Did you ever wonder what a minimum viable product is? Do I need to make one to push my product forward? In this article, I’ll explain what an MVP is and why it’s important to make one before you go any further.
The author of The Lean Startup Eric Ries came up with the concept of a “Minimum Viable Product” Basically, an MVP is a product with a minimum set of features that will allow you to validate an idea. Here are the three components an MVP should have.
A minimum viable product should have 3 components:
1# It offers value, so an early adopter gets something from the product/service
2# It gives an insight on the viability of the product; customers are willing to use your product/service
3#It has plenty of room for future improvement + it’s low risk
Let’s expand it
1# Some people say the minimum viable product doesn’t need to be commercial. A landing page with a click through button is enough to collect data. However, a minimum viable product which gives value in exchange for money shows that people are ready to pay.
Someone can say he loves the product, but this doesn’t mean he’s ready to pay.
Buffer is a great example of a successful Minimum Viable Product. It allowed founder Joel to collect important data. And even though the product wasn’t ready, the numbers of clicks through gave Joel the validation he needed to start to build the actual product.
2# Early adopters are willing to try your product. But how do you refine your market and get to know who they are. Who is your ideal customer, where he hangs out? Marketers would tell you not everyone is your customer! The more you know him, the more efficiently you can market your product.
The girls from Rent the Runway knew this very well. To find out if there was anyone interested in their product, they set pop up shops in the university campus. Recruiting females to rent their high-end dresses manually was a good tactic. Only then they were able to confirm their concept would work.
3# Now you know there are people willing to use your product, you know your customers, you only need to tweak new features and ship as soon as you can. Once you pull out a landing page and have validated the idea, is time for refinement one feature at the time.
This is the case of OLIO a food sharing app based in the UK. At the beginning, OLIO founders set up a WhatsApp group to see if someone was interested in sharing surplus food.
After discovering that users were happy to post pictures of their surplus food and share it with others, they pulled a basic landing page and kept iterating. OLIO now is a cool app with a noble mission to put an end to food waste.
There are so many ways to test a product, the idea of the Minimum Viable Product is investing the minimum amount of time+effort in finding out if your idea is viable.
You need to collect data, get to know those who buy into your idea. After few validation steps you can ship a better version of the product. It also gives you the chance to learn about the market, your customers and the product itself.
Because it has to be adjusted to the market, it is crucial to learn about the various versions of your MVP. You’ll have to tweak rinse and repeat many times. Instead of having to wait for ages to enter the market you have no idea about, a minimum viable product is perfect to test the waters before you commit to developing the product further.
Each iteration gives a better perspective of your product and the market it serves.
Types of Minimum Viable Products
Crow-Founding: Platforms like Kickstarter or Crowdfunding work well to recruit early adopters. Having people baking your projects is always a good signal.
The classic example is Sedition Wars: Battle for Alabaster a space horror board game made by Mike McVey. A success story on Kick Starter, but there are many more. Crowdfunding campaigns if they become successful, can bring good traction to your service.
Landing Page: Buffer nailed a simple landing page. Of-course, they are not the only ones, many companies that have started with a simple landing page and are now solid startups.
A landing page should have a clear “Value Proposition” and a call to action. You should be able to explain what your service or product is about with few words. Then a call to action will bring e-mails of people interested in your idea.
You can use paid Google or Facebook ads, but there are other ways to get traction. For example: posting in your blog, in Facebook groups, in forums, etc.
The founder of Kollecto nailed the social media game without spending a single penny on ads.
A landing page is a page with a unique URL, it looks like a website but is so much quicker to set. There are tons of companies that offer free trials. They have various templates you can copy. Here are some of them:
This list is not exhausted there are tons of companies offering landing pages. A quick Google search can help. But don’t spend a long time with that, the idea is to ship the product fast.We can leave a beautiful design for later.
Wizard of Oz: It gives the impression that your product is real. However, behind the scenes you do everything manually, an example of this is Zappos the online shoes retail.
In the early days, they’d go to the shops, take pictures, upload the pics on the site and came back to the store when they sold a pair. This confirmed that selling shoes online was fine.
Piecemeal: It’s also a very basic blog/landing page/micro-site/Google form. You use the tools you have to validate the idea.
Groupon started with a WordPress website. “The Point” offered a very different service. This wasn’t quite successful, so the founders got another idea.
They contacted shops to ask for discounts in exchange for sending customer their way. They would send a PDF “voucher” to print out to those interested in the offers. Now, Groupon is a mega site with more than 48 million customers.
Concierge: You provide a service based on the customer preferences. In order to do that you have to follow the steps an ideal customer would go through when buying the product.
An example is Kollecto, its founder Tara Reed frustrated with the lack of options to buy cool art, created a service without writing any line of code. Kollecto gives personalised advise to users wanting to buy different art.
As you could see a minimum viable product doesn’t need to be perfect. The key is to test the market using the things that are available. By doing this you’ll save precious money, time and effort.
It also helps to understand your customers. You’ve plenty of time to add features later on. So don’t get caught up with fancy features no one will use. Test your idea and see if it has any chance of moving forward.
Start now with the things you have!
To your success xx