When you’re building a product, you want to fill it with features. After all, the more you offer, the more customers you can attract. Right?
Wrong. Sort of.
You might eventually want to build a product with a 100 features. But starting off with one that aims to do that is not a smart decision. What you want to start off with is a minimum viable product (MVP).
What is a Minimum Viable Product
A minimum viable product http://venturehacks.com/articles/minimum-viable-product is a product that solves the core problem. For example, Buffer is a great tool for scheduling social media posts. When it launched, all they did was schedule posts you manually added to the “feed”. That was the “core” problem they were addressing. You could call that their minimum viable product.
Why not build a product with all the bells and whistles? For one, you won’t know if it will work till you’ve launched the product. And since you’re building a lot of features into it from the get-go, this means that by the time you find out if the product will sell, you have already spend a lot of money developing it. It’s now too late to change the product without incurring heavy losses.
When you work towards a minimum viable product, your vision for the product is really clear. Our product A solves problem B. Here are the basic features it will have. Here are the customers we are hoping to sell it to. Everyone that tries this first version of your product out is an “early adopter”, and essentially the sort of person who is ok with trying out beta products to provide feedback.
How do you know you have a Minimum Viable Product?
There’s no one way to know. Instead, here are a number of different tests and techniques you can use to help you determine whether you have a minimum viable product or not.
1. Talk to Customers
Your product is aimed at solving a problem. Talk to your potential customers and find out exactly what the problem is, and whether or not your potential product will solve these problems for them. These aren’t sales calls. This is you, sitting down with each customer, trying to figure out if your product is indeed the solution you think it is.
2. Use Landing Pages
A landing page is the first step potential customers take down your sales funnel. This is your chance to explain what your product is, how much it costs, and have them sign up to try it out. Use this page to test whether or not the current version of your product is going to be able to get customers. Use a tool like CrazyEgg to see how potential customers react to this page, and use this data to help figure out whether or not you have a MVP.
3. Sign up for Ad Campaigns
Use Google and Facebook to run ads for your product. See the response you get. This is a great, low-cost, way to testing to see if the demographic you are interested in marketing to will respond to your product. You don’t have to spend big bucks on this, but the data you get will be priceless.
4. Take a Page out of Zappos’ Book
When Nick Swinmurn built Zappos, he didn’t actually start off buying and stocking inventory. He went to different shops, took pictures of shoes, and put them up on his website. When he got an order, we would go to the actual shop and buy the product. This helped him test the theory behind his business, and see if he had a real market for it. How do you apply this? Instead of getting started with coding or developing your product, see if you can hack an experience for the customer where they believe they are experiencing the actual product. Then test and see how much response you get from the market and go from there.
Essentially, you want to figure out if the current iteration of the product is one that will sell – without bells and whistles. These are some great ways to check that without investing a lot more time and energy into the process.
Do you have any other ideas? Leave me a note in the comments.