A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is one with just enough basic features to be shared with early adopters for their feedback. In the early days of a startup, getting proper guidance is essential in order to get the product right. With an MVP, you can ship a product with your core ideas, in order to refine it further based on early adopters’ feedback. It is much more cost-effective than building out the entire product and then making tweaks, and helps validate your ideas regarding your product. In this blog, we will discuss the strategy of launching an initial version of the product and getting customer feedback. Often, founders are conceiving and perfecting the product internally without testing what customers want. This blog will help you break that cycle and get customer feedback at the earliest.
We will break this phase into four steps:
Step 1: Validate
It is important to first talk to potential customers even before building any version of your product. This initial set of customers you speak with can come from your own personal and professional network. The goal is to not spend months or years doing research but to identify a common pain point soon.
Speak to 20-30 customers and ask them questions like:
“What are the problems you are facing?”,
“How are you addressing them?”,
“Why is this solution still not working for you?”
Try to connect the dots on common problems that you are hearing. The key is to only listen and understand the problems that customers are facing without talking to them about your potential solution. Try to build a deep understanding of the problems your user is facing. We are only attacking the problem in this step.
Typical Team Composition: Given this is still early in the journey, your team should ideally comprise only the founders. You should drive all these conversations since that sets the foundation for the next step, building your product.
Step 2: Build
After you have spoken to initial customers and identified a common pain point, it is time to get to the drawing board. The goal here is to get the first version of the product out of the door to test out the initial hypothesis. While as a founder, you are always striving for excellence and want to over-architect the product, you will need to stay disciplined here. The aim is to not create the perfect product, but the minimum viable product to validate your hypothesis.
This is just the first version of the product and it is bound to undergo several changes subsequently. Also, we are not suggesting that you ship any product, but ship a product from which you can learn. Formulate your hypothesis from Step 1 and build a product in the shortest time from which you can learn the maximum. Do not try to build to solve all the problems that you heard from your users but the top ones that matter to the user. Solve the most pressing issues where you can make a difference.
Typical Team Composition: Your team has now grown beyond the founders. Ideally, you should have hired a couple of developers (Full stack engineers preferably to help build the first version of the product quickly).
Step 3: Launch
Now that you have built the first version of the product, you need to cross the hurdle of launching and getting it live in front of potential customers. Refer to our blogs on ICP for more details on whom to target first. (Part 1) (Part 2)
This is the phase where you learn how the customer is interacting with the product:
“Do they see value in it?”,
“Are they happy with the design?”,
“Are they responding in the way we intended?”
This will help you derive valuable feedback. Your main takeaway here should be to get the product out of the door.
Typical Team Composition: At this stage, you may want to add a sales/ customer outreach representative. If it’s B2B sales, you are likely driving most of it and a mid-junior level resource is probably supporting you. For B2C sales, you need to spend inordinate amounts of your time on performance marketing. Again, you could use a consultant or an in-house resource to support you.
Step 4: Measure
Once you have launched the product and seen customers using the product, you should now speak to the users and unearth what truly matters to them. You will be surprised by the feedback you get from the customers. Features you thought would delay the product launch may not even matter to the user. On the other hand, features you had planned to delay rolling out may be what they are seeking right away. Do not skip this step, since it helps in aligning the team internally on what to prioritise.
Collect all feedback by asking the same questions. You need to be extremely methodical in your user interviews. Ask open-ended questions so that you get more answers from the user. Ensure the questions you ask will help you in building the next version of the product. We will dive deeper into this topic in a separate piece.
Typical Team Composition: You are now expanding your team by adding people on the engineering side and sales/marketing functions. Do not hire ahead of the curve till you hit PMF since you are still in discovery mode.
Your chosen methodology may require tweaks or multiple consultations with your early adopters, however, this framework will help you set a foundation for getting the most answers accurately. Conducting this activity early on ensures that once your product is out for public consumption, it fulfils the needs of a majority of your customers and reduces the scope for major red flags coming up, which is always a great sign in the early days.
Additionally, be prepared to pivot, if you receive sufficient feedback to do so. It is a very normal part of this process and is much better to sooner than later.
In case you are a tech-driven business and are building something that excites you, feel free to reach out to our Investment Team here.