What do Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, and Groupon all have in common? These four wildly successful companies came to market with a minimum viable product (MVP).
From there, they were able to implement feedback and create new iterations of their product that were even more useful for their target audience. Today, they represent some of the largest and most successful companies of the 21st century.
A minimum viable product represents the best opportunity for companies to obtain meaningful information directly from customers while also boosting brand recognition in the marketplace.
This article covers the ways in which an MVP can help your business refine a fantastic product while simultaneously increasing brand awareness and adoption in the process.
What is a minimum viable product?
A minimum viable product is a preliminary version of your product concept. An MVP is usually a bare-bones offering, with just enough of the core functionality and features necessary for customers to begin using the product and providing feedback for your development team.
For most companies, their MVP will differ significantly from the final product that they will eventually deliver to customers. It won’t have all of the critical features and functions of the final offering, and in some cases, it will hardly resemble the finished product.
It can be helpful to think of an MVP as a musician recording a new album. Before they release the album, they record song demos. The demo versions of the final songs often include much of the structure, lyrics, and melodies of the final product, but they don’t have the level of polish and precision that the album version delivers.
With a minimum viable product, the launch is as much about learning and testing as it is about building brand awareness and winning customers over. At the heart of developing an MVP is a build-measure-learn feedback loop.
Build the product. Measure the response. Gather and implement feedback. Repeat.
6 tips to launch your brand with a minimum viable product
Now that you’re ready to begin moving forward with an MVP, here are 6 tips to help ensure a successful launch.
1. Lean on brand personas
The first iteration of your MVP is going to rely heavily on the strength of your brand personas. Think long and hard about who is going to use the product, what those people do, what they like and dislike, and what their pain points are.
Accurate brand personas will be crucial for connecting with the first adopters of your product. Plus, if you miss the mark, you’ll know early in the game that it’s time to head back to the drawing board.
2. Have a robust content strategy
The launch of your MVP will center around content marketing. Channels like a blog, social media, and influencers are excellent ways to drive buzz and adoption around your MVP.
Ramping up your efforts through these channels at launch or just prior will help your MVP hit the ground running.
Be sure to tailor your brand marketing efforts to the stages of your customer journey. You’ll have people learning about your brand for the first time, potential customers who know your brand and want to learn more, and future brand advocates that have already bought into your vision.
Ensure you’re delivering value with each impression and put an emphasis on connecting with each potential customer at every stage of their journey. Doing so will help generate buzz around your brand while also helping to establish your MVP.
3. Develop a compelling landing page
Your MVP’s landing page can help you connect with your audience while increasing brand awareness and anticipation for the product.
The best landing pages are simple; tell the story of the product, the problems it solves, and how your audience can reach you or learn more. The easier it is for customers to connect with you in this stage, the more buzz you’ll generate.
Landing pages allow you to add several elements, like lead-capture forms, explainer videos, a short story about your company and its vision and mission, and more. An elaborate landing page will help you convey the finer details of your offering to prospective customers.
4. Strike a balance with your MVP
One area where many companies lose sight of when developing their MVP is framing it as an internal tool that’s used to learn more about the market and customer demographics. While these are critical considerations to make, it’s also crucial that the product you’re bringing to market delivers an excellent customer experience.
You’ll need to deliver value to your customers with your MVP while also providing your team with the actionable data that will help them refine the product. You’ll also need to do this as inexpensively as possible.
5. Speak to your audience
As you prepare to launch your MVP, prioritize getting out into the world and spending time with the target demographic. Your product should be able to provide you with feedback and actionable data after it launches, but there’s no substitute for getting out there, finding your target demographic in the real world, and having real conversations surrounding your product.
With your MVP, one of the primary goals will be to confirm or deny the usefulness of your product. Speak to the users and potential users of your product, and find out whether or not it’s useful or exciting to them. If it isn’t, find out why, and then use this information to continue to iterate your MVP.
6. Prioritize flexibility in your product
For many companies, the most frustrating aspect of developing an MVP is creating something that can scale effortlessly as the product begins to gain traction. From the moment you begin developing your MVP, look to build flexibility into every component, from the data to the technology you’re using to the people who are creating the product.
The more flexibility you can build into your MVP, the easier it will be to scale as it grows.
How an MVP can help your brand today
Deciding to build an MVP is arguably the best way for a business to ultimately deliver to customers what they’re looking for.
Through the MVP process, your company will be able to gather critical insight into the customer journey and experience, and you’ll be able to offer them products that best fit their needs as a result.
1. It entices potential investors
For most startups, the success or failure of the business or product is closely tied to receiving funding from investors. It’s virtually impossible to give investors the confidence they need to move forward with your product without instilling that confidence, and developing an MVP is one of the best ways to establish investor confidence.
With an MVP, a business is able to develop a foundational product that clearly illustrates how the product is going to solve consumers’ problems. The MVP not only provides proof of concept but also allows your business to provide potential investors with something tangible before asking for their investment in the company.
Having an MVP can also dramatically accelerate the timeline from when an investor buys to when they receive a return on their investment. You may have an excellent idea, but if investors don’t feel that they’re betting on a winner, you aren’t going to receive their buy-in.
It is evident that an MVP instills a sense of comfort and confidence in investors, proving it to be a valuable process for any business.
2. It puts business concepts to the test
Developing a minimum viable product is by far the most cost-effective way for a company to put its concepts to the test. It allows businesses to determine if they’re on the right path to a viable business model and a winning solution to the customer’s problems.
For example, say you develop a fully realized version of your product and bring it to the market. It includes all the features you think your users will need, and you’re confident that your target audience is going to fall in love with the product. But what happens if they don’t?
In this case, going back to the drawing board and making significant changes represents a high cost to your business, and that cost can prove crippling for many startups.
Instagram, for example, was initially launched around a proprietary GPS feature that was similar to Foursquare. The first launch was exceptionally small, and after receiving feedback, the stakeholders at Instagram quickly realized their GPS feature was a dud, but the photo-sharing element of the application had the potential to be a major hit.
Since their MVP was lean and agile, their developers were able to quickly implement customer feedback and dedicate resources to building out the photo-sharing functionality that would become the core of the application. Instagram was able to make this pivot with minimal investment, and today, millions of people use the application every day.
3. It generates buzz
Ask any entrepreneur or business owner, and they’ll tell you that one of the most significant challenges to launching a product is getting the buzz and brand awareness they need to make an impact in the marketplace. You could develop the most exciting product in the world, but if consumers aren’t aware of it, then it doesn’t exist.
By launching an MVP, your business is able to immediately begin the complex process of generating brand awareness and buzz around what you’re doing. As early adopters start to use your product, you’ll create a snowball effect as they begin to tell people about it.
4. You build goodwill with customers
Another benefit of launching an MVP is that it allows you to learn more about your customers while building a rapport in the process. From your perspective, you’re gathering meaningful information about your customers that you can use to refine your product offering. But for the customer, you’re showing you value their input and care about their feedback.
This connection with customers is vital to building trust in your brand and excitement around what you’re bringing to the marketplace. The positive buzz you can build also goes a long way to ensure your brand looks its best online.
Building an online reputation and customer excitement is an excellent way to ensure that customers who are curious about your brand are seeing positive interactions with their peers when they search for your company. Online reputation management can help you further amplify positive experiences for customers to see.
5. You can stake your claim to a concept
Another way that a minimum viable product can help build your brand is by staking your claim to the product or concept that you’re launching. If you have a great idea, it’s a safe bet that somewhere else in the world, there’s someone working on something similar.
By launching an MVP, your brand can immediately stake a claim to the concept and begin winning over consumers and maybe even generating revenue before your competitors are able to get their ideas off the ground.
6. They work great locally
Many companies choose to launch their MVP in conjunction with their local marketing campaigns. Launching locally allows brands to begin connecting with customers and gaining valuable consumer insight in a short amount of time without the need for a national team or a huge marketing budget.
There are plenty of examples of great local marketing campaigns that you can review for inspiration.
5 successful minimum viable product examples
It may be called a minimum viable product but could become your maximum value product in the long run. An MVP allows you to build on insights rather than just hypotheses. Your customers will prefer your end product because it is just what they need.
Here are some business use cases that prove this. We will look at how some big names in the business world used their MVPs to great advantage, gaining more than just consumer and market insights through their products.
You would be surprised to learn that Amazon initially shot to fame because it was among the few online bookstores that the internet had to offer. Back then, Jeff Bezos did most of the bookselling through a rather ‘offline’ channel. He would purchase books from distributors and ship them out to customers who ordered online.
Amazon would not be the success it is today without the MVP that set the company afloat.
End consumers perceived this to be an online ecosystem and trusted it. As the sale of books began rising, the company could strengthen its inventory, adding more products to its online portfolio.
The sales began to swell with consistent returns that could afford warehousing solutions and facilitate the development of a website that offered more products. If it weren’t for the early book experiment, Jeff Bezos would not be among the wealthiest men in the world today. It proved to be a stellar example of a minimum viable product.
Amazon purchased Zappos in 2009 for $1.2 billion. But what was the factor that led the world’s largest e-tailer to notice and acquire the online apparel and footwear business? It all started with a rather bold experiment in 1999.
Nick Swinmurn, the founder of Zappos, realized the difficulty of finding the perfect pair of shoes at his local mall. Back then, everyone was unsure about ordering anything online, let alone shoes that needed to be worn and tested before purchasing.
Swinmurn tested a minimum viable product to gauge the appetite of an increasingly online audience. He launched a bare-bones website where he would post photographs of shoes from his local mall without purchasing any product. It was a risky maneuver but ended up paying dividends.
People started purchasing the shoes they saw online while in the comfort of their homes. It gave Swinmurn great confidence in setting up Zappos, which became a billion-dollar baby for him.
While most of the usual examples of minimum viable product focus on launching a partial product, Buffer ran a campaign that was not too different than a consumer survey.
The company launched two landing pages, each with an intention. The first one explained the idea of Buffer being a social media scheduling app and asked users to submit their email addresses if they were interested in its pricing.
The second landing page gauged if users were interested in a free version or the paid options of the app. This strategy was the brainchild of Joel Gascoigne, the founder of Buffer.
If users showed interest, they would see a video that explained how Buffer would be available soon. The landing page would then request their contact details. Critics would say this was wishful thinking, but Gascoigne reached out to all the recorded email addresses when the product was ready and offered them just what they wanted.
Here’s a less-known fact about Airbnb that makes for an exciting campfire story. In 2007, the founders of Airbnb realized that a design conference was coming to their town. They knew that finding affordable rental accommodations would be difficult for attendees who traveled from afar.
So, they decided to let out their apartment’s loft for those travelers in urgent need of affordable accommodation. They created a simple website and uploaded images of the room they offered. Airbnb’s first customers on record arrived from Utah, Boston, and India.
This experiment gave the company enough confidence to pursue its business idea and open up more places for travelers who couldn’t afford a hotel. They launched their first website as AirBed&Breakfast. This minimum viable product didn't cost the company anything at the time but set them on the path to becoming a phenomenon in the hospitality industry.
Groupon’s minimum viable product story could be underwhelming for someone expecting a breakthrough technology pilot. Andrew Mason describes how he started Groupon as ‘The Point,’ a platform that brought people together to solve a problem.
The Point failed as a concept, so Mason created a WordPress blog that delivered daily best deals. The model of local, time-bound deals was exciting for buyers and sellers because of its flexibility. The blog led to the creation of Groupon and its niche proposition.
Frequently asked questions about minimum viable products
What are some commonly asked questions about building a minimum viable product? Get your questions answered with these three FAQs.
1. What is the main goal of MVP?
With an MVP, you can gauge consumer interest in your concept before investing too much time or money in developing the full product. Use actual customer feedback to confirm your product hypothesis. Get new features out to consumers faster. Bring quick value to your early adopters.
2. Why is MVP so important?
An MVP will evaluate your product potential by measuring engagement, longevity, and lifetime value to determine if the product meets these needs. By releasing a minimum viable product, you can determine the magnitude of the product's purpose and functionality.
3. How do you measure the success of MVP?
Success is typically gauged by the percentage of target customers who have tried the product's minimum viable version. You must determine if there is sufficient demand to warrant developing features beyond the minimum viable product. If there isn't, you'll need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to improve your concept.
Launching a minimum viable product is perhaps the best way for a brand to establish buzz and awareness while refining their product in the process. You can launch an MVP quickly and economically, but the insight you gain after launch can prove to be priceless.
Consider the tips we’ve discussed above, along with the insight you’ve developed about your ideal customers. Coupled with your incredible product launch idea, you should be well on your way to developing a winning minimum viable product.