Ultimate Guide: How To Build A Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
By: Growth Kolony
There are plenty of startups that struggle with finding funding for their business ideas.
And the venture capital companies that do decide to fund startup founders invest in startups with traction.
So how does a startup founder get traction without spending thousands of dollars and wasting a lot of time on a product that flops?
The answer is building a minimum viable product also known as MVP.
MVP Explained: What Is A Minimum Viable Product?
MVP is an acronym that stands for Minimum Viable Product.
This concept was first introduced in 2001 by Frank Robinson and then later popularised by Eric Ries.
The minimum viable product provides a maximum amount of validated learning about customers with minimum effort. This product allows any team to do this and is explained by Eric Ries in the video below.
Ultimately, the goal of your MVP is to ship out the most basic version of your idea and do it as soon as possible. This is a way for you to test any product or market idea based on the feedback of users from early adopters.
What Are The Benefits Of The MVP
Below we highlight the top benefits of pushing out your MVP:
1. Low-Risk Product That Can Provide Very High ROI
One of the key benefits that come with the MVP is that it is a low-risk task. But, the results for this may be exponential.
Plenty of companies such as Dropbox and Uber have grown into what they are today by having some MVPs testing their ideas. The cue you should take from this is to release an MVP and add only the features that are requested by your users.
2. MVP Will Save You Time And Money
All of the money and time that you would have spent on marketing and product development can now be reinvested into customer development. What this ensures you is a good product and an increased chance of success.
Many people have learned this the hard way.
Stop spending your time and energy on a product that has not been tested on the market.
Instead, do the MVP and thrive.
3. You Get The Opportunity To Attract Early Adopter Customers
If you want your MVP to pick up the pace, the thing you need to do is target the right people.
Think about targeting influencers and early adopters. There is a high chance that these people will be the ones who will be most excited about your product and will provide you with honest feedback.
They will also likely promote your product to their network.
What Are The Top Challenges When Creating An MVP?
When creating an MVP, entrepreneurs are usually met with a few challenges along the way.
Think of challenges as opportunities that help you become better.
Below we highlight the three most common mistakes entrepreneurs make when building an MVP.
1. Ignoring The Difference Between MVP, Prototype And Proof Of Concept
Even though all of these three strategies are created to validate a certain idea, all of them are created for different purposes.
The proof of concept helps you check if an idea is developed enough to be released into the world, where a real-life scenario can happen. The prototype is working on a simulation of a product that is based on your concept mock-ups and is discarded right after testing.
Now, the real difference between a prototype and an MVP is that the MVP is the first version of an actual idea. Despite the limited features it might have, the prototype is just a draft that you immediately discard after launching.
2. Lack Of Knowledge Needed To Identify The Target Group For The MVP
The second most frequent challenge that entrepreneurs face is product and market fit. Just because the product is “good” does not mean that it will perform well in the market.
For example, the mobile app Botnim discovered this very soon after launching. Botnim is an app that helps users find a restaurant near them based on their food preferences.
Their market research consisted of talking to restaurant employees and their owners about the food preferences of guests.
But, what they failed to recognize is the target audience, which was the people.
Those people who often went to restaurants did not care much about what they ordered to eat and the people who did care about what is on their plate rarely visited — their MVP fell flat.
In this case, you need to research your audience and make them use your MVP. Constantly test your audience, over and over again. Because there is a high chance your first testing group will not provide you with any response.
The trick here is that you have to look for passionate people. Show them your product and encourage them to give you some honest feedback.
3. Choosing A Project Management Methodology That Is Incompatible
Many startups are faced with the same challenge and that is collaborating with others to build the MVP.
Tech startups for example require the creation of special software as a part of their MVP development. In these cases, the most used project management methodologies are Agile and Waterfall.
The Waterfall management model consists of a strictly defined sequence of software development. These include design, implementation, planning, production, testing, and support.
You can jump to the next stage even if you haven’t fully completed the previous one. The Agile model is considered to be much stricter than the Waterfall model. This model strives for agility.
You can instantly make changes as you go, based on the feedback you get. Constant alterations speed up the process of product development. If the development process is outsourced on a platform such as Clutch or Upwork, some issues may arise.
This does not happen because of low quality, but because you need to have your development team on hand for any alterations you may want to do.
What Is Fake Door MVP Testing?
This is how you’ll learn if people are willing to buy your product at all. Drive traffic to a landing page on a website and see if people will purchase your product or not.
This can be done by a crowdfunding platform such as Gofundme, Kickstarter, etc. When you are doing this, you want to add a button that can help you see if people take interest in the particular features that your product offers.
There is one main piece of information that can help you know whether people like your product or not. It is the ratio of people who show interest in your product against the number of people who have been exposed to it.
By using validation and invalidation, the company can gather plenty of information and decide how to implement them in its next steps.
Fake door testing is a good way to see how many people want your product. You can evaluate some small features with it as well and it can even help you develop some features of the product without spending a lot of money.
What Are Some Minimum Viable Product Examples?
Below we feature MVP examples from startups that went ahead without using the MVP properly and ended up crashing and burning.
Let’s get right into it.
Tom Zaragoza started with a very simple idea: The app was supposed to locate private gyms in your area and provide a membership management hub.
The idea came from his cousin, who owns a gym, and who was eager to try such an app.
This made Tom invest his time and money into it. Unfortunately, one relative’s passing interest cannot form the foundations for a strong MVP and his idea crashed flat.
This is a live video app for blogs. The founder Tom Hunt made the mistake of using MVP without conducting thorough market research beforehand.
He did all of the interviews that could help him identify their desires, needs, and problems, but he simply didn’t do enough interviews.
As a result, they spent time and money on building a product that customers didn’t want. This only goes to show how doing just an MVP is not enough. It needs to be thoroughly researched and watertight.
This is another example courtesy of Airbnb founders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia.
Their concept was to make people rent an extra room or apartment for a short period, an idea that came to Airbnb founders when they did not have enough money to pay their rent.
At the time they were living in San Francisco and out of desperation for rent money after noticing a design conference taking place in the city, they came up with the idea.
They decided to post pictures of their room and try to rent it out for a couple of days to attendees of the conference.
Successfully, they had three customers.
What they used was an MVP to gain information based on their three customers. So, going with their initial assumptions, first, they created a bed and breakfast, then they expanded to what is today Airbnb.
Watch the video below on how Airbnb started:
At the beginning in 2010, Uber founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp used a very simplified interface.
The app was created in San Francisco and the goal was to help iPhone users in the city find cheaper transportation to get from point A to point B with vehicles that can provide excellent service, were fast to find and you knew the price before getting in the vehicle.
This was tested in New York with only three cars before having an official launch in San Fransisco. Uber used their rating system to gather information from their customers to improve the service.
This was when Uber’s founders gained true success. They managed to expand throughout the USA and even in Europe, despite the competitive space.
How To Create Your MVP
Before moving on, make sure you know the benefits, downsides, and challenges of building an MVP.
Only after learning this is when you can continue to make your very own MVP.
Below we show a step-by-step guide on how to crate your MVP:
1. Identify Your Issue
Before you start identifying the issue, you need to take a good look at your business premise. Zoom in on your product. What does it do and which problem does it solve? These are the simple questions that can influence all of your decision from this point on. Also, it will influence your target audience as well.
Who are your customers and why are they attracted to your product?
Potential customers should be given the option to sign up for updates which will give you valuable insight when it comes to audience research. All these potential customers will reveal what their motivations for subscribing are and what they expected to see from the final product.
Also, spy on your competition. By seeing what they do better, or worse, you can develop your unique sales point (USP).
2. Outlining Your Flow Of Users
The user flow explains the route that your potential customer will take with your business. Just like how Uber takes the customer to places. It is a very exact aspect and it contains numbers, but it is an important part if you want to build a solid MVP.
You can easily break it down into a few stages so you can outline the goal of your potential customers. Take Spotify as an example. It is a platform that helps people find the music they like.
First, they need to search for music, then play it, then curate it, and discover new music along the way. These are the most obvious steps that Spotify identified.
They created an end product around it and they managed to do that by providing impeccable service. This is a stage that can help you discover all of the areas where there can be an improvement, now or in the future.
3. Break Down The Core Feature
You have your USP and the issue it solves. The following step is to break down the features that it comprises.
Make a distinction between the ones that are nice to have and the essential ones. The first one can be left for a later date, knowing that you are striving for a minimum viable product.
After identifying the core features, prioritize them. The one key feature will be the center of your attention. It will be of most use to your potential customers and will solve the problem that you have earlier established.
At this stage, it is important to be honest with yourself. The second pair of eyes is always good to have. This way you can easily determine whether something is a priority or not.
If you need an organizational tool that can help you allocate each feature to the stages of your user flow, then Trello or even Mindmup can help you achieve it.
What To Do After You Create Your MVP
After building the MVP, it is time to test it for functionality and acceptance. You can do this by driving traffic to it. Your goal here is to successfully transfer this from MVP to MMP (Minimum Marketable Product).
For example, say you built a new website that interviewed entrepreneurs and brands breaking the status quo in the tech world. How are you going to find out whether your target audience will accept it?
You’ll learn by analyzing the traffic that you send to the site and studying user behaviour. Did your users stay on your website for long or bounce off? Did they share your content, sign up for your newsletter or follow you on social media?
If you don’t want to spend a fortune but still want feedback from users, here are a couple of ways how to do that.
1. Paid Ads
Whether you use search engine ads from Google or Bing or social media ads from Facebook and LinkedIn, just to name a few options, the more you spend, the more targeted traffic you’ll drive to your site. Generally, we find that social media traffic is cheaper than search traffic but you can test yourself and see what works best for you.
2. Buy Old URLs
Here you can buy an existing website within your niche from an online marketplace like Flippa. So when you buy an old website, you’ll already have a steady level of traffic. After you have buy it, you can test your MVP on an already prepared market that is related to your niche.
3. Record A Video That Talks About Your MVP.
Video content is the lifeblood of social media. With YouTube being the second largest search engine and short-video content like TikTok and Reels, you’ll expose your website and MVP to more users outside your existing fan base.
4. Get Feedback About MVP
Make sure to drive up the traffic that goes to your landing page. The traffic can be paid (non-organic) or organic. Organic traffic derives from social media, blog posts, and websites that are specific to your industry.
Reach out to anyone who has signed up for your email newsletter or followed you on social media.
5. Start A Blog
Here you will give people a chance to take a look at what happens behind the scenes.
It will also give them an idea of who is working behind the product. This will help you build a loyal audience that is both interested in what you do and is interested in the product as well.
Also when you write and target keyphrases across the web, you’ll be able to pull in organic traffic from search engines like Google and Bing and expose more people who are interested in your niche to your MVP.
6. Release A Survey To Your Audience
This is how you will get customer opinion. Give them a chance to sign up for an email list. It will give you some clear numbers on how many people like the idea in the first place and how many roughly will buy your product.
7. Split Test
Test your videos, test your audience, and test your marketing materials! Make sure that you are doing whatever you can to get the most accurate results.
8. Run A Crowdfunding Campaign To Validate Your Ideas
Whether it’s on Indie Go Go or Kickstarter or both, get more eyeballs to your MVP and create a crowdfunding campaign.
9. Pre-Order Pages
This is a great way to see if people will pay for your idea/product/service. You can easily do this by setting up a landing page and feature an explanation video where the product is explained and copywriting that highlights the benefits and your call-to-action Buy button!
Then, send paid traffic to the pre-order page and get immediate feedback from your website visitors.
Don’t give up on your startup idea, it might just be the next best thing! All you need to do is find an idea and test the market to see if it’ll stick. When it comes to the MVP, it is considered to be a widely accepted option. Especially in those cases where you want to test a product idea as soon as possible.
Once the MVP is created, you need to drive up the traffic and ask for feedback. It is the logical path when releasing a new product.
Take the feedback and make your product even better. Once it is vastly known, especially through influencers and early adopters, you will have no issue rising to the top!
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