Identifying the ‘minimum viable problem’ to satisfy needs of customers

Authored by Anoop Karumathil Melethil, Associate Vice President - Marketing, Maveric Systems.

B2B organizations typically have a formal marketing plan in place. One that helps them shape and put direction to their marketing activities. For decades, strategies for dealing with recessions have also remained unchanged. Either economize operations and keep activities to a minimum or spend significantly to shape your brand’s identity ahead of demand and capture market share.

When all formal playbooks went out of the window due to a sudden pandemic induced global recession, it also triggered and compelled some seismic changes in consumer behaviour. One of the key shifts has been the increased adoption of digital channels to shop, bank, consume content etc. while social distancing. Another is the sheer ‘information overload’ consumers are facing, which resultantly not only lowers their attention span, but also limits the time a brand has, to make an impression on the customer. Multiple brands compete for the same limited consumer mindshare, in a very short fuse influencing window span.

Referred reverently as the ‘new normal’, the unseen future has thus brought in the need for a new playbook, as well as a form of mysticism to branding. Marketers know the immense value of brand identity. They also have abundant technologies at their disposal to track customer behaviour. Yet, within an increasingly virtual landscape, how does a brand continue to maintain its relevance?   

Thriving with agility in ambiguity

How do you react quickly and decisively in uncertain times? On one side, marketers are facing ambiguity due to volatile market shifts and customer demands. On the other, they need  to be able to quickly react to customer needs based on deep data analysis. This represents a watershed moment for marketing leadership because not only do brands have to adapt to the consumers’ appreciation of digital, but also adapt themselves to be helpful within short time-spans.

Secondly, in a market flooded with ads and content across audio, video, images, texts and more, consumers tend to let most content go unnoticed. Which means the marketers charged with designing and putting out brand messages, face the difficult task of standing out in a crowd. How do you differentiate noise versus meaningful signals and create value for the customer – consistently? This ‘Where’s Waldo?’ risk presents a ‘sunk cost fallacy’ for marketing leadership, because of which they often end up being the noise instead of a meaningful signal.

The Minimum Viable Problem: MVP vs MVP

It is no longer enough to have a formal marketing plan, but also the capability to formalize new brand pivots with impact, and agility – across customer experiences and journeys. It is also not enough to vie for customer attention in creative ways, as buyers today demand relevant details and a clear value to know your brand is a safe bet. Which means you need to closely understand your customer needs and create valuable solutions accordingly.

This is where the concept of a ‘minimum-viable-product’ transitions to identification of the ‘minimum viable problem’  to satisfy the needs of the customer. But how?

Anticipating your brand’s purpose at the moment to create MVPs is the biggest capability technology is offering marketers today. Customer Data Platforms (CDP), Social Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and more such enterprise technologies, are helping brands leverage ‘predictive sensing’ through the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).

More marketers are not only identifying new patterns, but leveraging them to create predictive models for spends and business growth. This has big implications for the type of propositions businesses develop in the future. Marketers therefore, have to not only map out not and meet needs of the customer within a short time, but also explore all the negative implications of their strategies with metrics – before they act on it.

Humanization of the brand

Despite sweeping virtual changes, human experiences have always been driven by our core values, actions and emotions. The pandemic forced all of us to close our doors off, witness the severity of the crisis, and thus increased our sense of empathy. Consumers consequently valued the brands that demonstrated their human side – with humour, altruism, a sense of purpose, art, generosity – and everything in between. Some of the recent studies on Advertisement effectiveness has shown that those Ads that reflect human connections and collaboration fared much better than the ones focused on hard sell, products, competition or performance.        

The past year has proven why it is always best to start with what values your brand brings to the market. Not only does it define the way your business operates and is perceived, but also explains why you do it in the first place. Only then can brands imagine myriad relevant ways to engage, enlighten and delight your customers – through seasons of storms or spring.


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