As an entrepreneur, it can be easy to feel that you need a fully fleshed out product before you take it to market — but that’s not necessarily a requirement.
If you want to get your product out the door quickly, why not test the technology with real users before building all the features, or get early feedback from your target audience? With a minimum viable product (MVP) strategy, you can do all these things, and minimise the time and resources that go into features that might not succeed.
Here, we’re taking a look at what this strategy entails and why it’s an effective method for both new and established entrepreneurs.
The term ‘minimum viable product’ was coined by Frank Robinson and popularized by Eric Ries as part of his Lean Startup methodology. The way he describes it, an MVP is the version of a new product that allows teams to gather the most informed insights from customers with the least amount of effort. In other words, it’s a product that has sufficient features to address some customer needs, attracting users to validate the idea early in the development cycle. For mobile app developers, this can be a beta version of the application, with just enough features to show how it would work.
Benefits of building an MVP
The primary benefit of adopting an MVP strategy is that it allows you to gather early feedback on your product without building the full product. It gives you the opportunity to take your product outside your team’s echo chamber and put it in front of real users. The earlier you get that input from your target users, the less time and money you’re likely to spend on components that don’t make sense to them.
If you’ve already done the work of defining your customer needs, and you know that there is one area that needs a quick solution, an MVP can also be an easy way to deliver on that one aspect. Then, your team can take the time to refine that technology and supplement it with other features.
For software developers in particular, this process is valuable as it allows teams to gather feedback quickly and use that insight to iterate and improve the product as they build it out further. The result? Teams are much more agile and better able to fully address the needs of their customers without going down paths that don’t make sense.
Building an MVP also reduces the total amount of time spent on developing your product. With early feedback, your team can focus their time and energy on the right features, in the right order of priority — so time isn’t wasted.
Six best practices for building an MVP
If you feel that an MVP strategy is the right approach for your startup, here are six steps you can take to make the most of it.
1. Conduct market research: According to CB Insights, one of the top reasons startups fail is because there’s no market need for their product. So, before you even start building on your idea, do the research to understand who your target users are and whether your product meets their needs. You can do this by sending out surveys to your target audience — an incentive like the chance to win an Amazon gift card can help here — and gathering as much input as you can. Don’t forget to also take a look at what your competitors are doing. How does your product idea stand out?
2. Ideate on your product’s value: You need to have a clear understanding of your product’s value proposition. How will your customers benefit from using it? Why would they choose your solution over another one in the market? Thinking through these questions should help you identify the features you should include in your MVP.
3. Design the user flow: As you build your MVP, think about the user experience. From login to purchase — and how they move through each stage of that journey — your customer needs to be at the centre of all your design and user flow decisions. Start by defining the steps customers will need to take within your product to get to the main objective, and build simple features that address each step.
4. Choose your MVP features: As part of the MVP, you won’t be incorporating all the features you have in mind for your app, so you need to prioritise which to include. Which of the features you’ve identified in the previous step are must-haves? Which can stay on the back burner until you have enough input from your target audience?
5. Build your MVP: Once you’ve identified your features, it’s time to build your MVP. Remember to keep industry trends in mind. You want your application or product to feel current and relevant to your customers. The easiest way to do this is to create an easy user experience that doesn’t get in the way of your users accomplishing their goals.
Don’t forget to build features that attract new users to register so that you can get as much input as you can.
6. Market your product: Spreading the news about your MVP is the best way to bring new users on board. Get your marketing team involved and run targeted email and social media campaigns that speak directly to your target users. These messages should all direct people to a dedicated landing page where they can access or download your product.
Moving on from your MVP
Some of the biggest technologies we use today — like Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter — all started with an MVP approach. Each of these companies first developed a very basic web application that would then be iterated on and expanded to meet the evolving needs of their customers. That’s the key next step. Once you’ve confirmed that your idea is viable and worth developing, it’s time to invest in scaling your product, marketing it effectively, and engaging your customers throughout the process.
If you’re interested in learning more about the MVP strategy and how to get it right, our ‘Sandbox Team’ is here to help. We’re always eager to support local, regional, and international entrepreneurs that are shaping the technologies of tomorrow.