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When it comes to launching a new product, the journey often begins with a grand vision.
Entrepreneurs are full of ideas and ambitions, eager to create something groundbreaking.
Nonetheless, it’s crucial to start small, focus on the essentials, and validate your concept before going all-in. This is where the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) comes into play.
In this article, we’ll explore what an MVP is, why testing it is essential, and the best strategy for doing so.
What is an MVP?
MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, is a term often heard in the startup and product development world.
But what exactly does it mean?
At its core, an MVP is the smallest version of your envisioned product. It’s the stripped-down, essential representation of your idea.
When launching a product, we tend to think, “What if we add this feature or that one?” The truth is, that many of these extras are non-essential for viability.
To illustrate this, let’s consider the example of creating Bluetooth headphones.
The first step is to take regular headphones, remove the wires, add a Bluetooth receiver, and connect it to your iPhone.
The second step involves a small box where you’d store the headphones.
And as a third feature, the box can also serve as a charger.
That said, you can still use the headphones without the box.
The key question is, how do you best align your product with your vision without overcomplicating it and while reaching your goal quickly?
It’s about providing the minimum functionality required, not a half-baked product. The MVP should be functional and align with your vision, even if it lacks the bells and whistles.
So, let’s talk about the MVP, which stands for Minimum Viable Product.
There are various definitions of the MVP, but in essence, it’s the smallest version of your idea. It is there to help you test your product market fit.
A fresh look at the MVP:
In many discussions about MVPs, you might come across a common image. You will find this image or something like it:
To clarify, this representation of an MVP often depicts a gradual progression from a basic version to a more advanced one, which makes sense.
Let’s take the example from the picture:
Let’s say your vision is to create a fantastic car.
You wouldn’t start with just a wheel, because that doesn’t align with your vision.
But a skateboard? That’s a start.
Then you add a handle, larger wheels, pedals, and eventually a motor. This means you’re evolving your product toward your vision, but from the very beginning, it still remains a means of mobility.
However, we have some reservations about this model.
It implies that an MVP involves a significant leap from a scooter to a car, which just doesn’t make sense! If anything, it should show a progression from a scooter to a motorcycle, which is a different mode of transportation.
If the ultimate goal were to create a car, you would start with a pedal car, then transition to a go-kart, and so forth.
The point is that the MVP isn’t about offering something non-functional or changing your vision throughout the process; it’s about delivering the minimum functionality required.
What are the criteria to test your MVP?
There are plenty of well-connected people in the startup world who will tell you how to measure your MVP.
In our humble opinion, the best definition is that while your MVP should align with your vision, you should feel ashamed of it.
If you look at the V0 of La Growth Machine, it was just a script, and then it had an awful interface.
We were properly ashamed of what it looked like, but it corresponded to our vision: provide a multi-channel approach to prospecting!
Again, your MVP should adhere to your vision, but stop when your vision is there, even if all the details aren’t.
Why is it important to test your MVP?
Now that you get what an MVP actually is, let’s dive into why it’s crucial to test it.
If you’ve understood when to launch your MVP and the importance of not waiting too long, you’ll see that agility is a significant factor.
Expert Tip 🧠
In other words, if you have one year to work on a project, and you spend 9 months building your MVP and then 3 months trying to find customers, you’ll only get to test one iteration.
However, if you can get your MVP ready in just 2-3 months and spend another 2-3 months testing it, you can try two iterations within the same 12-month window.
This means that by the end of the year, your chances of success are now doubled.
Your time is finite, and if you want to find a winning formula, you need to move quickly!
You have to release something that embodies your vision as quickly as possible.
2. Aligning with Vision and Interest:
People will tolerate the absence of legal pages or a polished design if they buy into your vision.
By dedicating those 3 months to building that vision and then finding out there’s no product-market fit, you’ve only lost 6 months.
But if you take a whole year to build and test your MVP, you’ve lost a whole year.
You need to accept that not all products are meant to last.
Before LGM was launched at deux.io, around 5-6 products were created, and 5 of them ended up in the trash.
Only one product made it to market, along with a second called Derrick.
If the product isn’t something customer wanted, perhaps your time would be better spent trying something else.
Which beautifully transitions us to our next point:
3. Determining Product-Market Fit:
The notions of MVP and product/market fit are closely linked.
Your MVP serves as a tool to assess your product/market fit, emphasizing the importance of having a clear vision for your final product.
And why would you want to test your product/market fit? Well, it’s to determine if it genuinely exists.
If it doesn’t, you have two options: pivot to something else or conduct additional user interviews to understand their preferences.
Expert Tip 🧠
During a product market fit test, the three possible outcomes are:
- No one is interested,
- One party is interested,
- Everyone is interested.
When your product resonates with everyone, there’s no debate – you proceed confidently.
Conversely, when no one is interested, it’s clear-cut – you should stop there and move on.
However, in cases where you’re in between, it’s more tricky. This is where you conduct user interviews to uncover what they liked and didn’t like.
Often, these insights are connected to specific features within your MVP. Users might favor one feature while disregarding the others.
This close relationship between the MVP and product/market fit highlights its critical role in the assessment process.
The golden rule before you start: Hold at least 20 user interviews with your target group.
If, at the outcome of the interviews, none of them insist on either 1) wanting to invest, or 2) when they can join the beta, maybe it’s time to start brainstorming again.
And yes, we’re setting the bar high because too few people will dare say a product is bad – all you’ll get is “positive” feedback. As a result, you have to look for interest elsewhere such as in the obvious desire to be part of the venture.
How to effectively test your MVP?
When discussing the MVP (Minimum Viable Product), it’s essential to understand that it’s not just about the product or service itself.
Testing an MVP encompasses both the product and the communication strategy that accompanies it.
For instance, let’s say your MVP is a Link-building Tool.
If you exclusively address individuals involved in SEO with this tool, you’re likely to receive a more favorable response compared to trying to reach a broader audience with the same tool.
Three Key Components to Test
When testing your MVP, focus on three primary components:
- Audience/Persona: Determine who you’re addressing. It’s crucial to identify and distinctly address multiple audiences to understand which one resonates more with which part of your offering.
- Message: What are you telling your audience? Which features do they care about the most?
Using the Link-building tool example, are you emphasizing the fact that:
- They will climb Google rankings
- Or that your tool will make their link-buidling operations easier?
The message can vary based on the audience you’re addressing. The former is meant for CEOs, the latter is for SEOs
- Channels: Where are you communicating your message? Whether it’s through email, LinkedIn, or another channel, the medium can significantly influence the effectiveness of your message.
Implementing the Test
To effectively test your MVP, follow these steps:
- List Down Hypotheses: Begin by listing down the different combinations of audience, message, and channel you want to test.
Keeping up with the same example from earlier.
Let’s say you have 2 options for each dimension:
- Who: CEOs and SEO managers.
- What: Boost Google Ranking and Link-Building done easier.
- Where: LinkedIn and Email.
2 x 2 x 2 = 8 Tests that you have to carry out in reality:
- How do CEOs respond to the “Boost Ranking” value proposition on LinkedIn?
- How do they respond to the same thing on Email?
- How do SEO managers respond to the “Link-building done easier” argument on LinkedIn?
- So on and so forth…
- Launch Campaigns: For each hypothesis, create a distinct campaign. You can use our own La Growth Machine for this. Play with the personas, the channel used, and different copywriting.
Expert Tip 🧠
You don’t necessarily have to test the 3 dimensions every time.
Maybe you want to focus on a signle feature that you know works best. In that case, you’re only testing the different personae and how you’re communicating with them.
Hence, you only have 4 different sequences to launch.
- Analyze Results: As feedback comes in, qualify the responses and/or track conversions. This will help you determine which combination of audience, message, and channel is the most effective.
Quick Tip 💡
If you’re using LGM, this is done extremely easily. You simply:
- Step 1: Go to the Reports tab.
- Step 2: Pin the relevant campaigns you want to compare.
- Step 3: Make sure the “Pinned” toggle is on.
- Step 4: Since you can qualify leads on LGM, simply compare the “Won” section.
Testing an MVP becomes quite a straightforward notion once you have a clear understanding of what it entails.
What’s crucial to grasp, and why we emphasize what an MVP is and why you need to test it, is that when you conduct tests, you’re not solely evaluating your product.
What’s essential is that there are three dimensions that significantly impact your conversion rate:
- Who you’re targeting – The persona(ae)
- What you’re saying to them – The message
- Where are you trying to reach them – The channel
These dimensions should be tested equally.
Furthermore, it’s vital not to make assumptions.
For instance, just because you believe that a link-building tool is more suitable for SEO managers, doesn’t mean you should presume that’s the case. Or that SEO managers will automatically be your persona of choice.
It’s entirely possible that another persona, like a CEO, converts better due to various reasons such as they’re the final decision maker for instance.
Indeed, it’s crucial to abandon the notion that you’re always right.
Instead, compile a comprehensive list of all the tests you need to perform and approach them with the utmost objectivity. Be as humble as possible in the face of the data, and let the results guide your decisions.