A Guide for Building, Launching, and Learning From a Minimum Viable Product

All the actionable stuff I wish I had known earlier in my career

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Updated 9/22/2020

Since the beginning of 2019, I’ve written several posts about the concept of Minimum Viable Product, everything from what an MVP is for and how to do it to what you can expect to learn from it.

The lessons in these posts are taken from my own experience as a full-time entrepreneur over the last 20+ years, plus several advisory positions I’ve held, as well as time spent on the phone and over email answering questions from dozens of entrepreneurs who have reached out to me.

It’s my hope that others can learn from the mistakes I’ve made and seen, as well as the wins. So here they are, in order of when they should happen in the MVP process.

The Myth of Minimum Viable Product

What It’s About: This is a primer on the purpose and the misconceptions of an MVP.

Focus: Splitting out the core of the MVP — those components of the product that are meant to be tested for viability — from the infrastructure around the MVP — what makes up how it’s offered, delivered, and supported.

Action: The core of the MVP must be robust. The infrastructure is what should be minimized, and it must also be flexible, so that those aspects can be changed on the fly to test different theories.

Read: The Myth of Minimum Viable Product

Should You Build a Minimum Viable Product?

What It’s About: This explains the difference between a Proof of Concept (in this case, a mockup), and an MVP.

Focus: A specific example of a founder who has had to delay his MVP launch but still needs to get his idea in front of customers. Guidelines are given as to how a less expensive POC can act like an MVP, with examples for building a POC that can be used to generate feedback.

Action: You don’t necessarily need an MVP to sell a product or to prove its viability, and in most cases a POC can do just that.

Read: Should You Build a Minimum Viable Product?

How To Build a Minimum Viable Product Without Any Code

What It’s About: This is a guide to building a low-code MVP, which is a concept that sits somewhere between a Proof of Concept and a full-blown MVP.

Focus: Low code as an option for both technical and non-technical founding teams alike, and the benefits that a low-code MVP creates in terms of time to market, flexibility, and cost.

Action: Tech and automation should be built after the learning process, not before, in order to ensure what’s being built is what customers ultimately want.

Read: How To Build a Minimum Viable Product Without Any Code

Choosing Revenue Streams For Your Minimum Viable Product

What It’s About: Choosing revenue streams and determining pricing are two completely different processes, done at different times. Pricing is deciding how much you’re going to charge, revenue streams determine what you’re charging for.

Focus: There are several random paths you can take when assigning revenue streams: Relying on revenue, playing to the lowest common denominator, giving value away for free, etc. Once we strip the common myths away, the revenue streams usually reveal themselves.

Action: To justify a revenue stream, first figure out your customer profile, then how you can prove your value, and then how you will deliver that value.

Read: Choosing Revenue Streams For Your Minimum Viable Product

Build a Minimum Viable Product For Your Customers, Not For You

What It’s About: For a startup to successfully bring an MVP to market, instead of telling your customers what you are, you need to focus on who they are. Here’s how.

Focus: When launching a new product, market is more important than feature set. Capture the market first, do the cool stuff later.

Action: At some point in your process, stop thinking like an entrepreneur, and start talking to customers.

Read: Build a Minimum Viable Product For Your Customers, Not For You

How to Build a Scalable Minimum Viable Product

What It’s About: While not every product has to be software to be successful, almost every product must use software and data to measure and determine its scalability.

Focus: It has become much easier to build a minimum viable product, but at the same time, it has become much more difficult to build a scalable product. In order to achieve scalability, you’ve got to build maximum flexibility into the MVP. This is how to do just that.

Action: There’s a human factor, a data factor, and a tech factor to building any MVP. When all three are built on maximum flexibility, scalability becomes easier to achieve.

How To Build a Minimum Viable Product That’s Immediately Valuable

What It’s About: Startup success can hinge on a useful minimum viable product. Here’s a four-step plan for building an MVP that shows value to the customer immediately.

Focus: There’s a method to the madness of selecting what goes into your MVP. You have to start with the end, then come back to the core.

Action: Define the value prop for the MVP. Don’t make the common scope mistakes. Start from the billion-dollar version and work backwards. Focus on the core and cut corners everywhere else.

Read: How To Build a Minimum Viable Product That’s Immediately Valuable

How To Know If Your Minimum Viable Product is Actually Viable

What It’s About: This is a guide to the mistakes entrepreneurs often make when building an MVP and putting together a pilot program for launch.

Focus: Making sure that assumptions about product definition, market selection, pricing, and positioning are all correct so that those concepts don’t get in the way of determining the viability of the idea itself.

Action: Just launching an MVP doesn’t prove viability. In order for the product to be considered viable, the MVP has to sell, stick, and scale.

Read: How To Know If Your Minimum Viable Product is Actually Viable

Before You Launch Your Minimum Viable Product, Do This

What It’s About: This documents the steps to prepare to launch an MVP pilot and what to expect from that pilot.

Focus: Defining success and failure and how to determine where the MVP lands during the pilot.

Action: Strike a balance between preparation and “gut” by keeping the preparation contained to what’s necessary to launch and test.

Read: Before You Launch Your Minimum Viable Product, Do This

How to Craft the Message for Your Minimum Viable Product

What It’s About: This is a primer on product messaging, a step between positioning (defining the product) and pricing (determining its value) that describes the product to customers.

Focus: The steps to create a message that explains the product, positioning, and market fit in a clear and concise way.

Action: Crafting a narrative around the product is a complex, daunting process that can delay a product launch, and poor massaging can imperil that launch.

Read: How to Craft the Message for Your Minimum Viable Product

How to Price Your Minimum Viable Product

What It’s About: This is a primer on product pricing, aligning pricing decisions with the launch of an MVP pilot.

Focus: While pricing is an individual exercise unique to each product, market, and company, there are general guidelines to follow and mistakes to avoid.

Action: A proper MVP pricing process will clear up a lot of the unknowns.

Read: How to Price Your Minimum Viable Product

Choosing the Right Pricing Model For Your Minimum Viable Product

What It’s About: This is an overview of several different types of common product pricing models.

Focus: A definition of each model, some examples, why the model is used, how it’s used, when it should be used, and what the pros and cons are. There is also insight on mistakes I’ve seen with each model, and how those mistakes can be avoided.

Action: Selecting a product pricing model should not be arbitrary. It’s a combination of art and science that needs attention from the founding team.

Read: Choosing the Right Pricing Model For Your Minimum Viable Product

Preparing To Sell Your Minimum Viable Product

What It’s About: This is a preparation guide to the immediate steps that need to follow an MVP pilot launch.

Focus: Stabilizing the MVP as it hits the market, because the pilot is a fluid process that takes constant work to keep it running properly.

Action: The MVP pilot is more than build, launch, and test — it needs to be a work in progress in order to get actionable results.

Read: Preparing To Sell Your Minimum Viable Product

How To Recruit Customers For Your Minimum Viable Product

What It’s About: Turning an MVP audience into a customer base.

Focus: Defining each type of prospective customer that will come into contact with the MVP and how those customers need to be addressed by the positioning, messaging, marketing, and sales strategy for the product.

Action: Most entrepreneurs incorrectly try to narrow down their target customer from a large audience, when it’s a better idea to build out a customer base from an identified audience.

Read: How To Recruit Customers For Your Minimum Viable Product

Why I Won’t Launch a Minimum Viable Product

What It’s About: This is a checklist to follow before launching an MVP, to make sure some basic mistakes don’t get made.

Focus: A look at some of the broader problems that entrepreneurs miss because those problems manifest themselves as smaller, harder-to-identify problems or “bad feelings.” It also includes guidelines for what to check to avoid the mistakes that create those problems.

Action: It can be difficult to know when an MVP is ready for launch, but if we can get past some of the broad issues, we can probably tackle the smaller issues in flight.

Read: Why I Won’t Launch a Minimum Viable Product

How To Pilot Your Minimum Viable Product

What It’s About: An MVP launch comes with huge risk. If you prepare and pilot that MVP before launch, you can greatly reduce that risk.

Focus: An MVP is supposed to test the viability of the core functionality of the product. But if you launch and you run into issues with your team, your process, your delivery, any one of a number of things that aren’t the core, all that test data becomes moot.

Action: If you a pilot right, your can prepare your team, your tools, and your infrastructure. This will pave the way for meaningful measurements, decisive changes, and ultimately, happy customers.

Read: How To Pilot Your Minimum Viable Product

How To Get Your Minimum Viable Product to Market Quickly

What It’s About: This is a checklist to determine what might be causing delays in launching an MVP.

Focus: Common flaws in the MVP definition that can cause those delays, and how to spot them.

Action: On the surface, delays may appear to be caused by executive indecision, technical hurdles, or elevated risk, but the source of those delays usually lies in the definition of the product and the pilot.

Read: How To Get Your Minimum Viable Product to Market Quickly

How To Market Your Minimum Viable Product

What It’s About: A set of overarching rules from a talk I gave to marketing class at Duke University. They wanted to know how to market a product when it’s still an MVP.

Focus: Marketing an MVP is nothing like marketing an established product. Each marketing plan will be different, but there are some rules to follow to make sure that the results you get from marketing the MVP carry over to when it’s time to market the real thing.

Action: You have to think differently about marketing an MVP. There are easy mistakes to make because an MVP is essentially an unfinished product.

Read: How To Market Your Minimum Viable Product

How To Support Your Minimum Viable Product With No Tech

What It’s About: Increase your chances of a successful product launch by creating an MVP playbook, a living document that dictates how a product is delivered, executed, and supported.

Focus: Customers will actually accept a new product that doesn’t work 100% as expected the first time and every time. What they won’t accept is having to jump through a bunch of broken hoops to purchase, receive, use, and manage the product.

Action: Create a simple MVP playbook from a slide deck. At the very least, it forces you to think about delivery, execution, and support of your MVP prior to launch. At best, it’s a real tool that has real benefits.

How To Launch a Minimum Viable Product As a Version 1.0

What It’s About: A successful MVP doesn’t guarantee a successful product. I figured out how to prepare my Version 1.0 launch to give every product I build its best chance for success.

Focus: The space between MVP and Version 1.0 is a fertile ground to start doing ounces of prevention for pounds of cure down the road.

Action: There are basically six areas I like to shore up. Got to have customers on board, slow down the release cycle, automate the onboarding, tighten sales and marketing, integrate feedback into support, and have some cash on hand.

Read: How To Launch a Minimum Viable Product As a Version 1.0

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Written by

I’m a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. Building Precision Fermentation & Teaching Startup. Sold Automated Insights & ExitEvent. More at joeprocopio.com

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