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Step-by-Step Guide to Building an MVP the Lean Way [Minimum Viable Product]

Step-by-Step Guide to Building an MVP the Lean Way [Minimum Viable Product]
Step-by-Step Guide to Building an MVP the Lean Way

Not long ago, maybe a few decades or less, businesses were built completely differently from how they're built today.

The founders would come up with an idea, plan it out, and spend months, even years in many cases building away at the product.

Today, the landscape has changed and it's no longer about who's got the best product, but who's the fastest.

Fastest to build, fastest to fail, fastest to relearn, fastest to retry and succeed.

Previously, you'd build a business and after months, nearly years of hard work, you'd release. 

If the product fails, it failed and your time was wasted.

If it succeeded, you're lucky, now let's keep growing.

Fortunately, I can't shed too much light on how business was done decades ago since I haven't reached my second decade on this Earth as of yet.

However, what I can tell you all about is the process of building a business in today's landscape.

Today, we're at an advantage compared to a few decades, or even a few years back.

Not long ago, the only people who owned tech businesses were either the rich, or it was those who learned to program.

Today, even someone with 0 experience and knowledge in coding can start a tech business - not as elegantly as everyone else, but it's the effort that counts.

Hawk Prospecting was built by myself over a 3-4 week timeframe with no knowledge about coding.

I gave myself 2 weeks but it took a little longer to build and even longer to launch due to all the procrastination that came with it.

What's different today than a few decades ago? Why are we able to build so much faster?

Simple - technology has advanced drastically, bringing with it massive innovation and opportunity for business owners or soon-to-be business owners.

Part of this innovation has enabled a somewhat recent idea - the MVP.

What is an MVP?

The MVP, also known as the minimum viable product, is the simplest version of your product/idea, the version with the least amount of features needed to be functional.

The MVP can then be given to early users who provide feedback and pave the way for future product development leading up to mass-market adoption.

Hawk Prospecting is currently in an MVP stage - it's not mobile-friendly, because I didn't want to spend a ton of time making it mobile-friendly because lots of people will not be using it on their phones.

I understood the tradeoff I had to make, people may view it on their phones and not sign up due to a bad UI, however, this tradeoff saved me a month's worth of time.

Aside from this, Hawk Prospecting performs a lot of the basic features it needs to perform without having the other complicated 'nice-to-haves.'

For example, you're able to find your prospect's contact information from Facebook and LinkedIn - this is the most important part of the app.

We're working on a bulk lookup, and there also is no Chrome Extension, however, I'd argue that one is not currently needed, especially at an MVP stage.

What types of MVPs are there?

There are a few types of MVPs which I'll outline to you below.

  • The Concierge MVP - manually fulfilling your service to find out if the market wants it
  • The Wizard of Oz MVP - has some system's tasks carried out by real people to mimic a system or process
  • The Landing Page MVP - a page to see if people sign up or show interest
  • The Email MVP - send emails manually to do your learning that way

I'll cover these in more detail in another article, however, today we're discussing the process you need to adopt to build an MVP the right way.

This will ensure you save both time and energy building a product no one wants.

We're going to be working through a process that, when executed correctly, works 100% of the time.

Let's begin!

Do your research

Step-by-Step Guide to Building an MVP the Lean Way [Minimum Viable Product]

The first thing you're going to want to make sure of is that you've done the necessary research.

You'll want to have looked into your market, their pain points, and got an idea of the sort of problems you're looking to solve.

You may want to adopt similar steps to the ones we mentioned in the article on product/market fit.

The purpose of this research is to find out what the idea will eventually be.

If you've already figured out an idea, you can move on to the next step below.

If you haven't figured out your idea, you will need to do the necessary research to figure out what you'll be building.

Find a specific market with a problem - every market has unmet problems, and so it's only a matter of what you're good at or what you're interested in.

The article on finding your niche is a crucial read here.

It explains why interests and strengths outweigh passion.

It also outlines how you'll eventually niche down to a small segment in your market - a segment where the current alternatives may not be serving.

Search through forums, Facebook groups, Quora, etc, to find trends and patterns in people's questions and complaints.

Once you know your target audience, their problems, you can then start ideating and thinking about what the idea will look like.

Plan the MVP

Step-by-Step Guide to Building an MVP the Lean Way [Minimum Viable Product]

Next, you'll want to plan out how your MVP will look like, the features it will have, the way it will work, and ultimately, which MVP type you want to go for.

When I pursued my previous idea, Condensr, I had built out a landing page MVP.

I simply created a landing page on Wix which told people what Condensr is, explained its benefits, its strengths, and had a simple email field for those who wanted to sign up.

Those who signed up were essentially signing up to get a month's worth of listening for free.

You're able to choose any MVP that works for you.

The reason I chose the landing page MVP was that it provided the closest thing to validation aside from getting paid.

If people signed up, they're essentially interested in paying for or using the product once it's released.

Next, you'll want to set up some design parameters, and user flow ideas.

How will the MVP look like, how would it feel like, and how would people be able to use it?

If you check Hawk Prospecting's site, I'm sure you'd agree that it looks great on desktop view.

I have similar colours throughout the site and it all flows as you browse the site.

Some may argue that you're better off just building the bare bones of the business and launching, however, you're going to have a tough time getting users.

People don't want to test out garbage, they want to test out something that works and has the potential to solve their problems.

That brings us on to the next point - make sure that your MVP is as simple to use as possible.

When people sign up to Hawk Prospecting, they're immediately taken to a page with an input and a button.

There are more features or buttons on the page, however, the main focus is the input in the middle.

You simply insert a link and you get the contact info back.

Very simple to use which is always a bonus for users.

So sit down and start making a mindmap - come up with the single most important feature or set of features needed to make the MVP usable.

Think of what your MVP will look like in terms of its design. What will the flow look like?

Finally, what sort of MVP will you be building?

For more complicated businesses, you can try the landing page MVP or the concierge MVP.

Think through your idea and decide on the MVP type you'll build out.

Don't get too caught up in the choices you have.

Just choose one MVP type that would work best for your product or service - usually, you should pick the one that's easiest to build.

Build the MVP

Step-by-Step Guide to Building an MVP the Lean Way [Minimum Viable Product]

Here's where the fun begins.

Once you've figured out what your plan is, you'll get an idea of what is needed to bring the MVP to life.

If it's a simple landing page, you can use any one of the hundreds of site builders out there to build it.

For Condensr, I used Wix since it's one of the simplest to use.

You can code it, you can use no-code tools to build it, and so on.

If you're going for a concierge MVP, you don't need to do much to build it.

The aim of building the MVP is not to make it perfect but to get it ready to be released and tested.

If you're unable to build an MVP yourself, there are thousands of development teams that can help you do this.

The only problem with this is that you'll most likely be spending a lot more than you'd like.

For Hawk Prospecting, I was able to save upwards of $50,000 on the MVP.

If you're a bootstrapped business, which a lot of us will be, you're not going to be able to opt-in for an option like this.

I found this sort of pricing absurd, however, I didn't want to give up on the idea of Hawk Prospecting.

Luckily, I figured out how to build Hawk Prospecting's MVP after a ton of research.

Here's an article on learning anything 10X faster - it should help you if you're looking to go down a similar path as me.

Launch the MVP

Step-by-Step Guide to Building an MVP the Lean Way [Minimum Viable Product]

You've done a bunch of research and found who you're going to be serving, what their problems are, and identified an idea that aims to solve those problems.

You've then sat down and planned through the MVP.

You've got your branding, even your messaging set.

You've got the user flow mapped out.

You even put everything into action and built out the whole MVP. 

The only thing left to do now is to launch the product and get to work.

This is often a very scary thing to do, however, it's inevitable.

You've spent time building the product, now you've got to launch it.

Thoughts are brewing up in your head - will it fail? Will it succeed? Will people like it? Will people buy it?

There's only one way to find out and that's by launching it.

I spent a few days before I finally made the decision to launch Hawk Prospecting - I was scared to find out what the results will be.

If you used some of the ideas from this article on coming up with a business idea, you may have spent time talking to and validating your business idea.

This will add assurance that people will be interested in your business.

However, the only way to be sure that people want the solution you've built is if they put money down to buy it.

Therefore, if you haven't collected any pre-payments, you'll need to release your product and see if people buy it.

Hawk Prospecting has a free forever plan that provides 10 searches per month.

This plan enables my early users to try out the software and provide their feedback.

Feedback is the most important thing for an MVP - without feedback, you can't move forward.

So launch the MVP and go out and find your early users or clients to help you test the product.

You can try some of the strategies I've outlined in the article on client acquisition.

In the early days, you shouldn't be spending money on acquiring users because you probably won't be making money yourself.

Therefore, organic outbound strategies will work best.

Iterate the MVP

Step-by-Step Guide to Building an MVP the Lean Way [Minimum Viable Product]

You've done something that not a lot of people do - you've launched a business.

There are a ton of people who only dream of owning their own business but you've actually done it.

You can be proud of yourself, no matter the results. 

There's good news that I want to share with you.

Now that you've built the business and launched it, the only thing left to do is figure out how to make it attractive to your target audience.

When we launched the MVP, we launched it with the intent to find users that will help us validate the solution, demystify some of our assumptions, and improve the product in general.

By now we should have users or better yet, some feedback.

The feedback will act as a Northstar for your iteration process.

However, you'll need to remember that not all feedback is good feedback, it's your job as the founder or builder to filter out the good feedback from the bad feedback.

Some feedback will be crucial and helpful through the iteration process.

The rest will be feedback that you need to take with a pinch of salt or completely disregard - that's because users are bad at telling you what they want.

You may get a lot of 'nice-to-haves' as feedback, for example, "I think that you should have a sign-in with Google/Facebook feature."

This is completely pointless and something you shouldn't rush to implement.

However, something like "You should add a save feature so user's search results are saved for next time," could be a feature worth looking into.

You want to adopt the 'build, measure, learn' feedback loop.

You build a feature, measure its effects and results in the market, learn from it, and repeat the process.

Keep repeating this process until your MVP has reached the stage of product/market fit.

At this point, you're ready to release your product to the mass market and start scaling.

That was the step-by-step guide to building an MVP the lean way.

We didn't spend months or years building just to leave everything to luck.

We built, we measured and tested, and we learned.

If you're interested in learning more about the lean methodology, I recommend reading 'The Lean Startup,' by Eric Ries.

Did you find this article useful?

If so, please comment your thoughts below and share this with others in your network. 

Till next time,



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