Are you tinkering with the idea of starting a new business? One of the most useful approaches I’ve encountered when it comes to starting a new business is the minimum viable product (MVP) methodology.
The essence of an MVP is to keep things lean and simple. You don’t need to have everything ready to go in the beginning. (Phew! Yes, you can relax now.) Instead, you start with the bare essentials that allow you to operate, and then expand to offering more services or products as you grow.
While the term MVP originates from the lean startup methodology in the world of software development, the value of an MVP extends to all kinds of businesses – including the one that’s been rattling around in your head day and night!
I know for myself that I can’t help but think of all the possibilities when a new business idea strikes. But this can get overwhelming to the point of indecision and ultimately, inaction. It happens to the best of us. The MVP route takes away all those distractions, keeping you focused on the essentials and moving forward on the path to success.
Your MVP is a base-level version of a product or service that’s sufficient to satisfy a customer’s needs while demonstrating the broader potential of your business.
Here are few example MVPs:
So, are you ready to give your business idea a strong and steady start?
Let’s dive into the five steps to launching your MVP.
What is the problem your product or service solves? What kind of customer or client are you targeting? What makes your product or service stand out from the rest?
My home cleaning service solves the problem of keeping a house tidy and orderly. My clients are young professionals with small children who have mountains of laundry and dishes but don’t want to spend their precious time cleaning. My cleaning service stands out because I don’t require any lengthy assessments, deep cleaning or long-term contracts. I make it easy!
Your value proposition serves as the foundation for your MVP and guides its development.
Now that we have a clear value proposition, let’s identify the essential benefits you deliver to your customers.
What immediate value does your product/service deliver?
By identifying these core benefits, you can create a minimum viable product or service that provides an immediate solution to your customer’s pain points.
I’ve taken some creative license with this third step in the MVP process, which usually goes something like “Develop Your Prototype.” Instead, we’re going to distill our value proposition and essential benefits into an irresistible offer and call to action.
Imagine your client or customer lands on your website looking for exactly what you offer.
We don’t want to make them search for information, pricing, or how to get in touch. Instead, we make it as easy as possible for them to take action with an irresistible offer.
Get your dishes and laundry cleaned today before you can say “Calgon, Take Me Away!”
CTA: Click here to schedule your first cleaning and enjoy 50% off!
Your irresistible offer can be fun, serious, professional – whatever tone you think resonates best with your ideal customer.
Now it’s time to put your product or service out into the world!
The goal of this stage, and actually, every stage of your business, is to collect feedback and constantly improve.
There are several ways to test and gather feedback. I recommend a two-pronged approach during this initial phase: Launch a simple one-page website and offer freebies or a big discount to people you know.
For the website, be sure to put your irresistible offer front and center. For help getting started with a website, check out Setting Up Your Website, Part 4 of Margaret Manning’s Starting a Business After 50.
Now… you may be saying Give it away? Really?
In many cases, offering freebies or discounts can be a smart investment that gets the ball rolling, and makes your product or service visible to real customers more quickly.
For our cleaning service example, I might reach out on Nextdoor or to friends and ask if anyone would be willing to try out my service in exchange for feedback and a review on my Yelp or Google business page.
For an ecommerce shop that sells just kids socks, I might email a group of friends asking them to share my site with others and encourage them to buy my fun kids’ socks at a crazy (but limited quantity!) discount. In return, I would ask them to write a review for my Amazon or Etsy page or Shopify store.
In either case, I can point people to my website where they can take action – schedule a cleaning service or buy my socks.
An alternative to the freebie idea is to advertise on Facebook or Google, which also provides feedback and should get some initial traffic to your website.
Based on the feedback you’ve gathered, what improvements could you start making right away? Has your experience brought up any unforseen issues or difficulties?
We all have a picture of how things will go. Then, there’s reality. At this stage, you’ll have real-world experience with your product or service, and so will your early stage customers and clients.
Now is the time to refine, correct, remove or improve whatever needs attention.
For our cleaning service example, maybe you expected everyone to be out of the home, but they’re all there, making cookies and getting in the way of your work! While your promise is to make it easy for them, you also need to get the job done. Whether it’s a new scheduling option, or a simple service agreement that communicates your expectations, the solution will come.
By running your business idea through the MVP process, you’ll be able to validate your idea, minimize risk, develop a loyal customer base, and grow at a healthy pace.
You’ll also be way ahead of the traditional business start-up game. Although I do recommend writing a one-page business plan – which covers business fundamentals, such as SWOT analysis, objectives, target market, marketing strategy, operations and financial projections – a formal business plan usually isn’t necessary for most solopreneurs.
Remember, an MVP is not just your service or product launch; it’s a continuous process of improvement and growth. Consider using it as a stepping stone to a fully realized and successful business.
So, what does your MVP look like? Do you have a business idea you’re ready to test out? Share in the comments below!
Tags Small Business