Business Startup

The Question of MVP (or MLP?)

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If you are familiar with lean startup methodologies, you probably already approached the MVP term. It stands for “Minimum Viable Product”. This is a fundamental stone of lean startup philosophy. When you want to build some product, you are not shooting for the “allinclusive” version loaded with tons of features. That would be only unnecessary wasting of your time, time of your team (if you have some) and also your money. This is the situation when MVP comes into play.

The case of MVP

The main point of MVP is to create a product with just a few features as fast as possible and ship it on the market. I understand that some of you might take an opposite stand and hold to their goal of shipping a perfectly polished version of the product you were dreaming about whole your life. Or you might want to start a company providing some kinds of service (SaaS, or PaaS) either in sense of B2B or B2C. Looks pretty awesome on the paper or in the dreams. However, in a real world, this can as well be nonsense which can lead to pain and doom.

Why? Well, two reasons are obvious right away. First, building product that will follow all your criteria and meet your quality standards will take time. Someone has to invest money, effort and energy in it during that period. Hope you have a decent reserves. What’s more, it is not just about a money. You also have to keep your team and yourself motivated to keep going. This is easy when everything plays in your favor, but when bad times come your abilities to motivate will be tested. Development time will increase, money supply will decrease and you still will not see any results.

Second, let’s say you built your dream product and it looks and works just like you wanted (Still, it sounds more like a dream than reality.) The next step is the release. You, currently proud businessman, put in hours and hours into marketing to get the product in front of people. Don’t believe that if you build it, customers will come. This is not how it works. Unfortunately, it seems something is wrong. Customers are not coming. You may got few sales, but that was all.

The reason? Market (customers) doesn’t feel they need your product. It’s hard and painful, but truth. No one can promise you thousands of customers happy to buy your product and spreading the word further.

So, instead of focusing on building the best product possible, aim for building the basic foundation of it and shipping as soon as possible. With this approach you will be able to gather enough data to know if there is a potential market for your product at all. If not, it is not that big problem. You didn’t spend as much time, money and energy on your idea as you would otherwise. Also, if you find out that there is a certain interest for slightly different product, you can pivot as well. This is, in short, the premise of MVP.

However, I would like to iterate from this idea and introduce you to MLP. This abbreviation stands for “Minimum Loveable Product”. The difference is that you should be focusing not just on the main feature of your product, but also on design (and functionality). Like it or not, the design sells. The visual side of product is the first thing that will get your attention. Think about it. In whatever situation you are, it can be in the grocery store, app store, newsstand or whatever, you are deciding on the basis of what you see.

Remember this important fact while working on your product. Make it so beautiful people can resist to talk about it and also to buy it. Don’t get me wrong, you still need marketing, but it is easier to sell something visually appealing.

Last thing I want to mention is a great quote by founder of Linkedin Reid Hoffman: “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

Conclusion

Don’t wait for the perfect version. It will probably never come. Instead, aim for version with only the main features, good functionality and nice design. Then, sell it to the market and, in case of interest, listen to the feedback from your customers and modify your product. People are more likely to use and talk about product that works and looks nice. Forget the MVP and go for MLP instead. Make people fall in love with your product or service.

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