Minimum Viable Promise
3 min read

In 2021, I spent a lot of time thinking about community. When Unreal Collective was acquired and I was brought in to help build the Community Experience team at SPI, my life became community building.

As a result, my community building palette has been refined. I’ve separated the ideas of “community” and “membership” in my mind, created a Community Building Crash Course and an Advanced Memberships & Community Building workshop, and even launched the #Tweet100 Social Club.

Every week, I speak with new creators who are building a community or membership. And the most common mistake I see is their starting point.

They want to build a community…because they want to build a community.

But a community is like any other product you create – it needs to serve a purpose for the customer.

You need to start from a place of, “What does this community solve for the individual? What is the job to be done?”

What I see more often is a bullet-point list of benefits to joining the community:

  • Access to likeminded people
  • Live events
  • Tools & Resources

Yada yada yada. And I’ve been guilty of explaining my membership offerings in bullet points too!

But when you do that, it’s easy to fall into a trap of feeling like you need to offer more features. More benefits to add to the list so that the overwhelming length of the benefits makes someone say, “Boy, what a bargain!”

And that puts you right into a position of needing to constantly fulfill all those promises you made…and you might not even know which promises people truly opted in for in the first place!

Instead, I recommend you determine your Minimum Viable Promise.

Your Minimum Viable Promise (yes, the acronym is still “MVP”) is the bare minimum that you need to promise (and fulfill) for someone to be interested enough to purchase membership.

This idea first entered my world in my Creative Elements interview with Dan Andrews of Tropical MBA. He said:

One “Guru-ism” that was shared with me, I objected to when I first heard it. And the idea was, what is the least you can do for your customers? I thought, well, what a horrible, horrible idea. And it took me a while to learn from experience that this is actually a very useful idea to consider, which is, it’s essentially about elegant value delivery. And also not trying to be too smart that there are things leavers that you can find that are like small leavers that move big things for your customers.

The point isn’t being lazy. The point isn’t delivering a minimal amount of value…the point is getting clear on the bare minimum you can promise your customers that gets them to buy in.

…and then you can surprise and delight them with more.

Now, anything you sprinkle on top is a fun, added bonus. It’s not an expectation or something you’re accountable to delivering week after week…it’s all just gravy.

This is a much more sustainable way to think about building a membership. And it’s something I’ve kept top of mind as I’ve been designing my own membership for the coming year.

Cultivating community is really, really hard. It’s a long game, and you need to think from the beginning about how you can protect your energy. You want to design the community so that you are incentivized to continue to make it better…which is easier if you don’t over-engineer or over-promise in the beginning.

I’ve shared this all in terms of communities and memberships, but this really applies to any product or service you offer.

The next time you’re creating something for sale, I encourage you to ask yourself: What is the minimum viable promise that will make this worth $XX?

Once you determine that, you’re set up to blow your customers away with the amount of value you’ll provide on top of that.