As a small business owner or developer, you've most likely heard your employees, colleagues, and staffers discuss building an MVP or maybe, you've even created one yourself. If you haven't made one yourself, you may be wondering what an MVP or minimum viable product is or, more importantly, how to identify if your team has built an excellent minimum viable product.
An MVP is simply the version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.
In other words, it can be described as the early version of a product with just enough features and attributes to be usable by early consumers who can then provide valuable feedback for future iterations or product development. The advantage to releasing an MVP as a business is that it allows you to focus on feedback and revisions to avoid potentially lengthy and ultimately unnecessary work in the long run.
In essence, creating an MVP is all about creating a product with enough value, so users are inclined to buy into your product in its early stages. This helps retain your consumers while creating touchpoints that serve as a feedback loop that later drive innovation and development towards a stellar final product.
To build a solid MVP, you must start by conducting market research. It's essential to identify your target audience while determining what sets your product apart from any competing products or competitors.
Once you've determined if your product is usable and solidified your idea, you can begin ideating value addition by developing how your product will benefit your consumers. You must identify why they would want to buy it.
As soon as you've determined how to produce value in your product, you can begin to map out the user flow by creating a product that is easy to use while making sure it has enough touchpoints to stimulate feedback. To complete this step, you need to envision the product from your user's perspective to make sure your product is appealing to their pain points and meeting your overall objectives.
The last step that you must complete before launching your MVP is to prioritize your MVP features. At this stage, you can begin by listing the features you wish to have in your product and cross-check your product with your list. The goal then becomes to prioritize features by asking yourself, what do my users want? This will allow you to prioritize when building your MVP so you can release a product that lies on the edge of reliability and usability while still leaving room for future iterations and further development.
3 G's of MVP
Developing, building, and evaluating your minimum viable product can be broken down into the three G's:
- Gather information
- Generate revenue
- Gauge the value of your end product during the development process
These are essentially the goals that you are trying to achieve.
The primary goal is to gather the information that allows you as a business owner to gauge consumer's interest in your product so you can make any necessary iterations. Observing users as they utilize your product is much more valuable and reliable than validating your development using questionnaires, study groups, or forecasts. A tip at this stage is that if you notice your users are not providing any feedback at all, it may mean that your release is so far below your user's expectations that it is, in fact, not your MVP, let alone viable at all.
Releasing a limited-cost product or your minimum viable product allows you to generate revenue for future development. Take gameplay apps, for example. They release base models and use the funds and feedback from early users to fuel development and make future improvements. You may also be able to generate revenue through multiple streams during the early stages of development. For example, your direct income from the product's release may also be augmented by winning over shareholders and investors with the successes of your initial release.
Lastly, releasing a minimum viable product allows you to gauge the long-term value of your eventual product. No innovator likes to admit that their dream product is not viable but is released at an earlier stage. Long-term development expenses can be avoided for non-viable projects. On the flip side, the early feedback may allow for product refinement to allow for long-term success once the final product is created and released.
Why MVP? The Benefits
1. Busting the market with a small budget
A minimum viable product focuses you on one idea or on building the core of your dream product. If built correctly, it prioritizes the features you wish to test in your product and allows you to create a lean startup MVP.
The whole idea is focused on building the right product with a minimal budget in terms of both time and money. Maximizing your priority features while minimizing overall features in your early stages of development allows you to bust the market with a smaller budget, making it possible for you to test your product with minimal risk to both you and your investors.
2. Minimizing errors
One of the significant benefits of your startup MVP is that it allows you to minimize the risk of error in your product. Your release as an MVP is focused on only usability and reliability and not on numerous unnecessary features. A minimal MVP allows you to slowly concentrate your resources on priority features to minimize the number of errors that will be uncovered upon your launch.
The continuous feedback loop also reduces errors in subsequent launches as you will have real-time feedback from real-life consumers and not just target groups and baseless product forecasts.
3. Balancing company offerings and customer needs
Your minimum viable product is the version that allows for collecting the max amount of validated learning from customers with minimal effort. This will enable you to balance your company offerings with customer needs adequately. Customer needs that are considered in any project include price, quality, choice, and convenience. By launching an MVP, you will gauge your customer's responses to how your product touches these four needs. The feedback can then be used to balance your future offerings with customer needs.
For example, you may have envisioned a vast set of features for your product that will take years of development and increase spending in future phases of development. However, your MVP may demonstrate that your customers value different or fewer features than you planned for – this information will allow you to balance and maximize your subsequent offerings to meet their needs. This is a great advantage as this information will maximize the value of your spending on future releases of your product.
4. Find your target market/audience
Anytime we build a product or MVP – we do not always know who the target audience is. You've probably heard the old saying that if you try to target everyone, you will end up reaching no one. Well, that is one of the great features of building your startup MVP. The continuous feedback loop will help you learn who your target audience truly is before you invest tons of time and money into bringing your final product to market.
Utilizing an MVP may bring you feedback that your product solves a problem for consumers that you had not even thought of. Or conversely, you may learn that your product doesn't solve the intended problem you had planned for it. Nailing down your product's actual value will make it possible for you to identify your ideal target audience so you can maximize the success of your final launch. You can't open the doors to success if you don't know which key to use.
5. Receiving the best quality feedback
Launching a startup MVP helps collect the highest quality feedback by targeting specific groups or types of users with only the core features of your product. An approach is a learning approach that allows you to collect this optimized feedback based on your idea to be included in future iterations of your primary product. This quality feedback gives you a considerable development advantage by exercising 'BML' – build, measure, learn. By reviewing everything you collect when launching your MVP, you can determine the competitiveness and receptiveness of your product in the marketplace.
By now, you should be able to apply MVP principles to your own projects.
Just remember that your main goal should be to grow your product sustainably over time rather than achieving perfection right out of the gate. The process that we outlined above will allow you to launch your dream product while learning about your consumer's preferences without the risk of overspending valuable time, money, and resources on your final product.