A functional version of a product that draws early adopters in to validate the idea, provide feedback, and use their reactions to inform future product iterations.
First, you build it, then you collect and measure data and learn what the customer and market want.
The product should be valuable to consumers who might use it or purchase it.
Why Use It
Like the scientific method, the framework can validate your hypothesis, and by testing a product early, you avoid lengthy and unnecessary work.
The key is to reduce the time and money spent bringing a product to market and employ users’ responses to challenge or validate your original assumptions.
It’s conducive to uncovering new opportunities rather than remaining fixated on one possible solution or business model.
And in some cases, it removes the cost of developing an entire product that does not work well for the target customer and must be abandoned because it is not profitable.
When to Use It
A minimum product is primarily helpful in evaluating a new idea. Watching how people interact with a product is more effective than asking them about a hypothetical one.
The approach allows you to:
- Acquire early adopters
- Observe user behavior
- Accelerate learning
- Guide improvements
- Craft the product intentionally
- Build your brand
Testing the potential profitability is imperative, and you can be more confident by developing a reverse income statement:
- Calculate the income required
- Estimate the cost of a new product
- Conduct a trial to see whether users are willing to pay
- Review your model against the test’s output
If other similar products are already successful or profitable, market validation is unnecessary. Instead, focus research on a unique approach and move forward with a product that meets the market’s needs.
How to Use It
First, determine the objectives and goals for your minimum product. What purpose does it serve?
Ask yourself what you want to accomplish and any other project considerations:
- Do you expect a critical mass of users for the idea to function?
- Do you hope to attract users from an adjacent market?
- Do you need to realize a certain amount of revenue per consumer or transaction?
- Do you have any limitations on time or resources?
If the idea fits your goals or an organization’s strategic goals, continue moving forward.
Choosing what to build is an output of identifying the problems you want to solve:
- It begins with a product vision: a hypothesis or idea that solves a consumer’s problem.
- This step can involve user research, competitive analysis, surveys, or focus groups.
- Then a judgment about the minimum requirements to test in your chosen market.
- A product can be bare bones. When it comes to an app, it can be a landing page or service that appears to have automation even though it’s using human capital instead.
Execute the plan and release the product to garner feedback:
- Implicit feedback is your customers’ data and behaviors.
- Explicit feedback is the direct conversation with customers to understand what they like, dislike, and want.
Use implicit and explicit feedback to iterate and refine the product. If multiple solutions present themselves, use A/B or multivariate testing to see which approach works best.
There’s a world of acronyms that describe all types of minimum products:
- MVP // Minimum Viable Product: The original term from Lean Startup methodology. It’s the barest functionality to launch a product and receive a reaction, the critical word being viable.
- MLP // Minimum Loveable Product: Similar to the above, but focuses on what customers will love. In essence, it strives to deliver features that will elicit a strong emotional reaction.
- MAP // Minimum Awesome Product: Sames as MLP above.
- MVE // Minimum Viable Experience: The focus is on how the experience makes a customer feel, and beyond just product includes marketing, sales, and support. The aim is to build the brand and encourage retention.
- MMP // Minimum Marketable Product: The emphasis is on profitability and developing a sellable product that will have immediate ROI (return on investment). Sometimes an MMP is a collection of several minimum products.
- MSP // Minimum Sellable Product: Same as MMP above.
- MMF // Minimum Marketable Feature: Similar to above, but focused on releasing a new or wanted improvement.
- SLC // Simple Loveable Complete: More in common with an MLP, it focuses on addressing an overall need rather than a pain point and only delivers something that satiates a user entirely.
A minimum product can mean different things in a given context and can be either a prototype or a robust platform. There’s a world of difference between a Fortune 100 company and a startup testing something new with real users.
How to Misuse It
Completing a minimum product and releasing it to users is the starting point, not an end in itself. Folks can fall victim to their success by assessing their work as complete before iterating and improving it.
In contrast, you can receive enough negative feedback from a new release that it can be hard to recover.
And sometimes, an early product release can be imitated by competitors before you can penetrate the market.
Minimum is the keyword when ideating a product using the framework, and as you think about your upcoming project, the central concept to take to heart.
How will you begin to receive feedback from your audience early and use it to shape your work?
Where it Came From
The term Minimum Viable Product was coined in 2001 by Frank Robinson. Steve Blank expanded on the concept with his customer development methodology. Later it was incorporated into and popularized by Eric Ries’ 2011 “The Lean Startup.”
What Are Mental Models?
Mental models are thinking tools that help guide and shape our perceptions of the world. They simplify complexity so we can understand life better, make decisions confidently, and solve problems.