Let’s get this straight- you all are rock stars, MVP’s if you will. It’s incredibly important for you to have MVP’s in your business, and I’m not just talking about your team!

In business, MVP is code word for Minimum Viable Product. Eric Reis, the author of one of the quintessential books for entrepreneurs The Lean Startup, describes the premise and purpose for an MVP as “that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” My personal definition is that “an MVP is the easiest and most inexpensive way for you (and your team) to learn about what problem your customers are having, and for your customers to learn about how your business can help them solve their problem, while also beginning to generate revenue.” 

There are many different types of MVP’s, depending on the product and/or service that you are looking to offer to your customers and the problem that they are having. From what I have seen, there are also aren’t any types of MVP’s that are better than the other or “stock” MVP lists that you can pick and choose from. However, there are tonnes of well-known examples you can look at for inspiration, including:

  • Airbnb: Formerly known as Airbednbreakfast (bet you didn’t know that!), it started out by two of the co-founders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia deciding to rent out their San Francisco apartment to people who were unable to get a hotel room for a conference that was in town. They built a website, put photos of the apartment on it, and soon had multiple customers who were willing to pay for such a unique experience.
  • Buffer: Buffer is a website that allows you to schedule postings on multiple social media platforms (ideal for the busy entrepreneur). The founder, Joel Gascoigne, started out with a simple page that explained the premise of Buffer (and how it would work), along with a breakdown of service offerings and pricing. If someone liked what they saw, they could get email updates on when the site would be operational. Joel then contacted the subscribers to get insights into what they would like to see on the page and what they thought of different ideas/offerings. 
  • Spotify: When they launched in 2009, they started by simply offering one product to their customers, a music streaming experience like none other. They offered paid subscriptions to their music library right off the bat, and used special  free “invitation-only” accounts to gain insights and facilitate feedback on how to make their product even better.  

When you are testing your MVP on your customers, it is imperative (ridiculously important) that you collect data and ask questions to learn if you are offering what your customers are looking for, and if not, what you can do to the product/service to make sure that you are. One thing to note is that you want to test your product/service on those who will actually be paying for your product, not those who will just tell you what you want to hear (i.e. family and friends).

You need to have a clear understanding for what it is that you hope to get out of the tests, including the ultimate objectives of the experiment. One way is to talk to your customers directly by discussing with them the problems you think that they are having, and then asking them if there is anything that you are missing (or possibly wrong about) and getting them to rank the problems from 1-5. 1 is “it’d be nice if this was solved” and 5 is “absolutely need to have this problem solved and am willing to pay for it”. This way, you get the most realistic and honest feedback. Your MVP should strive to answer the following questions:

  1. Do we really understand our customers’ problem/needs?
  2. Are there enough people who either care about or have the problem/need in order to facilitate huge business?
  3. Will they care enough to tell other people they know that have the same problem/need?

Having an MVP is vital to the success of your business. If you go blindly into a business without first learning what your customers need to help them solve a problem (and are willing to pay for) or without first learning if a problem even exists in the first place, your business is almost guaranteed doomed to fail. Sorry, but that’s the way of it. MVP’s can help you determine if you are on the right track with your product or service offering or if you need to either need to make a change (minute or monumental) or stop what you’re doing all-together. By testing first, you can save you and your team potentially lots of money, time and effort if you need to make any changes or stop completely.