Welcome back! Our last blog post discussed the minimum viable product mindset and how it can set you up for success at the beginning of your digital product development journey. If you haven’t checked it out, we recommend reading this post first.
As a quick refresh: The main goal of a minimum viable product (MVP) is to test your assumptions, learn about your users, and better understand the problem you’re trying to solve with the lowest cost and effort possible. This blog post will explore different types of MVPs and the various approaches to this critical validation and feedback phase.
Different Types of an MVP
One of the biggest misconceptions is that you have to have the biggest and best MVP to be successful, but a great MVP doesn’t even need to be a functional application. They are often developed solely to attract early adopters to get more feedback to verify or upend your assumptions about what your target customers need, want, or will/won’t pay for. After you’ve wrapped your head around the MVP mindset, it’s time to create your MVP, which can exist in a variety of forms:
- Google or Facebook ads
- A landing page
- An email campaign
- Service-based business offering (Concierge MVP)
- Manual behind the scenes work disguised as technology (Wizard of Oz MVP)
- Usage of existing tools and technologies
- A clickable prototype
- A simple app
Keep in mind that often there isn’t just one MVP. Your MVP can evolve and progress in sophistication as you better hone in on and clarify your vision.
Testing the Waters with Your MVP
In a perfect world, the ideal MVP offers the simplest way to learn about your target customer and test your big idea. Generally, the earlier you are in your journey, the more scrappy your approach will be. Your initial MVP can be as basic as a landing page, digital advertisement, or email campaign where you gather data on your target demographic, test your assumptions, and begin the validation process. If people sign up for early access, join a mailing list, or pay a sign-up fee, it indicates that you may have sufficient interest to establish a viable business.
Concierge MVP vs. Wizard of Oz MVP
You may consider what we call a “Concierge” MVP or “Wizard of Oz” MVP that helps you more quickly offer a solution to the problem you are ultimately trying to solve with your full-fledged product.
In a Concierge MVP approach, you essentially attempt to solve the problem with hands-on services. For example, if your envisioned product is a mobile app that matches parents with qualified babysitters in their area, you could start by simply offering this as a service. In this example, you may be personally vetting qualified babysitters, connecting with parents to understand their preferences and needs, and making recommendations and introductions accordingly. While the ultimate goal is to create a curated and automated way to deliver this service in a mobile app experience, you can start with a hands-on approach. This step will allow you to learn a tremendous amount about your customer, the problem you’re trying to solve, and how to build a technical solution that results in a viable business.
Assuming you find adequate validation through this process, you’ll have a much clearer sense of what you need to build with your product. With a Concierge MVP, early adopters may even know that this is a manual test run of something that you might offer in an automatic function later.
In the Wizard of Oz MVP approach, users will sign up for your “product” under the perception that everything behind the scenes is happening automatically with technology when it’s actually being conducted manually in a smoke and mirrors type of test run.
Back to the babysitter matching app example, your customers may be using an actual mobile application thinking that all the matching and curation is facilitated by sophisticated back-end technology when, in reality, that functionality doesn’t exist. You are simply doing the work manually and pushing results back to the user through the application.
Assuming customers are getting value and things are going well, you’ll continue to use your MVP to learn and iterate. As you gather more information, you may move into automating parts of the process that are more work-intensive and identify the tools that will allow you to be more efficient, therefore creating the next iteration of your MVP. This hustling, executing, and driving process is what sets you up for long-term success. The more time you invest in stitching together a solution that’s even more efficient and effective, the more valuable your evolving product will be.
A Clickable Prototype
In some cases, a clickable prototype can serve as an ideal MVP, mainly when used to aid in further customer discovery or when seeking feedback or buy-in from other stakeholders. Keep in mind that a clickable prototype is simply a dynamic design that gives the impression of a limited functional product and user experience. In short, it is a great way to put something in front of people that gives them a real sense of the future product.
While designing your clickable prototype, you’ll work with a UX/UI designer to create the different workflows and represent the functionality that you’re aiming to build. The resulting user interface will feel like a tangible step forward in the realization of your vision.
A Simple Application
In other cases, you may need an MVP that’s more sophisticated and has some actual functionality. If you’re already very familiar with the problem you’re solving and have deep-rooted expertise in your industry, you may have already accomplished some of the validation steps mentioned above. At this level of confidence, it might make sense to develop a simple mobile or web application with a limited feature set that’s still considered minimal compared to your final product.
A simple application will help you continue to learn and validate your idea while making real technical progress towards the more sophisticated product you’re ultimately going to be building.
Should I Raise Money for My MVP?
Ideally, no. Our general philosophy is the more you can bootstrap, the better. In theory, raising capital should be the equivalent of throwing gasoline on an already burning fire, but you probably haven’t truly lit the flame just yet. When you’re in the MVP mindset, you’re still trying to identify your spark (and validate your product’s viability), so it’s typically premature to start raising money. Financial commitments also come with trade-offs, and you may relinquish equity or control in some capacity that comes back to haunt you. You want to be very careful about the conditions under which you make those decisions.
However, there are some circumstances where, if you have the expertise, you are confident this is a problem that needs solving, and you see a viable opportunity, it might make sense to raise capital sooner. As a general rule of thumb, the further you can get any business without raising money, the better. To learn more about pricing a digital product during the ideation and discovery phase, take a look at this blog post.
Big Skills, Tiny Arms
If you do have the funds to get started, our slightly biased but big-hearted opinion is that a development firm is the way to go. Working with a firm will give you immediate access to a broad range of skills across user interface/experience, design, development (front-end, back-end, mobile, and web), and project management. We have a massive amount of experience working in the MVP stage and understand the process for creating a digital solution in the most strategic, cost-effective way possible. If you’re interested in learning more, click here to set up a free consultation.