MVPs: A confusing name for a needed tool. Concepts

Is one, probably the critical step in Lean Startup methodology. It’s needed to check the validations and the interaction with customers and users. And together with the price, it’s essential to understand the ‘Product-Market Fit.’

The trick is the word ‘product’ inside. Many entrepreneurs understand it like “the product = my baby” and all the flexibility and the chances to pivot are lost. Note that when we talk about the product, it usually means product/service, until the examples, we are not going to differentiate them.

Don’t forget that any experiment or MVP should keep the core values of your proposal. It doesn’t mean all the functionalities, but the values. If you sell luxury, exclusive design, or ‘easy to use’ values, they should be in any experiment you do. If not, you’re validating a different concept.

An MVP is really an experiment, something that allows us to learn something. But I think it’s better to explain this in three categories.

  • Experiments: Anything, apart from interviews, that let us learn something about our project.
  • Minimum selling point, MSP: the place where you’ll sell your product. You can start the sales after doing experiments and before having the real product.
  • First Version of the Product: A first product that is giving value, and functionality to our customer. A solution for a problem–maybe a simple one.

Let’s go deeper into each one of the categories:

Experiments:

It’s the first approach to interact with users or customers after the interviews.

It will measure the real reaction of customers, get their feedback, and we can check to see if they will pay for something and how much. More importantly, it puts us in front of the challenge of attracting the first customers.

Typically they are landing pages, fake products, non-functional versions of hardware/software, or mockups…

But we are always selling the promise of the product, not the product itself.

Minimum selling point:

It’s the first time you’re asking for money in a “systematic way”, so after interviews. Your show the complete value proposition and all your features, and you can get real money. And it puts us in front of the challenge of attracting customers in a recurrent way, so we will start understanding our marketing operations and costs.

It could be a crowdfunding campaign, a pre-sales site or a e-commerce, or just a PPT and a contract to close a B2B deal… but the real product is no ready…sometimes the customer knows it, other times no.

Many times it’s happening in “real life” with consolidated businesses. When we but consultancy or a course (off/on-line) we have reduced information, just an explanation, but the product itself.

We are selling sometimes the product, sometimes a promise and many times we sell the product when it’s not still ready, but the customers don’t know it.

First Version of the Product:

it is the first simple, ugly, and shameful version of the product. It solves a problem and could be the company, and its income for several months.

We sell a functional product, not a promise, that it’s adding value to the customers.

But it could be consulting, or what it’s better, an e-commerce or Mechanical Turk approach. So doing manual processes that will be in the future (or not) automatically, this is something not relevant for the user.

Because you’re solving a problem. It’s worthy to be paid for it and to be paid again and again. There it’s possible to understand the behavior of the user. Do they pay monthly or do they use it every day?

We can understand the first metrics of our product. Future versions of the product will improve functionalities, the satisfaction of the customer and metrics.

Maybe we can realize that so much more is not needed and we can stay with this version for a long time. Usually, these MVPs last longer than expected. The key is to do something very simple. If you complicate it, the product is not an MVP. It’s the main risk, overcomplicate the first version. Just check that you’re adding value, any kind, is enough.

How to organize it?

Should I go step by step?: not necessarily, sometimes we start with experiments, then probing the sales, and finally delivering the product. Other times we won’t need to create experiments and we can go directly with a first product to the market.  That depends on the type of product we have and on how much we learned and validated during the interviews. We will understand better with some examples in a next post.

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