- What is an MVP, and Why Should We Invest in One?
- The Essential Guide for Non-Tech Founders
- Building Your MVP: A Step-by-Step Approach
In today's customer-oriented, on-demand economy, consumer needs change quickly, and products that fail to address them stand no chance of surviving on the market. What is the key to thriving in this dynamic environment? Let me introduce you to the concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
But what exactly is an MVP, and why is it a game-changer for entrepreneurs, especially those without a tech background? This innovative approach allows business owners to test the waters with their products, gather invaluable feedback, and iteratively improve their offerings to align seamlessly with customer expectations.
Consider the cautionary tale of MySpace, a once-dominant social platform that lost its edge by failing to adapt to its users' evolving needs. This example underscores the importance of agility and responsiveness in modern-day market conditions.
In this updated December 2023 article, I'll dive into:
- The essence of an MVP and its role in contemporary business.
- The compelling reasons to invest in an MVP.
- Practical strategies for creating an MVP that truly resonates with your audience.
Join me as we explore how to build an MVP tailored for non-tech founders, ensuring your venture enters the market and thrives in the ever-changing landscape of consumer demands.
What is an MVP, and Why Should We Invest in One?
A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a streamlined version of a new product designed to gather maximum customer insights with minimum effort. This concept, eloquently defined by Eric Ries in "The Lean Startup," focuses on solving a specific problem with basic yet functional features, targeting a precise audience, and addressing a key pain point. An MVP is quick to build and launch, immediately offering a functional and intuitive user experience.
Why MVP Matters: A Case Study
Consider Uber's journey. Starting in 2010 as a small service in San Francisco, UberCab quickly evolved by closely responding to customer feedback. This approach refined their service and significantly impacted their growth, leading to substantial funding even before they expanded globally. This showcases the power of starting with an MVP – it's about learning fast, adapting quickly, and scaling effectively.
Four Compelling Reasons to Build an MVP
- Speeds Up Product Development
An MVP lets you validate your idea before fully committing to product development. It's a smarter, less risky approach, especially if you're uncertain about customer needs.
- Quick Customer Feedback
Launching an MVP allows you to present a working product version to customers early, gaining invaluable feedback to create something that truly resonates with your target audience.
- Attracts Early Adopters
Early adopters are crucial in validating your product assumptions and shaping your marketing strategies. An MVP helps identify and engage this vital group.
- High ROI with Low Risk
An MVP maximizes value and minimizes risk by focusing on key features needed to solve a customer problem, saving time and resources.
Accessibility for Non-Technical Founders
The beauty of an MVP is its accessibility, even for non-tech-savvy founders. While a deep technical understanding isn't necessary, basic knowledge of tech terms, selecting an appropriate tech stack, and communicating effectively with your development team are crucial. This foundation empowers you to make informed decisions and collaborate more effectively, bridging the gap between your vision and the technical execution.
The Essential Guide for Non-Tech Founders
Basic Technical Knowledge
- Understanding the Basics
Learn the fundamental tech terms and concepts relevant to your industry. This doesn't mean becoming a tech expert but knowing enough to communicate effectively with your development team.
- Tech Stack Decisions
Understand a tech stack (the combination of programming languages, tools, and frameworks used to build your product). Learn the pros and cons of popular choices and how they align with your MVP.
- Product Lifecycle Awareness
Familiarize yourself with the stages of product development – from ideation and development to launch and scaling. This knowledge helps in planning and managing your project effectively.
Budgeting and Financial Planning
- Initial Funding and Budget Allocation
Determine how much capital you need to start and where it will come from (savings, loans, investors). Allocate this budget wisely across product development, marketing, and operations.
- Cost-Effective Development Strategies
Consider cost-saving approaches like lean development methodologies, outsourcing, or low-cost tools and resources.
- Monitoring and Adjusting the Budget
Keep a close eye on expenses. Be ready to adjust your budget as you learn more about what your business needs to grow.
Other Non-Technical Aspects
- Market Research and Customer Insights
Conduct thorough market research to understand your target audience, their needs, and how your product can meet them.
- Building a Strong Team
Even if you're not technical, you can build a strong team. Look for individuals who complement your skills and bring technical expertise.
- Effective Communication
Develop strong communication skills to bridge the gap between non-technical and technical team members, ensuring everyone is aligned with the project goals.
- Networking and Partnerships
Engage with industry networks, attend relevant workshops and seminars, and seek mentorship. Partnerships can also provide valuable resources and market access.
- Legal and Compliance Knowledge
Be aware of legal requirements and compliance issues related to your industry. This includes data protection laws, intellectual property rights, and contractual obligations.
Building Your MVP: A Step-by-Step Approach
Define the ‘Why’
One thing you should do before setting out to design your product is identify its ‘why.' Only then you’ll be able to motivate others to buy your idea.
Answer these questions or risk developing a failed MVP:
- What problem does it solve?
- Who is the target?
- Why should they care?
- What makes my solution the best one to solve this problem?
Sketch User Stories
Once you define the 'why' of your MVP, it's time to develop its potential features. But an MVP is a simplified version of your product, so you must prioritize which features are essential.
You can do that by sketching user stories.
Write down a list of tasks you want users to complete with your product. Now, it's time to prioritize these tasks. Assign ‘must-have’, ‘should have’, and ‘can have’ labels to them - that’s how we indicate the importance of features.
See the features that made it to the top of your list? They represent the smallest features required to deliver an MVP with a unique and well-designed user experience that helps users solve their problems efficiently.
Don't throw your list away – it will serve as a backlog of features you may add as you develop your product.
The Ultimate Feature Test
If you're still not sure whether a feature should make it to your MVP, ask this question:
Can I launch my product without this feature?
Answer it from the user's perspective. If you launch without that feature, will the user still be able to solve their problem?
If your answer is yes, move it down the backlog. If it's a no, evaluate the resources required to add that feature and decide whether it's within your timeline and budget. Reduce your product to the bare minimum to lower its risk.
Follow the Cake Model
The cake model developed by Brandon Schauer offers two different models for developing a product over time.
One way to plan a new product is to start with a dry cake. As the project develops, you add filling and icing. But adopt the customer's viewpoint for a second, and you will see that this model is problematic. The truth is that a cake without filling or icing isn't that attractive.
Practically anyone could make a cake like that. The other is the cupcake model, which you should follow when developing an MVP. Start with something small but desirable. Your cupcake will have all the necessary ingredients and an appealing look.
You may provide limited functionalities, but they will come in an attractive package.
Build a Community
Once your MVP has been tested and refined, what's next? This section will guide you through strategies for scaling your product, securing further funding, and planning for future development phases. We'll also discuss how to maintain the momentum gained from your MVP launch and use it to drive long-term success.
Spending money on marketing doesn't make sense when you can start building a community of loyal users without spending much.
Here are three strategies to promote your idea and start gathering people around your value:
- Create a Landing Page
A landing page helps to validate your business idea. That's something Buffer did, and it worked. Describe the benefits of your product, add one powerful Call-to-Action, and bring in web traffic. Contact your customers and adjust your product to match their needs.
- Start a Blog
Groupon started by writing a WordPress blog. They promoted their blog posts within local communities and grew their conversion rate to service 48 million customers today. A blog exposes your idea and offers a platform for users to leave feedback.
- Make a Video
Pebble used video to fund their smartwatch idea on Kickstarter and finished the campaign with over $10 million pledged. Video is a powerful format you should consider for showcasing the benefits of your product.
The MVP model, exemplified by success stories like Uber, shows the power of starting with a core idea, gaining user feedback, and iteratively improving. It's a method that efficiently tests market waters, reduces risk, and maximizes the potential for success.
For those without a tech background, creating an MVP is about blending basic tech understanding with smart budgeting and market insight. It's a journey of balancing product development, team building, and strategic growth.
At Sunscrapers, we have witnessed the transformative impact of MVPs for over 30 founders. We've seen how this approach can turn a great idea into a thriving business. Consider the MVP route if you're at the crossroads with a brilliant idea. It could be the first pivotal step in your entrepreneurial journey.
Got an idea that you're passionate about? We're here to help bring it to life. Contact us, and let's start shaping the future together!