The MVP most startups ignore.
March 24, 2021
Have you ever come up with an exciting idea only to be thoroughly disappointed by your inability to execute it? Welcome to the life of a startup marketer dealing with a custom coded website.
I know this feeling well because before co-founding Makeswift, I spent most of my career as a startup marketer.
The tech that powers website design and production has drastically evolved since I was tinkering with Wordpress themes a decade ago, trying to teach myself just enough HTML and CSS to get by. I would spend hours on W3Schools.com trying to figure out how to make small website changes without having to ask a developer for help.
As a marketer, it was demoralizing for me to be responsible for the brand experience but not be able to actually own it.
The marketer’s inability to truly own the entire brand experience is a constant in almost every startup I’ve worked with. And while this causes endless frustration for marketers, it also means that the company’s early marketing website never really gets the attention it deserves.
My current role as a co-founder has helped me see this problem in a new light. I get why some founders overthink and overwork their first website. The founder’s entrepreneurial passion often drives them to micromanage their initial marketing and messaging. This almost always introduces rigidity and complexity way too early. Practically, this can look like a startup custom coding the first version of their website to get it just right. This leads to frustrated marketing hires and lots of wasted time and money when small changes are needed down the line.
At the same time, many startup founders today swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. These founders correctly assume that their marketing site is going to need to change as they start getting early feedback from customers and the product itself evolves. They don’t want to put a lot of thought into the website until it “really matters.” The tradeoff here is that the startup misses out on key early learnings about their target customers that would serve them well as they go to market.
I’ve seen both of these scenarios play out over and over again in my career in startups. I believe there’s a better way — one we already have a playbook for.
What if we change the way we think about a startup’s first marketing site altogether?
What if founders thought about their first website the way they think about their product? What if we treated early startup websites as if they are the marketing MVP?
Only with the recent explosion of no-code and the sophistication of visual website building tools has it become possible for founders to think about their company’s first website in this way. Now anyone can quickly build a beautiful first website, utilize analytics to gain insight, optimize, and rapidly iterate as they learn. Founders can leverage their first marketing site to test go-to-market strategies and set up future marketing hires for success.
After years of working with early-stage startups, I believe it’s high time we made this way of thinking the norm. Rather than being an afterthought, your first website can and should be your marketing MVP.
We put together some resources to help startups begin to apply this way of thinking to their own websites. Take a look and let us know what else we can add to help founders and marketers leverage their marketing MVP.