Creating Minimum Viable Products
Learning What Customers Really Want
When companies come up with new products or services, they can spend many months developing their "perfect offerings," which they load with features they think customers will love.
However, when they finally release these products, many of them find that customers aren't interested. Clearly, this is a disaster!
Instead, they could have developed "minimum viable products," or MVPs. With this approach, you release a bare-bones product, so that you can quickly learn what people want and what they don't. You can then make fast adjustments based on early feedback, so that, in the end, you create a product or service that's valuable, useful and desirable – or scrap it early on with minimal investment.
In this article, we'll look at this approach in detail, and we'll explore how you can create a minimum viable product for your customers.
What Is a Minimum Viable Product?
Eric Ries, author of the influential 2011 book "The Lean Startup," was one of the first people to popularize the concept of the MVP. According to Ries, "A 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."
Put simply, it's a very basic version of your product or service that you market to test your assumptions about your business model. It has the core features required for the product to work, and nothing more.
An MVP is more than just a prototype, however. Using one is part of a strategy that involves idea generation, measuring, learning, and analysis.
The purpose of an MVP is to test the market and to give you more accurate information about your customers' needs. By offering a simplified version of your product or service, you can gain important insights into what people want, and you can avoid creating something that they don't want.
Advantages and Disadvantages
One objection to the idea is that MVPs could be a waste of time. After all, why spend time and resources creating a prototype that might be incomplete, or that might be too simplified to appeal to your target market, when you could use focus groups, market research or customer surveys to find out what customers really want?
MVPs don't have to be (and often shouldn't be) expensive and complex; most of the time, they're very focused. They enable "early adopters" to identify and define the features that they do and don't want, and provide valuable feedback on what works and what doesn't. This can be difficult to measure in a focus group or survey, particularly because people may not know what they want until they see it.
MVPs also give you the opportunity to see firsthand how your customers use your product or service, which focus groups and surveys don't – after all, the predictions that people make in those might not be accurate. This feedback can be invaluable to the learning process.
They then allow you to develop your product through repeated iterative cycles until you have one that robustly meets the needs of your target market; or, they help you conclude that your idea won't work, so that you can "fail fast," then "pivot" and try a different idea.
When you create an MVP, you can...