What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?
A Minimum Viable Product is a simple but workable version of your startup’s product idea. It’s the first real market test of your big idea and allows the concept to shine without investing lots of time, resources, and money. An MVP isn’t an entirely fleshed-out product, but it is launchable, meaning it needs to have the core functionality and features to exist in the market while driving value to customers and/or users.
Customers must view the product as viable, meaning they can use the application or software to reach their goal without excessive friction. MVPs are released to the market to attract your first customers and users while your team collects data and iterates accordingly.
The importance of MVPs
MVPs benefit your startup’s growth trajectory and later success because they allow your team to explore the concept for your business early on. A minimum viable product reveals any incorrect assumptions about its desirability and market potential. By building a simple, workable version of your application, you can verify true market needs and plan your future product roadmap accordingly.
Regardless of how good you think your idea is, many startups fail because they go too far into spending on “growth” before they conduct appropriate market research. Only to learn later that customers don’t find the product desirable as it’s been built. Feature creep is a common issue that founders and young startups deal with that rush into ideas without proper validation and testing. Think of this as “shiny object syndrome.” At this point, startups are overextended on an app that needs to be reworked or scrapped altogether because users aren’t engaged.
With a minimum viable product, you can observe your user’s interest level and impressions early on. MVPs are about testing what works and what doesn’t and understanding what users value and what they don’t. As your startup vies for a spot in the competitive marketplace, a minimum viable product is strategically critical to your success. Compared to other product development strategies, an MVP provides the most valuable insights in the least amount of time, when it matters most.
4 Steps to Define Your MVP
1. Research Your Target Market
Always start with market research. There’s never a point when running a startup that you should be making decisions without market research. You can go back on some decisions, but in most cases, poor decisions use up resources and money that will put your startup at a disadvantage in its early years.
Market research provides essential insights into the state of the market, who your potential competitors are, what they do right and what they do poorly. You’ll learn about your customers and how to best meet their needs. Armed with this information, your team can outline the core features of your MVP that offer the most return and provide the most benefit to users.
2. Identify Your Value Proposition
All successful startups begin with an idea with a clear value proposition. A value prop is a short statement that informs potential customers why they should choose your product and the value it will deliver. Sometimes the idea is novel, and the value proposition is not clear to investors. An MVP can and should help showcase your product’s unique value proposition without a large financial investment in design and development.
When creating an MVP, you should leverage your market research to find a clear value proposition that will entice customers and convince them why they need to try your product. Here are some brainstorming questions to help your team zero in on your value proposition:
- Who are your target customers?
- What need is your product going to fulfill?
- How does your product or service enhance the lives of your target customers?
- What edge does your product have over competitors?
- What is your unfair advantage?
- At what price point does your product provide acceptable value to customers?
3. Decide Basic App Structure and Flow
When defining your MVP, your team will need to outline your app’s basic structure and user flow. What do you want your app to look like? Is there a landing page? How is the navigation going to work? It doesn’t have to be perfect yet, you’ll have a chance to refine and make changes later.
Plan your app with prototyping tools and wireframes to visualize the user flow for specific tasks. With your app structure outline, you can start building out your MVP with essential features.
4. Choose Core MVP Features
A minimum viable product is not going to have a plethora of features. Its function is not as an end-product. It is a launching point to take your startup to the next level. When your MVP is released, you can demonstrate the value of your app to real customers and encourage investors to get on board. As more funding comes in, your team can iterate or pivot to refining and developing additional features.
Airbnb launched its MVP with a single-core functionality for a very specific demographic. The founders, Chesky and Gebbia, offered up an air mattress in their apartment for attendees.
Focus on features that are directly tied to your value proposition. Prioritize high-impact features and leave low-impact features for later. The MVP needs all of the core features that progress a user through your product’s offerings from start to finish. Let’s consider a hypothetical startup called WheelShare. This company is drafting an MVP for its car share service. They’d want to include basic features like:
- A way for users to register their vehicles for reservations
- The ability for users to find and reserve nearby vehicles
- Geolocation services to help users locate vehicles they’ve reserved
- A way for users to access the vehicle to start their reservation
- The ability for users to end their trip and return the vehicle to a pre-chosen location
- A way for users to submit post-trip information, user reviews, etc
WheelShare can add more advanced features to improve the user experience, like fleet management, messaging, and a rating system after the MVP is launched.
Time to Build
When you’ve finished defining your MVP, it’s time to build it. If your startup is not ready to engage in full-scale software or app development, outsourcing with a software development agency can be a great strategy. Modern Launch can take your market research, value proposition, app wireframes, and core features and create a ready-to-launch minimum-viable product. We have teams of talented project/product managers, developers, and designers that can bring your MVP to life. We have experience building professional applications and custom software solutions, from proprietary solutions for internal use to B2B and B2C solutions for large-scale distribution. Please reach out if you’d like to learn more about our services.
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