Just Launch Already! Using 'Minimum Viable Products' to Get Started
"Strive for progress, not perfection."
I know what it's like; you've got this great idea and you want to get yourself out there, but things keep stopping you from being 'ready'. Whether it's spending months on a new brand and website until it's just right, or refining your product/service to within an inch of its life.
It's fine to be a perfectionist, but it's not fine to let it hold you back and make you miss out on opportunities.
Why getting something 'out there' is important
By launching your new business/product/service as soon as possible (whether it's perfect or not) has a number of benefits...
- Gain an idea of the demand for what you're offering
- Get feedback to help you improve your offering
- Get a head start on the competition
- Create financial estimates and plan for the future
- Start building your brand following
- Save money by only developing necessary features
What is a Minimum Viable product?
It is actually a product development technique created by Lean/Agile engineering companies, but it's very relevant and useful for other businesses too.
You essentially create your product or service or business concept with the minimum possible features necessary for your customer to use and provide feedback. Then, you refine the product/service/business using that feedback (I would say 'until it's finished', but in Agile there isn't such a thing as 'finished'; there's always work to be done! But you get the gist...).
Example: The Parrot Cage Story
A marketing company were looking into popular search terms on the internet that to see if they could find a gap in the market, and they found that lots of people in the UK were searching for 'parrot cages'. In order to work out exactly how much demand there was for this product before they invested lots of money into it, they tested the waters with a Minimum Viable Product.
This involved launching Google Adwords campaigns to analyse how many clicks the Parrot Cage adverts would get, and creating a very simple website that showcased one product - a parrot cage. This website didn't actually allow customers to purchase the product (they didn't even have the product yet), but it had a 'BUY' button that allowed the company to track how many people clicked it.
Once they realised there was a huge amount of people who really wanted to buy this product, they developed a better website and actually got some stock and a warehouse etc. They knew they would make money because they tested the market, so it was a much lower risk for them to invest in this stuff.
What could an MVP be for your business?
How can you apply this to your product/service/business? Have a think about the absolute minimum you could launch with in order to get feedback or get yourself out there to create interest; it's different for everyone.
Some ideas/examples could include:
- Using existing services/products to create a 'mock up'
A local restaurant could want to launch a 'book online' service for their customers, but rather than building a costly custom booking website and finding that their customer base prefer to use the phone, they could just link to an existing 'online booking' tool, like Open Table.
- 'Sell it before you build it'
This is a pretty common version of an MVP; if you're familiar with websites like Crowdfunder or Gofundme then you'll have seen this before. Your customers essentially buy your product before you've made it, and if enough people 'pre-buy' then you can make enough money to produce the product. A pretty solid way of gauging demand!
- Start with just one product/service/offering and grow
Got plans to create a pet health brand that will sell food, treats and health supplements/chews? Start by just creating one core product - the dog food, for example, and use this product to build a following and get enough money to develop more products. Or if you want to create a beauty therapy business, start by offering just a couple of services to gauge the level of demand in your area before you add extra offerings.
- Create a landing page to collect data and build a following
If you're launching a business or product, it can be easy to get stuck at the planning stage where it seems like there's so much to do, and no one knows about you yet. Creating a landing page where you can direct interested potential customers to find more information and sign up with en email address is a small but powerful investment, and can be the best first step in building a following!