How to build and test a minimum viable product.
Having successfully completed stages one and two of the innovation process, and having generated several innovative business ideas and business plans, you now face the truly important stage; bringing your ideas to life.
You may find yourself sitting at your desk with a mammoth pile of idea-laden sticky notes in front of you, and an imaginary light bulb flashing above your head, but no concrete evidence to prove the newly devised business ideas will be successful or generate any interest in the market.
So let’s say you are at the moment you think you are onto a winning idea; that “Ahh-Ha Moment”; you and your team believe the innovation has the potential to send your organisation straight to the top. What next?
The first objective we need clarity on is what the public will think, those who buy the product, but do not think in the same “business-minded” way as you – what do they think of the idea?
Will they support it? Will they see the same value in it as you do?
If they don’t, what is the point of bringing the innovation to life?
So, before starting on a 56 page business plan, before showing up at the bank looking for funding for what you believe to be the product or idea of the century, it is important that you have proof this product is truly really as good as it seems.
But how do you test if it doesn’t even exist yet? You need to create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). I’m sure you’ve heard this term being used a bit lately, but perhaps you aren’t completely certain what it is.
Building an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) involves developing your product to a point where people can understand what it is with the minimum amount of investment of time and money by you.
A great example of how an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) has been used is when Dropbox were just at concept stage, believed in what they were doing and needed to raise some capital to get things off the ground. They launched this conceptual explainer video of what they wanted to create, onto YouTube to garner some public interest. I don’t know exactly but I believe within 74 hours they had over 75,000 expressions of interest which they promptly took to the banks and raised the money they needed to start the business!
So the aim is to design or build a model of the product as cheaply and quickly as possible, so the public can begin to conceptualise the innovation, and you can begin to test its value in the market.
Phase one testing of the prototype I believe should be to simply step outside of your normal work place and ask the people around you. Yes friends, family (but be careful, make sure they are being honest with you), well-known customers, partners and staff, as well as those from other industry colleagues who are not familiar with your specific area of business; they will be able to give you an initial sounding board as to whether the product has legs. Listen closely to their tone, their body language and hopefully their keen interest and questions.
You may not have completed your full blown MVP (Minimum Viable Product) just yet, simply asking around is sufficient at this point.
Next, you need to seek some real market feedback.
This can be done once you’ve completed a more substantial MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This could come in many forms; a conceptual video as outlined above, a web landing page telling your story, or perhaps an online kick starter or similar fundraising campaign. If your product is of a physical nature, perhaps you actually build a prototype then take it to trade fairs or similar, go to a busy public location and ask for feedback. The possibilities are endless but they all have the ability to put you in touch with people in the real world, who will then advise you if the product is something they would be interested in.
The Beauty of it is that not only are you receiving feedback, you also have the opportunity to gain some “Pre-Sales” if your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is advanced enough.
At this stage, you may be reading this and thinking, “hang on, isn’t this a bit counterintuitive? How can I advertise something I haven’t physically got to sell yet?”
And yes, I’ll admit it is a bit counterintuitive. However at the rapid rate the business environment is evolving nowadays, you simply cannot afford to manufacture something and then wait for demand; you need to be much more certain there will be a customer base before production begins.
Don’t wait until everything is 100% perfect, go to market early and find out what they think!
It is important to remember that during this testing & feedback phase, you are not necessarily looking for a solid “yes” or “no”. You are looking more so for feedback, to feed the ongoing cycle of build, test, refine, test, refine, test, refine. This approach will see you develop the most market-ready prototype possible.
As was previously mentioned, I believe there is no use having the funds to produce the product if you don’t have confirmation from the target market that it will be accepted.
So at all stages of the testing, look to refine and change your product or concept on the fly. It is much better to have touched base with potential consumers, and have a list of people to later tell “hey, here it is do you want to buy it,” than be waiting around with boxes of well-manufactured merchandise and a tumbleweed rolling around in front of you, with not a single soul interested in your product.
Testing and refining needs to become an embedded part of your business culture. Your product or business will never be perfect, accept that, but always strive for it.
What’s next? Step 4 – The Launch is what we will talk about next. So stay tuned.
BizScaping is a Boutique Business Coaching Enterprise focused on Real Action and Real Results. You can follow our Blog here or reach out to us if you’d like to know more about how to take your existing or new Business in a better direction. #outsourceyourstrategy. BizScaping has a specialised program called Rapid Prototype Development;a 3 hour workshop to assist businesses develop their ideas into reality.