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What the Heck is Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

If you’re a businessperson, an entrepreneur, or someone with a whole lot of cool ideas, you’ve probably heard the term “MVP”. If not, you’re in for a treat. These three little letters carry a lot of power.

So, MVP. What the heck is that?

In short, a minimum viable product, or MVP, is a very basic design that helps to later build your customer’s ideal product using trial and error, feedback, and more.

Sounds relatively simple, right?

Sort of. An MVP (which does not stand for “most valuable player”, I recently learned) is often crucial in determining a product’s future success.

By understanding what MVP is and how to build one, business owners are able to save themselves time, money, and valuable resources, all while knowing that their product is going to be built according to what customers want, not what the business owner thinks they want.

All of this seems pretty important, which explains why I was slightly confused about never hearing “MVP” mentioned in my undergraduate business classes.

Getting up to speed with the ins and outs of MVP took a bit of research, as the concept is rather ambiguous.

Lucky for you, I’m about to lay out all of my MVP knowledge before you, reveal the need-to-knows, and hopefully make your life a little bit easier.

Feel free to call me the Most Valuable Player.

Defining MVP

Minimum viable product is, according to Techopedia, “a development technique in which a new product or website is developed with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters. The final, complete set of features is only designed and developed after considering feedback from the product’s initial users.”

Technically, that definition is spot-on, but it’s rather confusing. Here’s what Techopedia is trying to tell us:

An MVP is the simplest form of your product that you can create while still providing value to your customers. Then you can use feedback from those customers to expand and perfect your product.

Let’s say you want to start a pet food delivery service. Rather than buying company cars, developing a website, stocking up on dog food, cat food, snake food, bird food, rabbit food, fish food and the like, you could form an MVP.

Creating a simple website or Facebook page could send customers’ orders straight to your email, and then you could go pick up the pet food from the store. While driving to and from the store for every order isn’t a feasible large-scale business plan, it works great for an MVP because it focuses solely on the product sales.

After delivering the pet food to their houses, you’ll be able to get feedback on your business plan. Feedback means customer comments and recommendations, but also your own evaluation of whether or not customers are using your product.

Minimum Means Minimum

It’s tempting to add “just one more feature” to your MVP. But don’t give in. Minimum viable product has the word “minimum” in it for a reason. Making your MVP simple means using the fewest number of resources possible (capital, time, natural resources, etc.) in your first stage of product development. Doing so has benefits like not overbuilding your new product, getting into the market faster, and creating your customer’s perfect product.

Not overbuilding your new product.

How big of a bummer would it be to create an “awesome” product that took hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to build, just to find out that nobody else thinks it’s awesome? Yeah, a pretty big bummer.

Creating a product, but a really simple one, allows you to offer your customers a valuable service from the start. It also gives you room to grow and build the product according to their needs.

You won’t waste time or money by including unnecessary features, which would likely clutter and confuse your customer’s product experience anyway. Win win.

Getting into the market faster.

Spending less time building means you can release your MVP to the market sooner.

More time in front of customers means more feedback, more revenue, and the possibility of more market share.

Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn said, If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Creating your customers’ perfect product.

By starting with the basics and releasing your MVP to the market early, you will be able to get a better grasp on what your customers truly want.

Early communication with your customers is invaluable. If you understand your customers’ wants and needs in the beginning of your process, you are able to avoid building features or an entire product that they simply won’t use. On the other hand, if they love your product, you’re able to push your ideas forward while knowing that you have an engaged audience.

No matter what you discover through an MVP, it will likely be a more accurate and beneficial discovery than if you had just asked a customer their thoughts without first providing them a “trial product” (an MVP) to refer to.

The Difference Between a Prototype and an MVP

It’s important to keep in mind that your MVP isn’t necessarily going to look like a rough draft of your final product.

Instead, it is going to be the most basic functioning product that allows you to test your business assumptions.

Prototypes and MVPs both appear to be loose, “in the works” designs for a product, but they are very different. A prototype may lay out a wireframe with imaginary data to display what the product will be able to do, but an MVP gets sent to market to collect real feedback and results, actually serving as a tangible, working model.

MVP in Action

As you can see, developing an MVP can save you time and money, save your product from being a flop, and save you from a whole lot of headaches.

Of course, like any great thing, an MVP has shortcomings.

By releasing an MVP to the market, you are assuming that early adopters are able to see the value and future of your product.

If early adopters aren’t able to envision your product, you may not be able to receive the feedback you need.

For this reason, MVPs are often most conformable to products in the technical field, since technology is easily adapted and advanced.

However, truly any business model can use an MVP.  Validating a new product idea is a vital step in its creation, and an MVP can help determine whether a product idea is worth spending resources and energy on.

Because resources are valuable and customers’ needs are important in every industry, creating some variation of an MVP can be a beneficial step in forming any business’s best version of itself.

All in all, an MVP provides a cost-efficient way to test out a product.

Throughout your product’s life, MVPs will continue to exist through its advancements. If you want to increase sales, you may implement a new MVP to test it a new technique. Same goes for changing the design of your product; you’ll test out a new design.

Tiny test after tiny test, you’ll grow your product to become exactly what you and your customers want.


From Idea to Done

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