March 4, 2019

What is a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)? | Why and How to Build One

Starting a business? You need an MVP — that’s a minimum viable product, not a most valuable player. Of course, a minimum viable product can help you become a top-performing player in your market, but that comes a little later on.

So What Does Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Actually Mean?

An MVP in the business world is a product with just enough features to satisfy early adopters in the market, achieve product-market fit and provide feedback for future product development. In the research and development phase of your product lifecycle, hitting MVP is the primary goal.

Even if you have a long-term vision of what your product will look like when it’s fully built out, releasing the first, limited iteration of your product — the MVP — can give you insight into the way that consumers use and think about your product before spending the time, money and effort to develop it completely.

It might sound counterintuitive to let customers get their hands on an imperfect, limited product when you’re still trying to build trust and viability in the market, but there’s a common saying in the SaaS industry: release before you’re ready.

By building and releasing a product in need of further refinement, you can learn from early feedback and understand how best to optimize that product to meet the market demand. At the very least, you can avoid the sunk cost of fully developing a product that won’t succeed.

In other words, don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

Why? MVP Can Help You Capture the Market Before Your Competitors Do

Instead of waiting until your product is perfect, introduce it into the market and get people to start using it as quickly as possible. This not only provides critical feedback for you to learn from in later stages of development but also gives you the chance to beat your competitors to the market.

We know that customers typically purchase from the brands and salespeople who reach them first; in fact, salespeople are seven times likelier to have meaningful conversations with decision-makers if they respond within the first hour of receiving a lead. So if you can develop your MVP and satisfy an existing need faster than your competitors, you’re more likely to win.

But because there is a certain level of risk involved with releasing a new product, there are a few things you want to nail down first as part of your go-to-market strategy.

Download our Go-to-Market Strategy Checklist to make sure you don't miss a step  as you bring your product to market.

How to Develop and Release Your MVP

Even before the research and development phase, think about which challenges or pains exist in the market and how you can solve for those challenges. Do your due diligence to understand the market, get a good sense of the competition and talk to would-be consumers prior to the release.

Ask these consumers questions like:

  • What challenges do you currently face when doing X?

  • If we released a product that did X, would you purchase it?

  • If you had a product that did X, how would you use it?

Based on the answers to these questions, you can get an idea of the current demand for your product, the viability of a business model based on that demand and the feasibility of actually developing a product that meets this demand.

Once you’ve introduced the product and have a certain amount of users, solicit as much feedback as you possibly can to understand whether or not you’re delivering the right features to satisfy the market need. Understanding how these early users interact with your product, what they love and hate about it and how much value they’re getting out of it will help you refine it later on.

MVP: Move Fast and Break Things

Mark Zuckerberg once said, “when you allow yourself to build imperfect systems, you start to work differently  —  faster, more ambitiously.”

Breaking into the market with your MVP is the perfect way to learn about your customers, your product and your overall development direction moving forward. It will probably be messy, and you might even realize that you’ve built the wrong product and you need to start from scratch.

But if you’re too risk-averse, you’ll never manage to start a company in the first place. By building your MVP, releasing it into the market and learning from the feedback you receive, you can set the foundation for a more successful, more satisfying product in the future.


Guido Bartolacci

Guido is Head of Product and Growth Strategy for New Breed. He specializes in running in-depth demand generation programs internally while assisting account managers in running them for our clients.


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