MVP or Minimum Viable Product is the most misinterpreted term in the startup development ecosystem.
A term that was coined and defined by Frank Robinson and popularized by Steve Blank and Eric Ries essentially means creating a product that has just those core features sufficient to deploy the product and get market validation.
The definition is fairly clear, but also leaves a lot of room to interpretation; hence each one has their own definition of what an MVP would look like for their product.
Many try and build their MVP within the confines of the definition, not taking into account their market, competitive landscape and the type of product they're building.
A good MVP is that which qualifies the market need without having to build out an exhaustive product. This, however, comes with a caveat - which is depending on your specific product journey.
Let's take a look at 5 traits that most successful MVPs share - which will help you define what yours should look like.
1. Built for one person
The most successful MVPs have their audience narrowed down to one person. Can you be that specific in identifying who your target audience would be for the product? What is your buyer persona?
Picture that one person in mind who your ideal customer is and design the MVP to solve that one person's needs. The moment you build for many different audiences, you're defeating the purpose of a minimum viable product.
In his latest book, From Impossible to Inevitable, Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin write, "You can be a Fortune 100 company, or the greatest expert at organization design, or have a killer SaaS (software as a service) subscription model app for managing employees. But, if you can't predictably go out and generate leads and opportunities where you're needed, win them, and do it profitably, you're gonna struggle."
If you haven't nailed your niche, your target audience, you'll end up spending tons or money in marketing and not getting any returns and relevant feedback about your product.
2. Listen to many people
While building your MVP keeping in mind that one person, it doesn't mean you get feedback from just that one person. Oftentimes, even getting to the ideal customer profile is a process of discovery.
Your MVP is only a starting point and not the destination. Collect feedback from many people that fit that ideal customer profile.
Don't be discouraged if at first your MVP doesn't get any traction or signups. There can be many reasons why your MVP didn't work - for one, the positioning may not resonate with the audience or your messaging may be off or you may not have discovered the right audience for your product.
The idea of building an MVP is to validate the product concept, so stay focused on that until you get answers for your next move.
3. Little focus on doing less
MVP isn't about building less and less. It's about building the right amount of features that showcase the core value proposition of your product. Your set of features will also depend on the type of product you're building and its competitive landscape.
If you're building a completely unique product in a new market, that's your opportunity to build just that little, which gives you market validation.
For instance, if your idea is an app to provide home delivery of food from restaurants in a market that doesn't have this at all, you could do with just a landing page and a phone number to validate whether people want to have their food delivered home in the first place. Once you get sufficient validation, you can start automating the various parts of the app.
But if you were to launch the same app in a market that already has many such apps existing, your first version of the product would look more complex.
4. Focus on testing
You build a minimum viable product to test your hypothesis with the least amount of time and effort spent on product development. And so, with that, go out and test the market for just that.
Don't seek to make money right off the bat with your MVP. Don't seek profitability. Seek to get validation or valuable feedback to help you build a version that can scale to become a big business.
I don't mean to say not to charge for your MVP. By all means, do charge if there's value enough, but don't focus on making money. That's not what your objective of building an MVP is.
5. Small, contained launch
The launch of an MVP is not the same as launching your product. The objective of an MVP is different from that of a product launch. You launch a product when you've confirmed the demand for it.
You build an MVP when all you have is an idea that people will buy your product. You can expect to make many mistakes as you iterate on the first few versions. Make those mistakes with as few people, to get the product up to a point where you find greater conversions, engagement and retention. It's easier to scale from an MVP which has all those three.