probably cost you at least a thousand dollars to do it right.

Imagine you spent all that time and money, and it just bombed.

You’d rightfully be devastated.

So let’s revisit the concept of an MVP, but this time from a content perspective.

Before you create an “advanced guide to cat toys,” you’d better make sure that your audience cares about the subject.

To do that, you can create a shorter, standard-length article, addressing one small part of what would go into that advanced guide. How about an article on the types of cat toys?

Don’t get me wrong, the content still needs to be top-notch, but you won’t have to worry about advanced design work and producing tens of thousands of words of content.

If that initial article gets interest, you can use the feedback you get to improve that article or learn the related topics that your readers might be interested in.

After that, you could create another article on a related topic (that falls under that advanced guide idea)—for example, an article about cat toy materials.

If that goes well and you get a decent level of attention and traffic, you’re onto something.

You’ve validated the presence of interest in the topic.

Now you can create your bigger guide without fearing it’ll be a dud.

A shortcut for established bloggers: Publishing those initial articles as content MVPs will take a bit of work (likely about a week).

Although it will take much less time than the full guide, you might not need to spend that time at all.

If you’ve been blogging for some time, you can just look at which of your posts have been the most successful. Those past blog posts are all content MVPs even if you didn’t know it at the time.

This is actually what I did with my guides.

I noticed that past posts, like on SEO, were getting a ton of traffic and comments. My readers loved them:


Once I knew that my readers loved SEO and were eager to learn how to apply it, I knew I could create an ultimate resource or two that would really blow their socks off.

In particular, I saw that posts about advanced SEO attracted the most attention.

And that’s how The Advanced Guide to SEO was born.

It only takes a few minutes to look through your old posts and find patterns.

Start by going to Google Analytics and navigating to “Behavior > Site Content > All Pages”.


Your past posts should be arranged by pageviews.

Out of your 10-20 most popular posts, look for common themes that show that your audience loves a certain topic.

These are the topics that you should create more advanced content on because you know that they will produce a consistent ROI.

Minimize your content buildup

One of the biggest concepts behind being lean is to “move fast.”

You want to fail fast and succeed fast.

This means that you want to know whether something works as soon as possible.

This is the primary concept that the MVP is based on. Get something out there, get feedback on it, and then improve it.

But you should apply this concept to more than just a content MVP to validate a big idea.

Instead, you should keep all your content moving “fast.”

Planning content the smart way: Creating an editorial calendar is a great idea.


The main benefits of it are: you minimize the risk of not having something to publish, and you can see how all your content fits together.

But there’s also a potential drawback…

If you have all your content planned for a long time, let’s say 6 months, you’re not moving “fast.”

Imagine if my readers all of a sudden became less interested in SEO, but I had 40 SEO posts planned for the next 6 months.

While you can change an editorial calendar once it’s made, it defeats a lot of the purpose of making it in the first place.

You might think, “My audience could never change that fast.”

It might not be likely, but it is definitely possible. A great example of this is the Buffer blog, which has continuously pivoted on its topics.


If you’re not basing your future content on the most recent feedback your audience is giving you, you’re not improving.

The takeaway here is simple:

Feel free to plan your content ahead of time, but limit it to 2-4 weeks ahead (depending on publishing frequency). Use metrics and reader feedback on recent posts to come up with new topic ideas that you can publish in the near future.

Go narrow and deep, not broad and shallow

Another crucial aspect of lean marketing is to focus on the things that work.

With the MVP, you focus only on the most vital features of a product.

The idea isn’t to create the best product overall but to get it out as fast as possible so that you can find out how to spend your time effectively.

The parallels between this and content marketing are a bit tougher to see, but they are still there.

I’ll break them down for you in a second.

But first, understand the Pareto principle: The Pareto principle is often called the 80/20 rule.

It’s a simple but incredible observation about results in just about all aspects of life.

The rule states that approximately 20% of the effort will yield 80% of the results.


This makes sense when you think about it because not all activities are equal when it comes to productivity.

Sometimes it’s a 20/80 split; other times it’s a 10/90 split. The point is that if you have a big enough sample size, there will always be a small percentage of activities that produce most of the results.

The 80/20 rule and content promotion: How many content promotion tactics do you know?

If you know more than a few and regularly use them on a regular basis, you should notice that some are much more effective than others.

This is where the “measurement” phase of lean marketing comes in.

To use the 80/20 rule, you need to record the metrics of both your efforts and results and then analyze them.

I’ll show you a very simplistic hypothetical set of results:


What you see here is that effort was tracked as hours spent on each activity, and traffic was the main result metric.

In order to compare results, they need to be put into the right context, so the result (traffic) needs to be divided by the effort (hours).

By dividing each one of those traffic per hour values by the total traffic per hour (1,466), we get the percentage of results that each activity is responsible for.

You probably have more than four activities. The more you have, the closer you’ll get to that 80/20 ratio in most cases.

But here, we see that email outreach and emailing subscribers produced the bulk of the results.

Here’s the useful part: Now that we know what works and what doesn’t work well, we can change our promotion approach.

Based on those results, you could eliminate social media promotion and forum posting altogether.

That frees up a bit over 50% of your time for promotional efforts.

Now, you can spend more time doing email outreach and emailing subscribers. Obviously, there’s a limit to the number of times you can email your own subscribers, but you could spend this extra time finding ways to get more subscribers (like improving your conversion rates).

Or you could just spend all that freed up time doing email outreach. If you did this, your total traffic would go up 40% overall (from 2,500 to 3,500).

This also illustrates that it doesn’t matter if there’s a perfect 80/20 ratio—you just want to see which activities are producing the least results.

Now it’s your turn…

Take the time to track your future content promotion as well as the most important results from that promotion (pick 1 or 2 metrics).

Then, analyze the results just like I showed you.

Using that analysis, identify the most efficient activities, and readjust your promotion strategy to incorporate more of them.

That doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with other tactics. You can and should. However, you should regularly evaluate the effectiveness of each tactic and cut out the ones that don’t produce results.

The 80/20 rule and marketing channels: Another great area to apply the 80/20 rule is to decide which marketing channels you should be focusing your efforts on.


Again, you want to make the same kind of chart as we did before, but now you’ll be looking at the effort spent on each channel.

If you do this, you’ll see that some channels barely produce any new subscribers or sales while others account for almost all of them.

For example, you might find that webinars and your blog posts produce nearly all of your sales while social media only accounts for a small fraction (but taking up a large portion of your time).

Therefore, you could spend more time on webinars and blog posts to maximize your results.

I hope you see how powerful the 80/20 rule can be when applied to lean marketing:

Start by measuring your efforts and results. Then, analyze that data to determine which 20% of effort produces 80% of your results. Cut out the least effective activities, and spend that gained time on those 20% of most effective activities.

Don’t be afraid to pivot

I mentioned it earlier, but I need to expand on pivoting further because it illustrates a very important principle of lean marketing.

I often talk about how important it is to create next level content.

Your content needs to be perceived by your readers as incredible. This is a relative term, so your content needs to be better than all the other similar content at the time.

But great content changes over time.

The preferences of audiences change as well as their expectations.

A great blog post from 5 years ago would be a pretty typical post today (in most cases). The bar has been raised.

Back to pivoting…

Pivoting involves changing the direction your content is headed. That typically involves one of the following:

  • topics
  • type of content
  • quality of content

Sometimes, you’ll notice that your audience is no longer responding to certain types of posts you’re creating.

Or you may decide that you want to attract a different type of audience and therefore need to change topics you write about.

Buffer (the example I gave earlier) has gone through both of these changes over the past few years:


In addition, they’ve also noticed that certain types of posts do best.

They’ve adjusted their strategy based on this feedback in order to come up with a more effective blog content mix:


Then, it might also be that the results from one of your types of content are no longer sufficient.

If you’ve followed Quick Sprout for a long time, you know that I’ve produced a ton of infographics over the years.

These worked great in the past for increasing traffic and attracting links.

But I’ve noticed that they aren’t as useful any more. This is mainly due to my audience not viewing them as valuable as before because infographics are much more common.

Since I’m continually measuring results, I saw this and changed my content strategy. While you may not have noticed, I haven’t produced many infographics in the last few months.

Pivoting revolves around analyzing feedback: In the original lean model, the two stages are: measuring and learning.

That’s exactly what pivoting is.

It takes place after you’ve already established a good direction for your content.

You know where to post and what to post to get the results you’re looking for. You figure those things out after a bunch of initial testing (like content MVPs).

But once you get into a groove and figure most things out, it’s important to keep measuring.

For the most part, you don’t even have to do much as long as you have Google Analytics installed.

Schedule a few hours every one or two months to analyze the results of the content you’ve produced in that time period.

Break down the results by:

  • type of content – e.g., blog post, infographic, video, slideshow, etc.
  • topic
  • type of post – e.g., in-depth tactics, overall strategy, opinion post, etc.

If you notice that the effectiveness of your content in any of those categories is declining, you need to learn from those results.

Start producing less of the content that isn’t working and more of the content that is.

It’s not rocket science, but you need to get in the habit of measuring and analyzing those results and continually learning and adjusting your content strategy.

Know the difference between actionable metrics and vanity metrics

One of the 3 major tenets of lean marketing is “measure.”

In order to measure the results of something, you typically need to choose appropriate metrics.

But this is actually harder than it seems at first because it’s easy to choose the wrong kind of metric—a vanity metric.

Vanity metrics measure something that doesn’t impact anything important.


For example, if you were trying to measure the success of your social media marketing on Twitter, you might choose to measure the number of followers you have.

That would be a mistake.

The number of followers doesn’t mean anything really.

You could have a million followers but still not be able to sell a damn thing.

Those followers might be untargeted or be bots, or they might not like you enough to click on any links you post.

Of course, a million followers could be great too. The point is that it’s not a reliable metric.

Suppose you measured the extend to which different social media marketing tactics improved your follower count.

Could you improve based on that?


Why? Because you might end up saying that one tactic is more effective than another (because it gets more followers), but those followers may all suck and be worthless.

You need to be able to distinguish between vanity metrics and actionable metrics.

It’s not always clear, and it can depend on your specific situation.

For example, traffic is a common metric.

It can be both a vanity metric in some cases and a useful metric in other cases.

When you’re trying to measure the ROI of your content marketing, it’s a vanity metric. You could have millions of visitors, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get a ton of sales.

However, if you’re trying to gauge the general interest of your audience in a topic (like we did earlier with content MVPs), it is a good metric to use.

Context is important.

Choosing the right metric to measure: That’s where the challenge is. I can’t give you a list of every metric to choose for every situation, but I can give you some examples and provide some direction so that you understand how to choose your own.

Example goal: Determine what produces a better ROI—content marketing or PPC

  • Actionable metric: Sales ($) over a fair time period.

Example goal: Determine whether your readers like your content.

  • Actionable metric(s): Time on page (take content length into account), bounce rate.

Example goal: Improve search engine rankings of content through promotion.

  • Actionable metric: Rankings – test each tactic on their own posts to fairly compare their effectiveness.
  • Vanity metric: Number of backlinks – quality is more important than quantity.

No matter what your goal is, you want to choose a metric that directly measures that goal as closely as possible.

Want to improve sales? Measure sales.

Want to improve conversion rate to email subscribers? Measure the rate of new subscriptions.

If there’s a situation where a metric could move in a positive direction in a misleading way, it is a vanity metric for that situation.

Pick the right metrics, or you might end up making incorrect decisions based on flawed data.

Lean marketing depends on feedback

The final aspect of lean marketing that I want to emphasize is the importance of feedback.

Without feedback, you cannot iterate quickly. You won’t be able to tell what is and isn’t working.

Metrics are a huge part of feedback.

Ideally, you want to pick a metric that represents your goal, and then you evaluate your projects, content, and tactics based on that metric.

But you can’t always get feedback through metrics.

What if your goal was to create an impact in your readers’ lives? I mean to get them to take action based on your blog posts.

It’s going to be virtually impossible to come up with a metric that reflects that.

Because it’s a qualitative thing you’re trying to achieve, quantitative measurement is impossible.

Instead, you need to find other sources of feedback.

For a business, this might be a focus group of some sort or a survey.

For a content marketer, this feedback comes from comments on your blog or on social media as well as emails you get from your readers.

It’s important to write about certain topics in a certain way so that you achieve those quantitative targets.

But once you meet those targets, you probably want more if you truly care about your audience.

I encourage comments at the end of every single post I make.

That’s because I want to know whether readers actually read a post and get something real out of it.


The posts that make me the happiest are the ones that are filled with several comments like the one above.

To see people benefiting from your work is the most fulfilling feeling you can have as a content producer of any kind.

I could have two posts that both have a 5-minute average time on page, which is great. However, one post could have 20 comments like the one above, and the other could have zero.

The only way to get this type of qualitative feedback is to examine the feedback itself.

The result is either “yes, this was the outcome I was going for” or “no, this is not impacting my audience the way I hoped.”

Then, as always in the lean model, you learn.

You apply these findings and write more about the things that impact your readers’ lives.


The lean model of business is a fantastic way to approach building a successful business.

It eliminates the wasting of the resources, most importantly time and money, and maximizes your chances of growing and becoming profitable.

However, the lean model can also be applied to content marketing.

I’ve shown you the parallels between the two so that you know how to create your own version of “lean marketing.”

My hope is that you implement at least some, if not all, of these principles into your content strategy. If you do, I’m certain you will achieve a better ROI than you would without it.

If you have any thoughts or questions on lean marketing, I’d love to hear from you in a comment below.

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  1. Another amazing post Neil. I especially like the inclusion of the 80/20 principle, and never actually thought about applying it to marketing efforts/costs. My team and I will try to look over some of it at the office tomorrow, to see what kind of perspective the ideas with 80/20 rule and actionable metrics vs vanity metrics may give us.

    Thanks for writing these articles – They truly are valuable and always end up giving a clear idea of how we can optimise, analyse or proceed on our own.

    • That sounds great Rune. Let me know what your team thinks and how the strategy works out for you. Let me know if there’s anything else I could help you with.

    • YouTube Ranking Checklist @ Raphael :

      Great advice for business owners,startups
      Content marketing is a powerful vehicle to educate your leads and build a great community who trust your brand.

      I like this post,good job

  2. Promote your Blog posts |Evan Derek :

    Super cool Guide Neil ( as always ) ofcourse.
    And the thing about time gaps was so confidence boosting for me, cause I recently started using the 80/20 rule, so getting 100+ shares in 24–48hours on every post is cool, but I was just worried if posting 1-2 posts only a month might affect the site .
    Btw, do you think it will affect if I post as less content as that? P.S-> The guides are 5000-7000words on average 🙂

    • How many guides are you publishing every month? You’ll want to post more frequently than that, otherwise it may affect the site.

  3. Good lord — amazing post. The Tinder for cats line almost made me spit coffee on my screen from laughter lol.

    • I know right? I’m glad this was helpful 🙂

      • Neil I have a quick question that is kind of off subject. But I am having a hard time finding a clear answer. On blogs, they always have articles, and blogs that were written by someone on a different site. Or even something like “Provided by CalTech” etc. If you are starting by yourself, but need more content on your site, how do you go about featuring others articles on your site? Can’t be as simple as just asking them can it? Lol

        • Usually if people have many people contributing blogs for 1 site, their guest post by other bloggers. You can ask people to guest post on your site, but exchange you’ll need to show them a big enough audience they can get in front of.

  4. Hi Neil,

    This post was awesome. I mean it is not that we can’t apply it to our blog but business as well. MVP idea might not be applicable to a post but a blog as a whole. Impressive post I must say as I am keen follower of Startups and Businesses. 20/80 rule was new to me but it was solid. About pivoting, I think that is very important to keep going in your business.

    • What’s great is that as you begin to apply these principles in your business, you’ll notice and improvement in your confidence. This will help your writing, you learning of new skills and more. Let me know if there’s anything else I could help with.

  5. Without measuring your efforts, you are like a blindfolded marketer. Unfortunately, I have been a culprit as well. I learned my lesson and I am improving on that now. Thanks, Niel the post is really packed full with info.

  6. Thanks for this post Neil, definitely a must read for marketers. I especially liked your point on assessing where feedback is coming from. I feel like many marketers don’t weigh the sources of feedback well enough – a share is not a share is not a share depending on who it’s from.

    • Many get lost in their own heads and try making everything perfect, but wind up with something that’s far away from what their customers want or need.

  7. hi Neil,

    I love that part in which you are proving 80/20 rule.

    yes, you are right we have to track every single activity on our blog.

    Just want to know.
    Which thing works well?
    1. unique techniques with low traffic.
    2. or discussing a trick which is already used by fellow blogger but by an extensive marketing plan.
    thank you.

    • I think a variety of both of this would be helpful for an audience Rahul, but it depends on what your goals are. You’ll want to use unique techniques as well as sharing tips and tricks through your content.

  8. Ramchandra Yadav :

    Very Nice Neil Sir,
    Thanks For Share

  9. Neil, great post! When someone wants to build a new company it may be difficult to know when to stop with software development. Why I am saying this? Because of the competition. Lets say I want to build something like KISSmetrics – it is extremly hard because KISSmetrics has too many features and everyone will choose it instead my product with minimum features. What do you think?

    • Building a business like KISSmetrics is considerably more different because platform all the financing involved. I think there are a lot of platforms out there to help you create MVP’s to try and explore with. That way you can invest more as you notice interest and engagement.

    • Yes, you are right. Other platforms are better for creating MVP. However, I can build whatever I want, but sales is the biggest challenge.

  10. Hey Neil, Awesome big post that I wanted till the end as always….

    One question though –

    If we have to validate an MVP content for a week or may be two. As a blogger or or content creator, how can I ensure that it reaches the right audience?

    You might have the right audience with you, but some of us have mixed kind. And if I am trying to make sense of how that MVP is perceived, I need to make sure, it gets in front of right people.

    In this case, would you recommend paid promotion of some sort, if yes, which channels would you recommend, if we have to stay lean on this whole thing?

    • Survey your visitors with qualaroo or your email list iwth survey monkey. Use facebook traffic as a way of getting your MVP tested. $100 can take you a long way.

  11. Definitely one of your best posts in a while–exactly what I needed. More of this please 🙂

  12. Thanks Neil! It is a great idea to test the content before putting a tone of effort into developing detailed guides and long blog posts.

    With my own content, I frequently share the idea on Facebook or Twitter to see the number of likes/shares. If it resonates, I keep working on it.

    • All the iterations will only help you and refine a way for you to be the most effective with your readers. It’s better than just investing all your time into something and realizing it’s completely off form what people want.

    • Exactly. Last thing you want to do is put together a huge guide that no one cares to read about. The more you co produce your content with your readers, the more engaged they will be.

  13. Hi Neil , I am following your blog for some time and takes a lot of your help. I know you read all the reviews and really cares about his players. Well, I live in Brazil and I’m starting an online blog , but I’m not sure how to generate visitors , generate authority and make money with it . I know the launch of Formula Jeff Walker , infoproducts know , I know tools , and various things .. I do not know where to start , it is so much , and I’ve been in the same place . Please help me. I ‘m about to give up on digital entrepreneurship. Sorry for the text size, and I admire you .

    Jonathan Souza

  14. Great post Neil. I liked 80/20 rule.
    I also liked your advice about Minimize your content buildup. I post 1 article everyday and i am generally plan a week ahead.

  15. Great post Neil. This a helpful guide for marketers.
    This is much helpful. Thanks for sharing your views with great inforgraphics.

    • You’re welcome! Infographics can lead you to views, conversions, backlinks and more when you can hit it at the right spot.

  16. Hi, I’m new in seo and I have learned many things from your posts. So thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

    • Welcome aboard 🙂

      I’m glad you’re learning, keep me posted on the results your getting. Let me know if there’s anything specific I can help you with.

  17. Katherine Copeland :

    Great article Neil, really informative and on point.

    • Glad you enjoyed Katherine. Keep me posted on how things work out or if there’s anything else I could help with 🙂

  18. Hi Neil, I have learned 80% of blogging from you Neil. Thank you for wonderful post and inspiring me.

    • That’s wonderful to hear 🙂 I hope things are working out for you. Let me know if there’s anything specific I could help you with.

  19. Mohammed Asif Iqbal :

    Hi Niel,

    I am a new visitor on your blog and I personally find very informative post. specially 20/80 and MVP concept. definitely I am going to focus more on that.

    thank you Neil, it was very informative. looking to scroll more on your Blog post 🙂

    • Glad to have you hear Mohammed. Take a look at the free guides located on the sidebar. Let me know if there’s anything specific you want my help with.

  20. An interesting way of looking at things as ever Neil! Much appreciated and lots of food for thought.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed. Keep me posted on how things work out and if there’s anything else I could help you out with.

  21. I love this post, Neil. I was recently watching an interview you did with Tai Lopez where you noted that most startups want to grow really fast really quickly, and that hurts them. Growing, whether by MVPs or metrics, happens gradually and builds on experience.

    I’ll be revisiting this post 🙂

    • Once you give up the sense of needing to grow super fast, you’ll even start to notice that those gradual changes are still moving at an accelerated rate. It’s like a paradox.

  22. Hi Neil,

    For quite some time I was reading a lot of blogs on internet marketing. I learned about SEO, content marketing and social media. But someday I applied the 80/20 rule without even knowing that somebody already established this concept years ago. So, I decided to stop reading blogs, because it took too much time which I could spend writing. This is my first intuitive finding of the 80/20 rule.

    • I think you’ll want to find a happy middle with what blogs to read, how often, and for what purpose. Sometimes you’ll want to read for enjoyment and another time it maybe for education.

  23. Hi Neil,

    I have visited your site a time or two in the past, but this post won me over. I am currently reading lead startup and about to launch into more content work, so perfect timing. 🙂

    I mean, it makes sense to think about the pareto principle in relation to content activities, yet I think it takes a simple explanation like this to get me acting on it.

    One area where I wanted to know a little more was working the idea of MVP for content into an ecommerce site. For example, MVP on product titles/descriptions, on category/landing pages, email templates, etc. I mean, I get the general ideas here of iteration and data measurement, but I would have loved to see some more of your thoughts on applying this to an ecommerce site.

    Thanks again for the great post!

    • As you begin to apply these methods everywhere in your content, you’ll start to notice yourself becoming incredibly effective with your marketing. It’s always better to do small hacks and changes which accumulate into a lot of change over time.

  24. A few days back, in your article on optimizing for Facebook, you asked about the length of your article. I’ve been kind of pondering my reaction to that article and thought I should give you my honest feedback.

    First, I do get your emails, but don’t always open them right away. When analyzing your traffic sources, you might think late comers from your emails are not very good and staying on top of their emails, but actually I’ll clear my entire email and leave yours for later. I know I need a good half hour and some real focus power to read your posts, so I often put them off to another time. In that sense, length hurts you. If I had known the FB article was a quicker read, it wouldn’t have taken me an extra 48 hours to get around to it. On the other hand, I rarely delete your emails without reading the entire post and sometimes I even print your posts for quick reference. (They’re that good!)

    Second, some of your articles are longer than they need to be because of tangents and rabbit trails. This article was laser focused and detailed in all the right places. Other times you go into major detail about related, but essentially off-topic aspects (for example, how to complete a task, including every button to click, in one of the three specific applications you suggested). These topics might make for really good stand-alone articles, but often don’t give the reader much that is transferable to completing the task using a different program. They do, however, make the article long and sometimes I forget what the point of the section was by the time I finish it. So, once again, lengthy doesn’t necessarily equal good.

    Third, something was missing in the shorter article. I’m not sure if you were feeling constrained by the smaller word count and your voice was’t quite natural or if the post was really lacking some level of essential detail, but it left me feeling flat. I know I asked myself, “Is that it?” when I finished because I expected more. While being a quality article, it lacked the usual sense of being exceptional. I worried I was missing something important that would come back to bite me in the long run.

    My conclusion is that I’m personally fine with the longer posts, but that length shouldn’t be the goal. I want topics covered well, but very on topic. I want details nobody else knows to include, but don’t want an article inside an article. If some articles end up a little shorter, but I got everything promised and I feel empowered to go make a change or try something new, I’ve judged as your reader that you’ve achieved one of your real goals (because you’re that kind of person). The average Facebook user may like a slightly shorter article, but you’ve never described your target audience as average Facebook users and such a broad targeting seems to compromise your content for your subscribers.

    • I agree with you that length shouldn’t be the goal. When I write these, I am essentially transmitting experiences I’ve had using strategies that have provided me with successful results with you through a blog. At the end of the day, if you understand what I’m trying to teach you, and are motivated to apply it, I’ve done my job. Thank you for your insight, I appreciate your feedback. I’ll be aware of not getting off tangent 🙂

  25. Neil,

    Two things…I loved the post, and I can’t stop imagining Tinder for cats!

    What you refer to as “lean marketing” is very similar to the concept of iterative marketing which combines a a persona-first mindset with starting small and using a feedback loop to make data driven decisions based off your experiments. Thanks for sharing this great article that highlights there is a smarter way to market!

    As always, a pleasure to read!

    • Exactly. Make small changes incrementally from the feedback you getting from your users. That way you’re building it around real experience.

  26. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for this post. I get where you are coming from. I originally read the book by Eric Reis about the Lean Startup and sincerely agree with you that MVP can in fact be put to good use with marketing and, more specifically within content writing.

    The two areas I see consider would be a main source of issue would be the client’s way of doing things and, the type of funnel you might want to adopt. If the client is in business sector, saw law firms, etc where content would abound, mvp would need to be adjusted not to word length but may to the content structure and content presentation.

    On the other hand, re the funnel being adopted, sometimes the email length, many people have a lot of different ideas on that. Especially whether it is still worth doing email follow ups at all. Personally I like receiving information that of good use to me, that is not junk mail, like the quality email you send.

    • Many of the traditional businesses maybe reluctant to do it this way a first, but then realize the importance of focusing their campaigns on giving a way value on an on going basis. The MVP is a work in progress and the content only gets enhanced and better over time.

      I appreciate you leaving a comment and sharing your thoughts. Please let me know if there’s anything specific I could help you with.

  27. I have really learned a lot from your post. I am still grasping the idea of MVPs as it is new to me. I truly have a lot to learn and I can see how beneficial the content cycle that you have presented here.

    • It’s great that you’re learning something you haven’t understood before. Once you truly get the idea of MVPs, your whole mindset about business will change.

  28. I agree. The concept of lean marketing is new to me as well. But I am always ready to learn new forms of marketing when they arise.

    • Good for you on being open minded 🙂

      Following this process will save you a lot of energy (money and time) throughout your journey.

  29. This is awesome – I was just lamenting that lean startup doesn’t translate well to content marketing. I still think that the learning cycle happens way too slowly with content marketing, (you have to write good content then spend time promoting it before having any idea if it’s working vs. spending a few hours prototyping a new product design), but this is super helpful for building a macro view of lean content marketing.

    Will be bookmarking this for later.

    • It’s not easy, but if you want to speed up the process, you can invest in buying traffic from Facebook, Pinterest, and various other social channels. Spending $50 can go a long way and give you a really good understanding as to how real people are responding to your content.

  30. Hey Neil,

    Best part was 80/20 rule. It really works, i already used it.

    I’m gone track every single activity on our blog.

    Thank you.

    • That’s awesome Shivkant, I’m happy to hear that. Let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like my help with.

  31. Transport George :

    Thanks Neil for introducing this amazing marketing concept. Applying ‘lean model of business’ allows you to save time, money and energy.

    • It’ll help you become more effective with your decision making. Keep me posted on your progress or let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with.

  32. Nagesh K Bansal :

    Great Post ! lean model of business is nice if apply. Nice Information.

    • This will make things a lot easier, less scary, and not to mention more affordable. Let me know if you have any specific questions about integrating this model into your business.

  33. Thanks Neil for providing such a useful information and I’ll be practicing the Len model of business. It’s really the amazing information and hope going to help me also…

    • That’s wonderful to hear James, I’m glad you enjoyed. Keep me posted on how things work out and if there’s anything else I can help you with.

  34. Sue J. Maselli :

    Nice Post

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