Once upon a time in an alternate faraway fairy-tale world, a young princess was invited to an amazing ball. It was a fantastic opportunity to make her mark that came along all too rarely and one she knew, deep down, she just had to take. She spent weeks meticulously planning the evening: from telling people she’d be there, to making her big entrance, her dress, accessories and transport – everything geared towards creating the very best impression she could.
But as the big day approached, things started to go wrong. She was let down by her online orders, the new dress order was cancelled, her shoes arrived not exactly as described on the website, not to mention her Uber turned up an hour late on the evening of the ball! Her friends all agreed she’d be fine but she still ummed and ahhed about pulling out of the ball completely. In the end, she decided to go as she didn’t want to let down the very people she was so keen to impress. Nervously she walked in, unsure of the reception that would greet her. In her mind, she was far from the image of the perfect princess she had envisioned all those weeks ago when she was first invited. But no-one noticed her mis-matched jewellery, or the dress she had worn last year, or even her late arrival. Conversations and compliments flowed, but no-one mentioned any of the things she had been so worried about.
So, as all good fairy tales go, the story had a happy ending: the princess had had a great time, she had learned a lot from the experience (where NOT to buy shoes from, to make sure she had back-up transport) and she now knew that her presence and appearance were more than ‘good enough’ for the occasion.
With hindsight, it’s easy to say she made the right decision to go to the ball despite her last minute doubts. It’s just a fairy tale with a happy ending, but when it comes to taking the plunge with your own new promotion or service, when is it ‘good enough’ to launch and how can you feel brave enough to do it? How do you define your own MVP (Minimum Viable Promotion)? What are the benefits of an MVP and what do you risk if you delay releasing it? Finally, what can you do to lessen the risks before you launch?
What is an MVP?
An MVP (Minimum Viable Promotion) is a version of an offer which includes only the “must have” features to meet customers’ immediate needs and whose early feedback will be used to improve its future development. An MVP (Minimum Viable Promotion) sits at the heart of agile marketing – similar to an MVP in agile software development (where P stands for product).
Creating an MVP is useful when launching a new offer or product as it’s impossible to forecast accurately what will work or resonate with prospective buyers. There’s no point wasting a lot of time, effort and money on something that won’t work and the sooner you discover whether your idea will work or not, the better. Start small, focus on your learnings and improve on the idea incrementally over time as you learn from how it lands with your audience. Agile marketers embrace failure of an MVP as long as lessons are learned which can be used in the future to keep improving results. And if your assumptions don’t work out, then you can quit while you’re ahead without having invested disproportionately on it.
How can an MVP work for me?
For example, you’ve got (what you think is) a great idea to launch a new awesome app for lead generation. But to put all that functionality into an app when you’re not sure how it will go down with your prospective audience could be expensive and is likely to be time-consuming too.
An MVP will minimise the risk by keeping your investment small and helping you quickly discover what works and what doesn’t. So why not communicate the app’s concept through an MVP to see how it lands? Social ads would be a relatively inexpensive and quick way to do this – so you could see the likes and shares you got on the ads to decide if it would be worthwhile developing the app further.
You can react to your prospects’ feedback – if it looks like the offer is getting some traction, listen and learn to their responses, adapt the offer accordingly and release it again. A launch could be a beta launch to staff and an internal community or a full blown external release to customers. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect at this stage – it just needs to be ‘good enough.’
Pros of an MVP
A strong MVP only has the features needed to solve the problem your business is targeting. There’s no need for bells and whistles at this stage. For example, if you decide to start communicating the initial concept in a simple blog or a post, there’s no need to include videos or graphic animation (or other things that take up both time and budget) at this stage. If the concept goes down well, you could take it to the next level by developing the idea as a download or a video. It’s a great way to put your assumptions to the test in the real world and to get a feel for how the market will respond, as well as building a future customer base.
Cons of MVPs
So why isn’t everyone launching MVPs all the time? Probably because the biggest risk in launching a half-baked MVP is a big one – disappointing customers. Who wants an unfinished offer, product or service that only does the minimum to solve a problem? Could releasing an MVP hurt your chances of market success later down the line?
So how do you make an MVP work?
An MVP sounds like a great idea – especially when there’s the inevitable pressure from above on getting things done quickly – but in reality, when it comes to the actual launch, team members struggle to agree on what exactly the MVP must be before it is released. Often heavily invested in the project, some are looking for unrealistic (and arguably unnecessary) perfection, not to mention 100% agreement across the team before launching.
Tips on making your MVP work for you:
- Firstly, have a clear vision of your goal. An MVP is an early step in learning how to develop an offer or product that will perform well in the marketplace. The aim is to give immediate value to early users while keeping risk and costs down. Be really clear on what users’ need your MVP is targeting? Which (minimal) features are your users looking for to address this need? Where does your solution fit within the marketplace? Then commit to leveraging customer feedback to continuously improve the MVP. Capture this through interviews and surveys and also by analysing your own website traffic and engagement.
- Clarify among your team before you start what you really mean by the terms ‘minimum’ and ‘viable.’
In an MVP, ‘minimum’ refers to the simplest version that your product or service can be. It’s more than a prototype and definitely does not mean just a version you ‘can get away with’ purely to get customer feedback! ‘Minimum’ is the basic core function needed to solve a problem easily and effectively.
The MVP also has to be ‘viable.’ Is the offer high enough quality to give an accurate idea of whether people will use it or not – what is the business viability of it? Does the MVP actually solve the problem it is addressing and is there really a market need for it?
- Embrace the uncertainty! Having the right mindset is vital to developing a successful MVP as uncertainty and doubt often lie at every stage – pushing teams out of their comfort zone and making the MVP concept hard to implement. Launching a successful MVP calls for a plan built around a strategy of learning as well as a clear vision and thorough research. A willingness to listen to quality feedback without getting distracted by unimportant details will also help you build a more customer-focused product or service.
- Remember that the MVP is not your final version – it’s part of the discovery process as you are building that product/service. It’s not something you just build and leave alone. It’s the simplest version of it – the starting point of what it will ultimately become as you learn more. Commit to listening to and acting on the great feedback provided by your early users.
- Agree on a system with your team at the beginning of the process. Is 6/10 good enough to launch? Or does it need to rate 8/10? If your colleagues believe the MVP has ’got legs’ then is it good enough to release? Be sure that everyone is on the same page.
Asked “at what point are you 100% happy and ready to launch an MVP,” some marketers might say ‘never!’ However, having a strong vision and product, a willingness to listen and adapt to customer feedback, plus a system in place to lessen risks at the launch will enable you to create the best version of your product in the shortest time possible.