Design your MVP in two weeks to avoid adding unnecessary features and complexity to your offering. A two-week time box forces you to focus on essentials.
Design Your MVP In Two Weeks
Often, we see startups who are over designing their MVP. We often encourage startups to cut their MVP development time use two week time boxes. We encourage to them explore offering a workshop, service or an ebook. If they will not pay for the first step in getting to a solution – they probably will not pay for the full solution.
For example, eMOBUS first started offering their mobility management solution to businesses as a pure service. Behind the scene they crunched numbers in excel. Slowly they automated their more and more of their process. Their first MVP was a service that leveraged an Excel spreadsheet, but their customers really did not care how they were doing it, they wanted the result: a plan for adjusting their corporate cell phone plan that cut expenses. They had 5 customers before they had any software at all. They then integrated third party PDF scraper software to eliminate much of the manual work in their process. Over time they have automated more and more of the process and each time they knew exactly what was needed.
What could you offer in two weeks? Start with content or a service that lays the groundwork for a final product.
Insight/Expertise -> Content -> Service -> System Integration -> Product
Earlier we had suggested that a common evolution for an MVP was service to system integration to product. It’s now clear that expertise or insight comes first and that the initial offer can be content that explains how to solve–or at least improve–the customer’s problem or need. To the extent that this content leads to customer conversations you substantiate the need and can refine your understanding of the customer’s situation and requirements. A service offering normally comes next and allows you to continue with deeper conversations that enable a more thorough understanding. An initial service or product MVP may be a diagnostic or data collection or reporting tool that automates the collection and review of data from the customer’s business that allows both you and the customer to get a better understanding of the extent of a problem.
In “What is Content Marketing,” Jay Acunzo defines content marketing as “solving the same customer problems as your product but through media you create and distribute.” I really like this definition it’s a good place to start with creating content that will lay the groundwork for introducing your final product when it’s ready. If people are interested in reading about solutions to problem then they are likely to be interested in services and products you offer that also address it.
Another approach is to offer thought leadership, where you discern important events and trends at work in the present, predict their likely effects, and offer perspective and actionable advice in time to have an impact. This is my definition, a client asked me to define thought leadership and I pulled out this definition. I like its connotations of foresight and an orientation toward effective action compared to a number of the tastemaker / trendsetter definitions that are more focused on short term transient changes versus medium and long-term changes that improve the robustness and resilience of a business or organization.
Your content, whether it’s articles or a data sheet or a brochure, is how the prospect will first come to understand what your product or services promises to do for them. The challenge is to focus so that you can promise a relevant and differentiated benefit to your target customer–and then keep it, as promises that are kept are far more valuable than benefits that are promised but not delivered.
Normally wrapped around or leveraging both your team’s expertise and an internal technology that is the core of the contemplated product offering. Services can be customized on the fly with improvisation and experimentation and are much better at exploring customer needs than the full specification and delivery cycle for a software product, much less a hardware offering. Services can also be wrapped around hardware whether it’s “selling holes not the drill” or a sample testing service instead of a piece of analytic equipment. A service can also mask or at least simplify much of the setup involved in configuring a software product and focus on delivering specifically what the customer is willing to pay for. They also allow you to gather data on the specifics of customer needs and constraints on any final product because the customer is disclosing them to you directly in the engagement process.
This can be a “Frankenstein” approach where you glue together two or three different technologies including your own or creating an add on or plug in or template for an existing platform. This normally offers two advantages: much of the solution may already be familiar to the prospect and you don’t have to develop a whole product out of the gate, merely add your differentiated piece and then integrate it with existing already-working components. These system integration efforts can be standardized or harmonized into a whole product over time.
The reality is that even a finished product may require professional services for both configuration and customization as well as integration with other products the prospect is already using. For more complex products there is often ongoing support as part of a business relationship with the customer that guides the evolution of the feature set over time. The full product therefore requires content to explain what it does, services to configure, customize, and extend it to better meet customer needs, integration with existing infrastructure to minimize total cost of ownership and features that differentiate it from existing alternatives.