You've got an idea and you want to get it off the ground. You know that creating an MVP is the way to go – but where do you start?
Narrowing down your MVP can be quite a challenge when you've got unlimited ideas, competing priorities, or multiple stakeholders.
We've helped countless businesses define and build the first version of a product that's going to get them moving. The most successful MVPs are the ones that are hitched to a clearly articulated outcome; whether that’s a learning goal or a business goal.
Here, we’re sharing three common situations where getting a pared-back version of a product out the door quickly is going to be the right decision.
Do you have a good idea of what your digital product needs to do? Perhaps there’s a clear market need, and you’ve come up with a good-enough solution to capitalise on the opportunity?
If your goal is to be able to start selling as soon as possible to take advantage of current demand, then your MVP needs to be as functional as possible. Time saved on flashy UI and quant and qual research will get the revenue rolling in sooner. It will also mitigate the potential for demand to expire or the market to become oversaturated.
So, what will your first iteration look like? You could do a quick-fire design phase, or keep it simpler still by building on an existing platform to get you up and running even quicker. That’s exactly what we did with Qured, who were looking to expand in the US after successfully launching a range of home coronavirus testing kits in the UK.
Already confident in their value proposition, Qured’s business goal was to get their product to market ASAP. So, instead of building a bespoke site, we used the Shopify platform to get Qured live in the US in a matter of weeks.
It’s not just the design phase that might look different when you’re building to get a return ASAP. You can also look at the product offering itself. If honing it down to its simplest form fulfils the business requirement, then it might be a good-enough solution to get to market and start selling.
Qured applied this MVP strategy by reducing its offering to a single product – the fit to fly test. This got the revenue rolling in sooner and meant we could gauge success before investing more into product diversification. In this way, research became a revenue stream instead of a cost 👍
Scenario two. You’ve got an idea but you’re nervous about product-market fit. Because launching a digital product can be expensive. Even if you’ve already done a bunch of user and market research to validate the demand, it’s real users that will truly validate our product.
As Product Managers, we’re all over the risks associated with launching a new product. From the great gospel of Marty Cagan, it’s gotta be usable, technically feasible, viable for the business, and provide real value to customers. Without these four ingredients, your product is dead in the water. So, how do you go about mitigating these risks? You test. In this case, your MVP goal is not necessarily to do something ASAP, but to test the value and to learn something about what you’re putting out into the world.
For sports memorabilia marketplace Collectable, many of the assumptions surrounding product appetite and success had already been validated through research, prototyping and technical proof of concepts. But the real validation always comes when the product is in the hands of its users.
So, whilst the vision for Collectable was thousands of assets on a live marketplace, we first needed to prove that users would invest in shares of a famous sports collectable. To do this, we pared back the MVP to one product and a minimum feature set that facilitated our primary goal: selling out a Mickey Mantle baseball card.
By sacrificing the marketplace and multiple assets, we stripped out functionality such as sort and filter, allowing Collectable to get their product to market faster and confirm that people would actually buy the shares, not just say they’d buy them. In this way, launching sooner allowed Collectable to derisk their investment.
It might sound unusual for an agency to actually be reducing the time and cost of something - but we pride ourselves on working in the same way an internal team would, making the best product decisions for your business. This means asking, “How do we reduce risk? Cut time? Save money?”. Making the right choices here is what will give your product business the best chance of success.
You want to launch a new product business. You have your proposition sorted, and you’re confident in the usability of the product. But there are a few other players jostling for market share… You won’t want to go all-in until you’ve validated your USP.
In this case, focussing your product offering on a smaller section of the market can help with validation before expanding out both the feature set and the target market. You might have a more limited feature set than other players, but it will exactly meet the needs of your small target market.
Nursery Story is a fast-growing business based on an intuitive nursery management software. They originally came to us with a whole bunch of brilliant ideas for their education management tool. But competitor research told us there were already other products on the market - and Nursery Story would be going head-to-head.
“All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition”.
Partnering with a small group of nurseries, we established the minimum feature set from the user’s perspective that would meet the needs of a small target market. Features included student profiles, teacher profiles and the ability to share ‘observations’ about the child’s activities. Our target users told us that the apps currently on offer were clunky and not very user friendly. So our primary goal became to make observations quick and easy. Once we had that nailed, we started increasing our target market by building in more functionality.
Launching sooner allowed Nursery Story to confirm their competitive advantage before investing money in a big, complex build. The MVP also helped to create a foolproof roadmap, given additional functionality was prioritised according to real user feedback from our nursery friends. Feedback that ultimately created a loyal customer base from which Nursery Story could grow their market share.
Whether you want to get the revenue rolling in sooner, find an audience, or nail your competitive advantage, it’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all for MVPs. Research, testing, design, and tech must all flex to create the smallest version of a product we can release to gauge success. This is why our MVPs are always tailored to your business goal. And why your business goal becomes our business goal. Because there’s no value in creating an all-singing, all-dancing product only to find out no one wants to use it.