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Increase interest and buy-in from your target audience.
Conduct lean market validation: write down your assumptions about your product idea and test them using customer interviews and surveys. Look at competitor products to find out if they’re offering something similar.
Identify your target customer, the problem your product will solve, how will it solve this problem, and the product’s key features.
Ask your target audience market fit questions, like What’s the most frustrating thing about your day? How do you try to solve that? What do you wish that an existing product could do that it can’t do? If you solve that problem, how much money will you make or will you save? and If this were available, would you use it or buy it?
If your competitors promise to solve the problem you’ve identified, are they delivering on that promise? How could you differentiate your product idea from their products or services?
At the end of your lean market validation, you should be able to show that your idea is either:
- Not unique or doesn’t solve a problem your customers want solved.
- Unique in its value proposition, and has a clear set of requirements that are needed before it launches.
Scope out the features your product will need and define your user flows.
This will vary depending on your industry, customers, and the product you’re developing. In most cases, you’ll want to:
- Identify the main objective of your product.
- Understand your end users’ goals for using your product.
- Map the basic tasks or steps needed to reach these objectives and goals.
- Sketch out how the user will move through your product or service, from launching your software or opening the app, to completing the objective or goal.
Once you have defined all these process stages and mapped out the user flow, you’ll have a clear understanding of the features you need.
Use the MoSCow matrix to group your list of features into four buckets:
Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won’t have. Use your Must have bucket to define the features you’ll add to the minimum viable product (MVP).
Your MVP includes the fewest possible features required to successfully solve your customers’ problems. If time and budget allow, add features from the Should have bucket.
- Must have: Without these features, the product isn’t viable.
- Should have: Not vital, but most users will find the lack of this feature annoying or painful.
- Could have: Desirable, but should be ignored unless you have extra time and budget.
- Won’t have: No real impact on outcomes or user experiences.
Other MVP prioritization models include:
- Kano model technique
- Speed boat method
- Effort and impact technique
- User story mapping.
Pick an MVP model that will help you to test and validate your product idea before you sink capital into development.
- Explainer video: Dropbox’s founder created a 3-minute video to explain how Dropbox would work. He shared it on social media, and interested users could join a waiting list - indicating interest and validating the product idea.
- Landing page: Buffer built a landing page outlining its unique value proposition and inviting them to sign up for a paid plan. The number of customers interested in paying for the service validated the idea and proved its economic feasibility.
- Wizard of Oz: Create what looks like a fully functional product, yet all of its features are done by humans behind the scenes. Groupon used this model in the mid-2000s, with the founder manually sending each store a list of new customers who bought the store’s daily deal.
- Crowdfunding: Smartwatch company Pebble Time used a crowdfunding platform to promote their product and see how many people would commit to spending money on it.
- Content: Hubspot used problem-solving blog posts and content guides to validate software as a service. This allowed it to identify problems its audience desperately needed to solve, then develop apps and tools to do exactly that.
Build your MVP, incorporating all of your previously defined MVP features. Once you’ve completed development, cross-check with your MVP features list to ensure there are no gaps.
Share your MVP with your existing audience via email or social media, or a new audience using paid ads, networking, word of mouth, and earned media.
Segment and target your audience for paid ads using your buyer personas.
Unlike hard launches that often utilize a big promotional blitz to market a full fledged app or product, a soft launch strategy is focused on getting potential customers to validate your MVP and provide feedback so you can do continuous iterations. Your goal is a quick release to initiate a feedback loop as early as possible.
Collect qualitative data through website or in-app surveys, feedback forms, email surveys, and in-person or telephone surveys to measure the success of your MVP.
Ask open-ended questions that get into the motivation of the user and the intention behind their signup and buying behaviors:
- Why did you sign up?
- What problems were you hoping to solve?
- How did this product address those problems?
Collect quantitative data through analytics, like traffic, engagement, signup form entries, churn rate, percentage of active users, number or percentage of paying users, client acquisition cost (CAC), and client lifetime value (CLV).
The analytics you have access to will vary depending on the type of MVP you’ve used.
Use feedback to continuously improve MVP features and add or prioritize features on your product roadmap.
As your MVP is validated or invalidated, iteratively adjust messaging and features.
There is no set timeline to how long an MVP lasts, or when you’ve reached an appropriate level for scaling up. Much of this comes down to your industry, the product or service you’re building, and your startup’s business model. For instance, a bootstrapped B2C start-up may focus on constant growth, whereas a more enterprise-focused B2B startup may be focused on retention.