Even though there’s nothing new under the sun, I’m going to claim this concept as mine…
The “Minimum Viable Selling System” — or, MVSS.
I came up with it in a coaching call earlier today, to describe what I needed to do to get a personal project of mine off the ground.
It’s not that different from what’s talked about in one of my favorite business books of all time, Ready, Fire, Aim, by Michael Masterson (pen name of Mark Ford).
In that book, Mark breaks down the four stages of building a business from zero to $100 million (a path he’s taken two businesses on, with many others on their way).
During Stage One, the period in which you go from zero to $1 million, he sets out one goal. Build a scalable system for getting customers.
That is, figure out how you’re going to sell, and build on it to bring a consistent flow of new customers in through the door.
If you can’t do that, you don’t have a business. If you can do that, you set up all the future opportunities for growing your business that will take you from $1 million to $10 million, from $10 million to $50 million, and then from $50 million to $100 million and beyond.
But it all hinges on finding that optimal selling strategy.
Now, Mark actually goes into a lot of detail on many aspects of this, learned from taking more than two dozen businesses to $1 million per year in revenues and beyond (and working with thousands upon thousands of other entrepreneurs).
I’d be doing you a disservice to try to recapture Mark’s brilliance here. And, I’m here to share MY brilliant idea, not Mark’s. So I think you should buy the book, and we’ll continue on with my “Minimum Viable Selling System” idea.
The biggest problem with most “wantrepreneurs…”
There are a TON of people in this world who want to be a successful entrepreneur or business builder. But very few ever succeed.
Now, I could tell you about the failure rate of businesses — and it would be part of the picture. When you incorporate a business before you have any proof that you’re able to make your first sale, you’re taking on a big risk of failure.
And yet, there are far more people who have dreams deferred… They have an idea they’re convinced would make a good business, but they never make it happen. They justify it by being too busy. They justify it by not having access to resources. They justify it in 100 different ways.
But what they never do is try it. They never try to sell it.
It’s not about finding an optimal selling system — it’s about doing anything at all, outside of dreaming.
Believe it or not, this describes me, right now.
And no, I’m not talking about the dozens of good ideas I’ve had but chosen not to move forward with yet.
I’m talking about a specific project I’d actually planned to have done by the end of December — a project for myself — that I’ve completely failed to get inertia on.
Sure, I’m already a successful entrepreneur. I make enough to feed my family and keep a roof over our heads and clothes on our back, and then some. I haven’t gone to anybody’s office to work since January 2010. I frequently hang out at coffee shops all day, and am able to take my kids to and from school and be a presence in their lives, while so many other kids are in day care.
I have an entrepreneurial life so many people envy.
And yet, to borrow a line from Hamilton, “I can never be satisfied.” I have spin-offs I want to get done, that represent opportunities above and beyond my current ventures.
And in those, I frequently find myself more aligned with other “wantrepreneurs” than I am in my copywriting and consulting biz.
I struggle to get them going.
Here’s the struggle I was having just this morning — and my “a ha” moment…
Sometimes I struggle from having too much information.
I know, if I were working with a sophisticated client (most of my clients are), I would come up with a multi-tiered funnel with lead magnets and trip wires and core offers and upsells beyond that.
I know those are the ways to maximize the value of any given traffic stream — because they open up the funnel at the widest spot, and carry traffic through, ascending the best buyers to both higher value and higher profits for the marketer.
I know all this.
And so before December had started, I’d developed a complex, sophisticated funnel for this particular project that I wanted to create.
I laid out what the different products were. I got really clear on the funnel structure, what the ascending offers were, and so on.
And then, I hit a brick wall. I let my work time fill up with little tasks. I found myself easily distracted. I struggled to turn my big picture plan into actionable tasks that would actually get the project off the ground.
And it kept gnawing at me.
Because my inability to translate the big picture into little tasks meant nothing was getting done.
And now, reaching the end of December, that means my fourth quarter priority is spilling over into the first quarter of next year, which pushes other projects out on my timeline.
That’s when it struck me. If I wasn’t making progress on the whole thing, what if I just focused on getting one part of it up and running?
Initially, I was thinking the lead generation bit. If I could get the front end of the funnel up, I’d feel an urgency to get the back end up as well.
Then, at my coach Joseph’s recommendation, I flipped that on its head. What if instead of getting the front-end of the funnel up, I started at the back end, where the real money is?
Enter the “Minimum Viable Selling System…”
I know this breaks all the rules of funnels, and I get that. But I also know my core offer stands on its own, and I know the hot-buttons that will move the audience.
My big challenges is just coming up with SOMETHING, ANYTHING that I can throw traffic at, and attempt to get it working at break-even or better, to justify more time and effort to build out a more complicated, sophisticated funnel.
And so, within minutes of identifying the concept of the Minimum Viable Selling System, or MVSS, we looked at what this would look like.
Now, if you’ve followed the startup world at all, you’ve probably heard of a Minimum Viable Product — or, MVP. This is a product that has the minimum feature set required for it to be attractive to early adopters, that you can build to get your product and company off the ground and support future development. My Minimum Viable Selling System gives a hat tip to that, and takes it into the marketing realm.
Even if you KNOW a bigger, more complex, more sophisticated approach will be better, don’t let that stop you from doing something now.
Let’s say, for example, that you think you can build a funnel that will attract 10,000 customers at a cost per acquisition of $100 each, and a customer lifetime value of $1,000 each. (I’m using round numbers to make the math easy.) That means eventually you’ll get $10 million out of that funnel.
But, let’s say that you’ve designed that funnel in such a way that it’s somewhat complex, and has so many moving pieces that you’re not really making progress.
Well, instead of going for the whole funnel, what if you targeted being able to bring in your first 100 customers at a cost of up to $400 each, with a lifetime value of $500. But this funnel has one big advantage over the big sophisticated one — it’s really simple and you can get it done in a couple weeks.
Sure, the math doesn’t look nearly as good — we’re talking $10,000 profits versus $9 million. But if you can never get over the inertia roadblock to finish that more complex funnel, that $9 million is worth $0. Having ANY selling system completed is far more valuable than having 10 great funnels half-done.
And in getting your less-profitable done, you should ideally be setting yourself up with positive momentum plus resources to move on to creating the more sophisticated funnel.
Try this concept on for yourself…
What projects do you have in the works — especially marketing and selling systems — that aren’t getting finished because your idea is bigger than your implementation?
What complex funnels have you built to “best practices” standards but haven’t implemented yet?
I know my ADHD had produced more than a few of these since the start of my entrepreneurial journey — and maybe you have a handful of them, too.
Step back for a moment, and consider these projects. What can you do to break them down into their component parts? What can you do to create cash flow from them quickly? What can you do to give them momentum?
This reminds me of one more idea that is very much in the same ballpark — an idea I got in 2009 at my first AWAI Bootcamp. The always-controversial Dan Kennedy introduced us copywriters to a concept called the, “GE-Spot.” That is, the point where your copy is “good enough” to test, even if it’s not perfect. If you get in the practice to getting things to good enough and then shipping them to the market to decide, you can rack up a much bigger collection of wins than insisting on having everything perfect, and never getting anything done as a result.
So: what do you think of the idea of the Minimum Viable Selling System? Click the comment link below and let me know.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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