How A Good MVP Can Validate Your Market
Before rolling up your sleeves on a new venture (be it a startup or an opportunity within an established organisation) the perils of blindly getting carried away with ones ambitions to plug the gaping hole of consumer needs sound all too familiar.
Getting your hands dirty with wireframes, development, fleshing out features that your end users won’t be able to live without and designs that shall set you far apart from the competition, may sound productive, but ultimately undermines a key process.
One that will ensure your excitement is shared by your audience, one that will guarantee there is an audience there for you when you walk out on the red carpet, in fact, one that will help you and your team sleep a lot easier from then on.
Cue the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) designed to help you answer the question “Will anyone actually use this?” long before you have made any significant investments.
“Getting validation from your MVP helps you sleep better at night!”
Below are a three stellar examples of how a good MVP can validate your market and even help steer your product along the way.
Buffer helps you manage multiple social media accounts at once. Quickly schedule content from anywhere on the web, collaborate with team members, and analyse rich statistics on how your posts perform. But before getting out the shovel and hard hats, Joel Gascoigne, Buffer’s founder, asked the question “Will anyone actually use this?”
Rightly, he created an MVP, a static landing page outlining the benefits of using Buffer along with a link to Plans & Pricing.
Should his audience be engaged, they would follow the link to a page that said “Hello! You caught us before we’re ready” leave your email address & we’ll let you know when we are. Joel began tweeting out the page, attracting potential users leaving their email addresses.
Armed with this positive information Joel set out to now learn what people will pay for a service like this. So he updated his landing page to show 3 different pricing plans: Free, $5/mo, $20/mo.
He continued to attract eye balls to his page by pushing out links on his social media. Even more people came, and now some percentage of users began to click on various pricing plans! Genius.
Armed with yet more data, Joel could now comfortably make investments into the product, not the full feature product mind you, but a simplified version with the key features needed to make it function – getting it out in a week.
Shortly after, Buffer had 500 users of which some were paying, already generating revenue.
In his book The Lean Startup, Eric Reis talks about how Dropbox tackled the question of market viability by demonstrating their product in a video.
To answer the question “Will anyone actually use this?” Huston and his team had to get into the ideas truck and go for a ride (sorry). Instead of creating a functioning version of their file-sync solution and heating up servers, they came up with something a lot simpler – they made an explainer video and shared it amongst their networks.
The short video demonstrated the key features of Dropbox’ intended functionality and increased signups from 5,000 to 75,000 people over night. The increased signups were justification that they were solving a legitimate problem for their users.
Even one of the fastest companies of all time started by creating an MVP (and a cheap one at that). In an interview with Mixergy Andrew Mason, Founder and CEO of Groupon explains how they used something as simple as WordPress to get their business off the ground:
“All we did was we took a WordPress Blog and we skinned it to say Groupon and then every day we would do a new post with the offers embedded. It was totally ghetto… It was enough to prove the concept and show that it was something that people really liked.”
Andrew created PDF’s of the coupons using FileMaker, emailed them individually to the people who had shown an interest, validating the model and in turn growing their business.
Getting validation from your MVP does indeed help you sleep better at night. At least these founders knew that what they were building had an audience. Moreover in the process, they learned what marketing channels work and what wording resonates best with their audience.