Yesterday, we were discussing the step-by-step guide to building a lean MVP.
We touched on the point that there are essentially four different types of minimum viable products - all of which will be explained in this article.
A lot of entrepreneurs are familiar with the term 'MVP' or 'minimum viable product,' however, they don't understand the (main) four different ways of building one.
Many people assume that building an MVP has to involve some sort of code, some sort of tangible, usable product.
This is far from the truth.
To fully understand this, however, we first need to remind ourselves of what an MVP really is.
Recap: What is an MVP (minimum viable product)?
An MVP is a version of your product or idea with just enough features to be usable by early users and testers.
Hawk Prospecting, my latest startup, is at an MVP stage.
The main features of the product are available for use - being able to search for your prospect's contact information.
There are a bunch of other features I could have built before launching:
A bulk lookup feature, which is coming soon.
Integrations with CRMs or other software.
A Chrome extension - which is not entirely necessary right now.
Make it mobile-friendly - I assumed most people in my audience will be on their desktops.
However, if I had built out all those features, it could have taken me another month or two to launch - I have no coding experience and so it would have been very difficult to learn to build complex features like that.
That's what an MVP is - it's not supposed to replicate your final product, the final idea.
It's supposed to help you map out what the final product should look like without wasting time or resources.
Jeff Bezos started Amazon not to sell books online, but to make it what it is today - an online monopoly.
However, Amazon also started as an MVP - Jeff took a singular product that he thought lots of people liked - books, and decided to sell only books.
Eventually, Jeff learned that his customers wanted to buy more things online, that's when he started introducing more and more products.
Almost 30 years later, we have the largest company in the world.
Every great business starts as a small, scrappy startup.
Let's begin talking about the 4 types of minimum viable products so you can build the next big thing.
The Concierge MVP
The concierge MVP is exactly what it sounds like.
The concierge MVP is when you manually do what your product offers to users as a way to validate whether or not people want this type of service.
For example, let's say Hawk Prospecting was not yet built.
The concierge service would be one of the fastest ways to get the MVP up and running.
All I'd need to do is go and find people looking for this specific service, and tell them that I'll find their prospect's contact information for them.
They may give me a list of LinkedIn leads, which I will then go out and search for throughout the internet to find pieces of information regarding those prospects.
No software is needed, not a single line of code written.
If you're looking to get right into the business and waste no time, this will be your best and fastest bet.
The great part about this is that you're able to charge people for the service without building out anything.
If people are willing to pay for your concierge MVP, they may be willing to pay for your final product.
With this approach, you're able to learn all about your target customers.
You may even figure out that the customers you're targeting are not your ideal audience and so a pivot into a different niche would be necessary.
This sort of interaction can help you learn all you need about your customers, which is the most important part because your customers will be paying for your service, your assumptions will not.
Before you jump into the concierge MVP, there are also some disadvantages that you'll need to know about.
Mainly, that the concierge MVP may not be a direct reflection of what the final product will look and feel like.
Whilst the concierge MVP may work really well and your customers really like it, the final product may be underwhelming to them.
Once the product is built, you'll still need to do more testing so you might want to hold your horses and check out your other options.
As an introvert, this may also sound like an absurd thing to do - but not to worry, this isn't the only way to build a business.
The Wizard of Oz MVP
Once again, it might not be very hard to gauge what this sort of MVP looks like.
If you've seen the Wizard of Oz movie, you'll get a better idea of exactly why this MVP is called The Wizard of Oz.
See, the Wizard of Oz MVP is an MVP where the inner workings of the idea or product are hidden from the consumers.
Let me give you an example that will blow your mind.
In 1999, Nick Swinmurn came up with the idea to sell shoes online.
The idea of selling things online was still recent and so he was not sure if this would be an idea worth pursuing.
Instead of building out the entire operations from scratch, he decided to try a cheeky little strategy to see how people reacted.
He made a little site on the internet and started to advertise shoes on there.
Where's the trick?
Well, Nick didn't actually have the shoes, what he had done is he had gone to his local shoe store and taken pictures of the shoes in the store.
He then returned home and uploaded those images onto the website to see if people would be interested in buying them.
All of a sudden, the shoes started selling and he had to go back to the store, buy the shoes, and deliver them to the customers.
10 years later, Amazon acquired the business, known as Zappos, for $1.2 billion.
Again, something so small managed to become a billion-dollar company.
From a customer's point of view, Zappos (at that point) seemed to be a fully functional business with systems and processes.
What they didn't know is that the owner, Nick Swinmurn, was going around taking pictures, posting them, and delivering - all manually!
There are a few reasons you might opt-in for the Wizard of Oz MVP.
You'd be able to set it up within a day or two giving you all the time and freedom necessary to go out and start testing with early users.
Everything that happens on your site will be real feedback and data you can use because people will be interacting with something they think is a real product.
Therefore, this could be one of the most effective ways of pulling off validation for your business.
This can easily apply to something like clothing brands or product brands.
With the power of print-on-demand, you can set up a store in minutes, with product images without needing to hold inventory.
Once someone buys, you print and send it to them through the PoD company.
Same goes for dropshipping too.
The only downside to the Wizard of Oz MVP is that it could be difficult to scale the business.
However, as Brian Chesky says, "Do things that don't scale."
The Landing Page MVP
The landing page MVP is my favorite sort of MVP for a few reasons.
It's an introvert's dream to be able to validate a business idea without needing to personally interact with people.
[Recommended read: How to get out of your comfort zone and start seeing results]
On top of this, it's a very simple, easy way to get people to sign up for your product.
All you need to build the landing page MVP is a landing page that describes your business and collects emails if people are interested.
When I was working on Condensr, I tried the landing page MVP.
I had just spent $2000 building the wireframes of the product and so I didn't want to spend more on building the MVP.
This was one of my biggest mistakes.
However, instead of doing nothing, I decided to build a landing page that explained how Condesnr worked, what it did, why it's different, and had a small field at the top of the page for users to sign up.
If they signed up, they would have got access to Condensr for 30 days without needing to pay a dime.
Interestingly enough, I was getting quite a lot of sign-ups, however, at the end of it all, I came to the decision that it wasn't going to be worth pursuing.
A successful business that started of as just a landing page was Buffer - the social media scheduling software.
Joel, the founder, started out by building a very simple landing page that had 3 steps - they outlined how Buffer worked.
A simple feature that all social media platforms should have turned into a $1m+/month business.
Next to those was a button with the plans and pricing.
When people pressed on it, they were taking to a page that said they're launching soon and had an email submission field.
Once this started seeing some traction, Joel decided to add a real pricing page.
He wanted to learn how much people will pay for this.
So he added a screen in between those two to measure which plans people pressed on.
Once they pressed on a plan, they were taken to the email submission page again.
There are a bunch of reasons why you might choose to go with the landing page MVP, aside from the fact that you're an introvert.
Firstly, you're able to build a landing page within an hour or two if you really put your head down and started working.
Condensr was built on Wix within a few hours.
Secondly, you can easily test different product messaging to see what leads to more email sign-ups.
That way, you can perfect your messaging before building a product.
Finally, the emails you collect are all qualified leads who are interested in a product like this - the more steps in your landing page, the more qualified they are.
You can then reach out to these leads and ask for feedback, early testing, or to interview and ask them questions.
I know how good this sounds but wait...
Visitors are just visitors - they may submit emails by accident, they may forget they submitted, they may not even be interested in the product.
You'll only truly know people are interested if they pay - that's why the second page, the pricing page, that Joel added for Buffer was smart.
Even though the buttons didn't work, clicking them still showed some sort of intent.
It's your choice whether you make the decision to use the landing page MVP, or go in for another one.
The Email MVP
Finally, the email MVP is a great way to get your value proposition in front of a large number of people.
If you're someone who already has a list of emails, maybe from your blog, or even an existing business, you can use this list to your advantage.
Simply send an email with the value proposition of your new business or feature and see how people react.
If people react positively, then you'll know that the feature or product is good and that your value proposition resonates well with them.
If the replies are poor, then you'll know it's either your messaging or the product is not something worth pursuing.
Emails are a fast and free way to get in front of your audience.
Did you know that people spend around 5.6 hours per weekday in their inbox?
That's almost three-quarters out of a workday spent on emails alone.
However, there is an underlying issue with emails.
People don't like responding to emails - sort of counterintuitive if you ask me.
spending 6 hours on emails but not replying?
On top of this, a lot of times, emails can get lost - the average person receives 121 emails a day making it very easy for yours to disappear into the abyss.
What do you think?
Which MVP will you be trying for your business?
In my opinion, the landing page MVP and the Wizard of Oz MVP are the most effective.
You're able to quickly set up a page and start getting real users visiting and buying or submitting.
You can then follow up with these people to see what made them buy, why they bought, and ask for any feedback.
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