Do you find yourself losing to much time thinking about how to make first market steps with your product? You know what MVP is but you are not sure which MVP type is the best for your business?
It depends on your particular product or service which one is the best for you. Just have it in your mind that MVPs are all about validated learning.
Now, when we are all familiar with the term MVP and why should we use MVP in validating our ideas, let’s talk about what are the MVP types and how to use them.
In the sea of MVP types it’s sometimes hard to swim, so let’s group them a bit.
#1 Fake it before you make it
Wizard Of Oz MVP
A Wizard of Oz MVP type, or sometimes called Manual-first MVP or Flintstoning MVP is a great way to test a startup that provides services of any kind.
The basic principle behind the Wizard Of Oz MVP is creating the picture of a fully functional product, but actually, using manpower to deliver the finished solution. While your product seems full-featured from the outside, you’re behind the scenes pulling all the strings. This MVP type lets you work directly with your clients and analyze their behaviors and preferences. And they are not even aware of it.
This approach is usually low-cost and it helps you create amazing effective prototypes fast. It can help you test the market response to your product without actually building anything.
Groupon – a platform that connects billions of people and processes thousands of transactions every day, began exactly like this. Andrew Mason founded Groupon by setting up a WordPress site where he posted a deal for a local pizza shop, each day. He generated PDFs manually as he received orders and emailed them via his personal email. All the work was being done manually with the help of third-party resources.
Neither had any technology or algorithm behind their products.
They all just faked it.
To the user, the products delivered exactly what they promised. A little slow perhaps, but the value was there.
The Concierge approach is similar to Wizard Of Oz MVP, in terms of faking the process. The difference is that with Concierge there is no technology involved. The concierge is an MVP type where you manually guide your user through the solution to a problem.
In order to understand how wrong your product can potentially be, you need to walk with your customer through the problem/solution stages. There is no better way of doing this than using the concierge technique.
The company that is best known for using this MVP type is Food on the Table.
Food on the Table is a grocery shopping service that figures out what you like to eat, then compiles the shopping list at specific stores that will save you the most money. Their concierge MVP involved the founder personally scrounging coupons and compiling shopping lists for their early customers.
The point of the concierge MVP type, as the point with most MVP’s, is to maximize learning and minimize the risk of developing a crappy product.
The idea of a piecemeal MVP type is to use existing tools and solutions to deliver your product or service. It is another smart way to introduce a product to customers by investing a minimum amount of money (or even nothing) in a product.
A piecemeal MVP literally consists of components from multiple sources which you are putting together to create the foundation for your product.
The ideal example of Piecemeal MVP type is BJ Fogg’s Website which I am going to explain in details in my next blog post, along with other MVP types from this group. So, stay tuned!
Definitely, the most famous example of this MVP type is the 3-minute video that Drew Houston created for Dropbox. What he did, made this video the representative of this MVP type group and you will find it in every article you read about Explainer Video MVP.
Oh yes, it also drove hundreds of thousands of people to their website and made their beta waiting list 70,000 people bigger overnight.
It was targeted at a community of technology early adopters and Drew narrates the video personally. The idea was to validate did customers “want” the product because they said so in a focus group, or because they actually signed up.
This simple video illustrated their idea. It was explaining how the technology is meant to work and what benefits it could bring to users.
The main advantage of this MVP type is that full functionality may be clearly demonstrated in just a couple of minutes. It is much cheaper than launching the development. So why not do it?
So, how can a Landing Page be an MVP type? Let’s make this clear trough Buffer app example.
Buffer is the app that allows you to schedule your posts on social media and shares your content at the best possible times throughout the day.
Before building it, Buffer’s founder, Joel Gascoigne, wanted to see if anyone would even want to use it.
So he created a simple landing page that was describing what Buffer “did.” If people were interested, they could click the Plans and Pricing button.
Once they show the interest and click the action button they would get to a next page that said “Hello! You caught us before we’re ready” leave your email address and we’ll let you know when we’re ready.
The thing is that Joel hadn’t actually started developing Buffer yet. He tweeted out the page, people came, some left their email addresses – that was a good signal.
The next question that occurred was: would they pay for such an app? He updated his landing page to add a Plans & Pricing page with 3 plans: Free, $5/mo, $20/mo and the answer was “yes” — enough people were clicking on paid options.
Now it was time to build a simple, minimum feature set that he could get out there in under a week to start having people actually use it. Shortly after, Buffer had 500 users and was generating revenue from the paying ones.
The point is next: He could invest some serious time and money to build the actual product, instead of that he decided to test key assumptions about his customers.
Creating engaging Blog content is one of the most powerful online marketing techniques available today. It fuels many inbound marketing techniques: SEO, Paid search marketing, Social media marketing, Email marketing, etc.
But how can you use content marketing as MVP kind-a-thing for your business?
Well, I’m sure you didn’t know this but a large number of early stage businesses have a content marketing strategy. Why? Because that’s the MVP they can Plan, Manage and Optimize well without any budget.
Blog as a type has the benefit that it doesn’t seek to improve one channel in isolation as an SEO, Social media or Pre-sales. Instead, it gives a multi-channel lifecycle engagement strategy, unifying all your digital marketing communications to support customer acquisition, retention, and growth goals. The most important things when you’re not big enough to afford yourself sneak-peak at vanity metrics.
Did you ever hear about Tim Ferriss, the writer? He wanted to title his first book Broadband and White Sand. What do you think?
As you can imagine, his publisher pushed back, and then Tim pushed back. To end the stalemate, the publisher suggested they run a few Facebook ads to test titles.
I think you know how this story ends.
The winner — The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich — was not Tim’s favorite. But he can hardly argue with the results.
Investment of a few hundred dollars saved his book from the remainder pile. In fact, The 4-Hour Workweek would reach No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, and on the BusinessWeek bestseller list.
If you though that Landing Pages are awesome to validate if people are interested in your product before building it, you will be thrilled to hear this:
This MVP type can get people pay for your product before you build it.
The company’s stated mission is to “help bring creative projects to life”. Kickstarter has reportedly received more than $1.9 billion in pledges from 9.4 million backers to fund 257,000 creative projects.
A great example is Pebble, an e-paper watch for smartphones, which raised the largest Kickstarter yet: over $10M!
On the other side, Bounce used an open source Kickstarter platform called Selfstarter, which allowed them to A/B test different price points.
Knowing how much money (exactly) will potential customers pay, tells you how much money you will make. It also tells you whether you are building a business or a just a hobby. Before you build it.
Not only will you validate if customers want to buy your product, but you will also raise money and get a tribe of early adopters and fans.
Since crowdfunding, like any other MVP type, will not work for just any type of product, I recommend you to take a look at Kickstarter’s 10 Biggest Success Stories and figure out whether this MVP type (approach) is right for you.
As Godfather of Product management, Steve Blank, says it is crucial to get out of the building. Go and talk to your potential customers. Often!
If you do not feel like a landing page is the best way to try to sell them the product before it is made, go and talk to them directly. Try to sign them up in a less scalable way, but also in a way that allows you the benefit of seeing their reactions first hand.
Direct contact will also help you build user personas later on.
#4 Single Feature MVP
If you start to read the “about us” sections of successful applications, you will find that many relate that their first mistake was to make too many features.
In their Signal To Noise blog 37 Signals points out the value of simplicity:
The key is to restate any hard problem that requires a lot of software into a simple problem that requires much less. You may not be solving exactly the same problem but that’s alright. Solving 80% of the original problem for 20% of the effort is a major win. The original problem is almost never so bad that it’s worth five times the effort to solve it.
You can’t be everything to everybody.
Some of the most successful applications started out with a simple feature: Google and Dropbox. In fact, these two remain relatively the same as when they launched.
The point that this MVP type wants to say to you, dear reader, is that if you cannot find that one killer feature that can stand on its own adding more features will not make the product a must-have.
Far back in 2004. , Facebook had no newsfeed nor timeline. Integrated apps were sci-fi. You could have a simple profile and a great opportunity to get connected with your group-mates. That one feature was enough to get a remarkable boost and turn a small project into one of the largest public tech companies in history.
It is often that you cannot test all your assumptions with a single MVP. Do not build a complex system to test them all. Build two separate MVPs.
What Is Your MVP Type?
The biggest risk any startup faces is making something no one wants. In order to learn effectively about your customers, you have to launch your product fast. Always try to put your MVP in users hands and get real feedback as soon as possible.
Don’t get yourself in a building trap, instead:
- Define what is the risky assumption you want to validate
- Test a product hypothesis with minimum resources by choosing the right MVP type
- Get the product to early customers as quickly as possible
- Reduce engineering waste and accelerate learning
And always keep in mind that with the right MVP type, you give yourself room to fail without breaking the bank. The goal is maximizing learning with minimal effort. What are you waiting for?