Minimum Viable Product and Alternatives you May Consider

Building an MVP is a widely known practice that helped many entrepreneurs to save a lot of money and time on early stages of startup development. But what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the others. And definitely without a clear understanding of MVP purpose you can lose more than win.

What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

Let’s start with MVP definition. Minimum Viable Product is a product with just enough features to satisfy early customers and to provide feedback for future development. Its main purpose is to gather insights, test your concept and connect with audience spending less time and money.

A cost reduction is achieved by limiting the functionality of the product and constraining the number of features to few that satisfy the basic need of the audience.

Cases When MVP is Needed

Remember Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle framework? “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”

Why, How, and What — three questions your MVP should be built around. If your product is the answer to those questions than minimum viable product should test your answers.

If you have an idea but you don’t know whether customers will appreciate it — ask them and do a marketing research! That way you’ll get the answers to the “Why question”.

Next, start development of an MVP in order to get an answer to the “How question”. You need to test whether it is possible and profitable to build and maintain such product. It may occur too pricey or too complex.

Congratulations! After your MVP is ready you can pitch it to VC funds, private investors, and users.

By the way. Software minimum viable product has some additional advantages. It is much leaner and flexible, so it takes less time and resources in order to adjust product according to data gathered during research. Meaning you will spend less money in order to tweak and reshape your software MVP or mobile app prototype.

Maybe This Is Not the MVP You Are Looking for?

With the boom of startups, the MVP gained a sacred must-have image. Nevertheless, one should understand that MVP is not a magic pill that solves all troubles. Here’s what David Schwartz, Senior Director of Product Management of Wix (One of the biggest website development platforms to date) said about MVP:

“People are mistaken about what MVP is. MVP is not a product you’re taking out there. The product you’re taking out there is called the First Phase. MVP is an experiment!”

And we had several cases when clients insisted on development of MVP while all they were needed is an experiment or a deep market research. Moreover, there are also many reasons why you may dump MVP and make a full-bodied product.

  • MVP is not a profitable product you can sell.
  • You can’t test all your assumptions with MVP.
  • MVP in not free. It does need time and money to develop as well as the product.

And the last but not least: MVP won’t help you to cross the Chasm!

Most viable products can live by itself for some time. They are acceptable and functional so innovators and even early adopters can are happy with it.

But there is time to get to the mass-market in order to earn real revenues. To get there you’ll need to cross that Chasm. This is where most projects from Kickstarter end up. They get funded by innovators, praised by early adopters and then die without winning the hearts and minds of the majority.

Here’s a list of products that seemed to conquer the market but failed to gain customers trust:

  • BETAMAX lost to VHS.
  • Microsoft Zune lost to iPod.
  • Myspace lost to Facebook.
  • HP’s Touchpad lost to iPad.
  • Pebble was eventually purchased by Fitbit.

That’s what Chasm does to great, innovative products.

One of the reasons Chasm happens is because entrepreneurs can’t step back and reshape their MVPs into a Mass-Market product. Indeed, making so may be really challenging, even after you struggled so much to make MVP.

First of all, you should preserve the core innovation that was so popular among early adopter. Second, and it may be controversial, you should mask that innovation into more trivial shape. At this point, you may be criticized by innovators and those customers you’ve already acquired, but this is how you find a way to the heart of a grand audience.

Definitely, from such point of view, developing a full-fledged minimum viable product can be a huge waste of time and money. And the profitability of investing into MVP is reduced proportionally to the size of the innovator’s community you are targeting with the product.

Don’t go with MVP if innovators and early adopters of your targeted audience won’t drive to your product enough attention and investments that are needed to develop a complete product.

Alternatives to MVP

Riskiest Assumption Test

This approach address several uncertainties related to MVP. For instance, how “minimal” your minimal viable product should be? What hypothesis should it test? Should it explore only one assumption or all of them?

The risk assumption test has a single answer to all these questions: Test the biggest uncertainty you have. Meaning you don’t want to build more than needed to test the largest unknown.

Of course, along with our work, we had customers that wanted to test several theories or couldn’t decide which one to choose. We’ve asked them about the main assumptions behind them. Find a core unknown that can ruin your project and test it!

Minimum Loveable Product

MLP suggests entrepreneurs develop a product that aims at customer satisfaction of a small targeted audience. That way you will save money on added features that aim to the wider user group.

In addition, advocates of MLP site that minimal viable products usually built to prove entrepreneur’s business concept (processes, logistics, product structure), rather than audience interest. Such MVPs are fast, cheap and crappy, thus they fail to get users’ interest and die. Meanwhile, the idea behind MVP could be great, it just lost behind the crappiness of the prototype.

We suggest you get familiar with Kano Model in order to avoid such mistake.

Kano Model examines each product from customer satisfaction perspective. It classified customer preferences into five categories and suggests to keep in sight only those product features that leads maximize customer satisfaction.

  1. Must-be Quality. A functionality that is not new and taken for granted.
  2. One-dimensional Quality. The presence of these features results in the rise of customer satisfaction, the absence of those features decreases it.
  3. Attractive Quality. The most innovative features, that create WOW effect, but risk being misunderstood by users.
  4. Indifferent Quality. Features that not affect customer satisfaction. E.g. Programming Language or Framework used to develop an app.
  5. Reverse Quality. Over exaggerating these qualities result in loss of some customers. E.g. Oversimplification of the product may divert tech geeks. The complication may divert users with low tech savviness.

Focus on first two qualities if you’re building MVP for a unique product. Spend more efforts on second and third qualities if you’re entering a high competitive market.

As you can see there are many possibilities you may not need MVP at all. You can make a deeper research and get to the development of a full-sized mobile app. Or you may want to save money on MVP and develop a light version of the product with the extension capabilities for later upgrades.

Taking into account all aforementioned we’d suggest you not to rush things forward with MVP development and sort things out first. The choice is upon you, and we’ll be glad to consult you and give prompt advice.

Contact Us and we’ll come up with the Optimal Solution Just for You!

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