You wouldn’t go out and buy a truck load of shoes without first testing out what sells, what’s in the other shops, what the profit margins are etc, etc. Yet when it comes to service business it seems we have gone ‘product’ mad. So much time and effort is consumed by designing and creating programmes, digital products, courses frequently with little or no consumer research.
Before you put hours of your time and money into your next big thing, do your homework. Create a minimum viable product and test out the market.
According to Eric Ries, (Lean Startup Movement), a minimum viable product (MVP) is a version of your product which allows you to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. This means before you go all out, you create a kind of prototype for your new thing. This enables you to check out what customers actually like, what they will pay for, what doesn’t work as well before you commit too much to the product.
In my view, this is a great way for creatives and entrepreneurs to work – build the first one, then tinker about based on feedback and experience to create something better, more desirable and hopefully more profitable. It really suits those who tend to be a tad impatient, who have an idea and want it actioned yesterday, as well as those prepared to put in the time to refine and test.
Most importantly an MVP gets your idea into reality, it gives you that all important customer feedback without you spending weeks developing and refining something that nobody wants.
Sometimes the MVP is actually a concept – not a fully developed product. Dropbox is a good example of this, when they first started – once they had some early sign ups (but no product), they created a video explaining what dropbox did, how it worked and gave a full list of features & functionality. Their sign ups for the service went from 5,000 to 75,000 in 24hrs – convincing them that the product was viable and worth the development time.
Currently, online courses, ebooks and other digital products are booming – not just in traditional training setting, but accountancy, law, design, and this is of course led by an increase in digital consumption.
But just because you can make a product (digital or physical) doesn’t mean you should.
Before you get caught up in the product trap answer the following questions:
- Does it fit with my goals, business model and direction?
- Does it excite me?
- Are my audience consuming this type of information in the way I am proposing to deliver it?
- Does it meet a currently unmet need?
- Do I have (or have access to) the knowledge, time & financial resource needed to do this?
Still with me?
Then chances are an MVP is your next step. Here’s how to get started.
Get your ideas out of your head, on paper, on post its, pictures whatever works best for you. Then organise them into how they form your ‘product’ and decide what is the minimum you can do to still give your client a good experience and test out what is working. Remember the purpose of this is not to be the ultimate bells & whistles version, it is the get something out there and see if it flies version. Yes, keep it congruent with your brand and values, but don’t spend months developing something before you have the necessary market research.
As soon as you have decided to test an MVP start talking about it, raise some interest. And when you start to share it with client, be sure you have some effective feedback systems in place to learn about their experiences, likes and dislikes and therefore refine your main product.
Remember, most successful business owners don’t just dive into the market with a high cost, highly refined product they have several iterations and refine as they go – a bit like software upgrades.
We’d love to know what you’re up to and how you might have used MVP’s