I talk a lot about the concept of MVP, or Minimum Viable Product. I want to talk about what “minimum” really means.
Some well-known experts in this approach claim that minimum could literally mean a sketch on the back of a napkin.
That may be a tad extreme, but it’s helpful context.
Minimum can be a completely manual system with no tech or automation at all. If you think about what product or process you’re looking to offer to potential customers, what “features” will be considered essential? Meaning the product couldn’t even exist without it. What you’re trying to do is get to the core value of your product.
Let’s say for example you want to offer a membership site that helps people learn how to grow tomatoes in deck boxes. You’re starting from scratch and you’ve never built a membership site before but you know people want to learn to grow tomatoes in deck boxes, and you know from your research that they’re willing to pay to learn it. So you’ve established that a market exists for your product but you haven’t yet figured out exactly what you will offer that will make your product more desirable than somebody else’s.
You’ll want to start with something that is “just enough” to validate that your business idea is valid. This is important because you don’t want to spend a lot of time and money building something you think people want — you want to figure out exactly what they want. The best way to do this is to offer your ideal customer something tangible they can use. Then listen to their feedback about what they like and don’t like and what they want you to give them next.
What tangible thing can you give your ideal customer? The right answer is this: the smallest increment of value you can offer your customers that will get them to use the product and give you feedback. Here I want you thinking about value, not features. What could possibly solve your customer’s problem (they don’t know how to grow tomatoes in deck boxes) in a minimal way?
Let’s start with the membership site itself. There’s a whole lot of work (and potentially money) that goes into planning and setting up the technology to support your membership site. For example, you need to create all the different membership levels and figure out page restrictions, learn how to upload files and creating videos, not to mention branding and design, ease of use and navigation, content structure and lots more.
But wait! We don’t even really know what your customers want yet! In fact maybe they want to learn how to grow tomatoes in deck boxes but first they need to build a deck!
So let’s see if there’s an easier way you can deliver your information to them without all the hassle of creating a membership site that doesn’t solve your customer’s problem. Well… can you simply email them your content every week? Maybe you could add them to a private Facebook group and post the content there? What other options might work? Remember, this is a minimum value offering. You will improve it and make it more robust later. Right now you are just validating your idea and learning what your customers truly want.
Think about the minimum amount of features your product might have. You may know so much about growing tomatoes you could talk for hours about it. Days even! But you don’t really know what your customers need right now to get started. Do they need to know about all the different hybrids of tomatoes? Different kinds of soil? Hydroponics? Fertilizer options? Growing seasons? Watering schedules? Amount of sun and from what direction? Types of deck boxes made of different kinds of wood vs plastic vs metal vs coconut fiber? No! They don’t need everything! They just need the basics and they need just enough to get started. So what does that look like?
The minimum product might be a plan for a starter kit. Tell them exactly what to buy and how much it costs and how they can get started today. It’s $19.95 and it includes links to the exact products you recommend on eBay, and you give them step by step directions on how to assemble everything and care for their tomatoes in the first month. That’s it!
You could even scale it back further. But the purpose is to get something out there that people will use, that you can learn from and improve upon.
That’s what “minimum” means. As small as possible so you can get to market fast and learn what people want.
Yes, your ultimate vision will take a little longer to build. But you’ll know it’s the right product at the right price that meets the exact needs of the customers you most want to help. You’ve heard that most new businesses fail within the first five years, right? According to Forbes magazine, the number 1 reason these businesses fail is because they don’t solve a real market problem.
Whoa… Let me say that again.
The Number 1 reason most new businesses fail is because they don’t solve a real market problem.
I want more than anything for you to not be one of those businesses.
So, what’s your minimum? Tell me in the comments below, or come to the Facebook group and post your idea there and get feedback from the Tame Your Tech community.