Startup owners are talking about building MVPs all the time, but to be honest, most of them don’t know what it really means. A good MVP is the first step to success, a right way to verify your ideas at low cost and to find out what your customers really expect.
So what does MVP mean?
MVP is a Minimum Viable Product, a product „which has just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development.” To make it more simple, an MVP is some kind of beta version of your product with only a few features (or in the best situation only one core feature), one that is valuable to your users – solves their problems and helps them either at work or in everyday life. What can go wrong?
1# You don’t give the value
You prepared an app with many features and multiple use cases. You're proud of how many of them you have, but they are usually neither finished nor solving the users’ core problems. The result is that your customers are not interested in using them. It’s nice that you can log in with Facebook or Google+ account. It’s nice that your app looks good. But these are only addons to your core feature. If it’s not working, you are unable to see whether your product fits into the market. Build your MVP to show the quality and don’t let unimportant things distract your attention. Ask yourself what is your basic value. How does your product solve customers’ problems? Why are your solutions unique?
2# You should be focused on testing, but you’re trying to make a profit
When you are building an MVP, your main goal is to test the product, not to sell it. Treat selling only as a verification of your ideas. When you find your first customers, it will be your temptation to find further ones, but don’t treat selling as your goal at this stage, it is going be your next step. You might miss your real target group because of trying to make the very first customer happy. But it’s not your goal - your goal is to find the whole group of people and try to make them satisfied enough to pay for your app. Even if it means saying “sorry dude, our target group doesn’t need those features” to your first customers.
You should stay focused on testing, not selling, but don’t forget that sale is the best test.
You will find dozens of people that will say “your app is great”, but they will leave when the trial expires and won’t come back. So don’t trust them. After the test, ask them for a payment. Even if only one will pay, it will be your success. Congrats! You just passed your test. Write down your result and start the next test.
3# You are starting too late
There is no such thing as “the right time to release an MVP”. If you make it sooner, you will have more time for testing. Remember that your first users are the more forgiving ones, they know that it’s only a beta test. It’s better to release the product faster and have more time for testing before your rivals prepare the same product. In the first days of GetProspects.io we were searching for e-mail addresses manually using our console application (black screen, no graphic interface). For us it was a verification that let us check if customers need our service. Stay open-minded and focused on the goal. Self-confidence is a good mindset in business, but not when you are building an MVP. Why? Because when you think that your product is great, your mind is closed for other opinions. Act like your product is the worst in the world and prepare for change requests. You should rely on facts, not on your beliefs.
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4# You don’t listen
Many owners of successful businesses begin with building a solution for their own problem. It’s always easier to develop a product that caters to your needs, but it can also be tricky, so open your mind to the voice of people. You can think that something is genius, but... it’s simply not for other people. Ask for as many opinions as you can – more people means more high quality feedback that you can later convert to features in your app. Our favorite tool to connect with users is Intercom, it gives us a place for managing them, controlling what they are doing with the product, sending engaging e-mails or just simply chatting with them.
5# You try to make your app cater to your first customer’s needs
One person's opinion is not feedback, and don’t you dare to rely on it, even if they promise “one more feature and I will buy it”. You can get trapped into a product that satisfies only one customer. Remember that you are preparing your app for a group of people, so if you are planning on further features, always consider if it satisfies the whole group. If not, forget it. You don’t want to add a feature for 10% of people, when the other 90% will be disappointed.
6# Take care of your testers, they will reward you
Don’t forget about taking care of your testers, because MVP is like an exchange - you are giving value and getting feedback. You can offer your testers discount coupons, early access to new features, dedicated support. Beta-testers, as people who agreed to spend their time and test out your app, without any certainty that they will get the real value, should be treated right. Show them that they are important to you by, for example, giving them extended trial time or a discount. They will do great PR for you when you launch your app.
7# You build an MVP when you shouldn’t
This is sad but sometimes you have to consider building something bigger than an MVP and you can’t profit from all MVP’s advantages. If there is much competition on the market or the industry is quite old, it’s hard to deliver new value with a small application. Look for marketing automation tools or CRM systems – they are all similar and they have a lot of features. You might have an idea to introduce a unique feature, but if someone has to test it, you need to develop a lot of features that are essential for a specific kind of system. That is not an MVP.
MVP is not a solution for all the problems fresh startup owners have. But it’s definitely worth considering at this point. If you make it right, there is a chance that your app will be lean and agile.