Have you ever heard the term ‘MVP’ as it refers to product development?
Updated for 2021:
MVP stands for ‘Minimum Viable Product’ and relates to new product development, including digital products, software and lean startups that are launched quickly.
Here’s the official definition of MVP:
“The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” The definition’s use of the words maximum and minimum means it is decidedly not formulaic. (Wikipedia)
The main advantage is that with an MVP, you take your new product to market as early as possible, instead of investing a lot of time, money and resources in making it perfect before it goes live.
Each of our DFY software solutions were built folloing a MVP product launch model and a lot of our clients employ it day after day. What we do is build a working framework early, add beta testers through through either personal referral or paid traffic, and started adding features and fixing bugs that are uncovered.
The key is to solve your perfect customers most troubling problem right away, and then let them tell you what they want from there… Something that we cover expansively in our Create book. and Create Mini-Course.
For example, we built TimeSlots because we needed a piece of software that would allow folks to pick a time on our calendar, collect contact details, and ask them a few questions… All inside one tool so we didn’t have to worry about the drop-off between the calendar and the survey. That was it, so that’s where we started our new product development.
That was years ago now… Since then, we’ve added a ton of other features that our users requested, including Paypal integration for call scheduling, two-way Google Calendar sync’ing, that ability to add a ‘buffer’ in between appointments… And plenty more.
Right now, there are 264,000 available TimeSlots that our users have open for are scheduling… Pretty crazy, right?
That was all from releasing an MVP, a Minimum Viable Product, and letting folks tell us what features they want us to add.
With that, let’s take a look at how some other companies work through new product development.
Start With The End In Mind
The single biggest thing about launching an MVP product is to have the ‘end in mind’ when you get started. In other words, work backwards.
Take that initial problem that you’re looking to solve, and put it front and center. Build your entire product or service around it. You’ll find that it’ll be MUCH easier when you’re ready to go to market!
You’ll be able to describe exactly what your product does quickly, without a whole lot of education or hassle getting in the way.
In fact, Amazon has an interesting twist. They start with an internal press release, where they write up that ‘launch’ release and use that as a basis for the whole project, from beginning to end!
Waiting and NOT doing something has a cost to it… You lose time. You give competitors a chance to gain ground. Rules can change. Ad platforms can shift.
I’ve been online for a long time and six months is a lifetime in terms of how dramatically business models can change, and with it your new product development. One minute the hotspot is free, organic traffic. Then everyone seems to be focusing on affiliate traffic. Then, for whatever reason, it shits to paid traffic. At the end of the day, launching your MVP is about doing what will work for you, right now, at this moment and focusing on ONLY that.
After you come to the conclusion that your idea is a good one, go full steam ahead. Don’t lose focus. Make sure that every bit of your working day is devoted to building and growing that one, Minimum Viable Product.
Christopher Janz has an interesting take on ‘How Fast Is Fast Enough.’ He says:
“Growth (a.k.a. traction) is the most important factor that attracts VCs and drives valuations in private financing rounds.”
Perfection Is Overrated
Your MVP won’t be perfect. Not by a long shot. There will be bugs, glitches, misspellings, and a LOT of things could be better.
It will take WAY more time to make it perfect than it will to launch and tweak things later. In fact, I’ve found that oftentimes people use the “It’s not perfect yet” line of thinking to mask the fact that they aren’t personally ready to go to market.
It’s an excuse
They’d rather wait> than hit the market with their new product, no matter how much they’ve invested already. Maybe it’s risk. Could it be fear of failure Is it’s none of the above and they’re being a perfectionist.
The bottom line is that if you don’t launch anything and there’s no way for people to pay you for your product, your service, your software or whatever… You will still be in the exact same place you are right now until you make up your mind to change.
As a testament to that, I found this article about ‘simple drawings‘ that can engage readers FAR more than professionally designed ones… And secondly? The ads that have the highest click-thru rate in paid traffic… They typically have a handwritten font as the headline, like this.
Efficiency Is Everything
You know me – I’m a big fan of procedures and systems. I think it’s the best way to convey the linear relationship that is business. Traffic comes in through your sales funnel. You get leads, sales and customers. Everyone’s happy.
No where is efficiency more important than with your MVP product. Why have a team of writers when you can do it yourself? Why hire both a designer and a programmer when you can mock up the design you’re looking for and hand it off?
Don’t get caught up in going through courses and learning everything there is to know when most of it doesn’t actually matter for what you’re doing! Just find one person with the skills to get it done for you…
As an interesting aside, there’s actually this idea on parking. Apparently, the first parking spot you see when you pull into a parking lot is the most efficient.
In business, it’s pretty much the same. The simplest path of action is usually the most profitable, when you dedicate yourself to it!
Study The Losers
When we only study successes, this sample can only give advice from a limited perspective. We can learn from people who have failed as well and avoid a similar outcome. [Lifehacker]
It’s easy to see who’s doing well in a market in terms of new product development. Most often, they’re covered by media outlets, you see their advertising all over the place, and your friends are sharing their stuff online.
The losers though? They’re a little bit more difficult to track down.
If you don’t see any competitors in a market, it’s most likely because the business model was broken and the failed businesses couldn’t find enough interest to make their idea sustainable.
For the well funded startups, TechCrunch will cover them in their deadpool. For those without funding or investment, they just go away.
After all, every business is made up of winning and losing campaigns! The best businesses are the ones that overcome those setbacks and figure out how to change their strategy and grow in a different direction, like Slack. Or coming out with an entirely new product, like Pinterest.
How do you prioritize when everything seems like it’s urgent? A priority?
The first thing you want to do is make sure that your marketing is dialed in, at least for your initial campaign. That’s where you’re going to spend a good deal of time.
If you aren’t able to sell your product or service, how do you hope to be sustainable?
Once you figure out the marketing end, it’s time to go to work supporting your customers, asking for feedback, and making your offer as good as possible.
Implement what your users want (within reason) and keep growing the marketing side!
If doing videos isn’t a crucial piece of your marketing strategy – don’t do them! Are getting bloggers to review your software required to get new customers. No? – don’t pursue it! If a course doesn’t seem like a great fit for teaching you exactly how to keep scaling your business – don’t buy it!
At the end of the day, everything is going to seem like it’s a priority. It’s important for you to understand what truly is and what truly isn’t.
Get Your First Customer As Fast As Possible
The last, and most important piece of this MVP and new product development puzzle, is to get your first customer as fast as humanly possible. Before you get your first customer, what you have is an idea that you’ve worked really hard on.
After you get your first customer though, it’s game on!
Once you get your first customer, then it’s time to get the second. And the third. And the fourth. From there, automate the process, drive traffic and start scaling it! That’s where we come in her at Done For You between our managed services and software apps.
I will tell you, the priority for your business is to make your product or service work with paid traffic, through Facebook or banner ads or blog posts. Deliver value to your prospects and turn those prospects into sales…