If you haven’t already read it, click here to read my particle about building a prototype. It is important that you understand that process before continuing to read this article.
Before the Lean Startup was written, the standard practice was to create full-blown applications right away – often based only on assumptions. I think we’re at a stage in tech, where there is the ability to test assumptions even earlier than MVP is a very responsible and pragmatic step – hence my recommendation to sell early adopters from a prototype.
The other advantage of a prototype is that it will demonstrate how the product will work, which will make it a lot easier to write the specifications for your MVP. The prototype will reduce costs of the MVP development, due to greater certainty as to the result you want to achieve.
Remember, your MVP should only be testing one or two key assumptions. Dropbox carefully followed this formula. The key assumption that Dropbox made was whether people want to synchronise files across their devices. Simple right?
That is the name of the game. Simple. Don’t try and build a product with features on top of features. The aim of your MVP is not necessarily to release your product into the market. Only to your early adopters.
I recommend that you have specifications for your MVP drafted by tech company that is independent from your development company. The MVP specification documents will form part of the development contract. It will be added to the contract’s schedule and will constitute the ‘services’ that the developer will provide.
Get Quotes from Developers
Once you have your specification documents created. You are ready to go to market to get quotes from development companies. I recommend that you use Australian developers. The talent in Australia is fantastic. It is tempting to take it offshore to Eastern Europe. However, you have greater control over the job when you have it done onshore. Especially if you want to enforce the contract.
If you have software developed in the Philippines, you may as well kiss your contractual rights goodbye. Language barriers can also cause significant problems in developing nations. It can be frustrating with excuses such as ‘holidays’, ‘power outages’, ‘floods’, ‘typhoons’, etc.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s incredible talent in all countries – it can be time-consuming to find the right ones, to make it worthwhile.
No MVP has ever been perfect – it will have bugs. Be sure to use developers that are responsive and who can fix bugs as soon as possible after you receive the feedback from the early adopters. It is important that early adopters see you listening to them and being responsive to their suggestions.
I believe Australian developers are undertaking more work than ever before. The decline of the Australian dollar has likely had a lot to do with that.
Getting It into the Hands of Users
Remember the whole idea behind the MVP is to learn a great deal of valuable information, in a short period with minimal expenditure. Accordingly, you must take time to get it into the hands of your ideal client, then compare and contrast the data and feedback. Gaining the data and feedback will provide you with the necessary information to validate whether or not your assumptions are correct.
The data and feedback will also provide you with information you need to continue developing a killer product that users can’t live without. All because you were smart enough to listen to what they wanted!
When reaching out to early adopters, be careful about who you choose. The initial users for your MVP should fit squarely into your target market. They should be the ones that you believe are the most likely to use your product.
Ideally, you should have had pre-sales from your prototype and continue to get it into the hands of as many users as possible to make the data and feedback that you receive be as conclusive as possible. However, at the same time, you should ensure your team can handle the support of those users. As we mentioned earlier, your MVP will have problems, and it is best to deal with them as soon as possible.
This stage is about testing assumptions, but there is another reason why you want to make sure that your first users LOVE what you do: testimonials. You should be working as hard as you can to make your first users into raving fans. When you display testimonials on your website and reviews on your app, product or service is extremely persuasive. But you need to work for them. So get those five stars reviews!
You should also not make the mistake of getting your friends and family as users. If you want to reach some impartial MVP users, the best way is to infiltrate groups on Facebook and LinkedIn or even direct message people. If you choose to send direct messages to people, make sure that it doesn’t look like a cut and paste message. Read their profiles and include something relevant to them – and is polite but not too formal.
For example, if you are direct messaging key people, be genuine and write like this:
“Hi Sarah, I work in the Yoga industry also (and I live in Brisbane too!). I have been working on a new Yoga App. Would value your expert feedback on what I am creating, if you have 5 minutes to chat over the phone sometime?
p.s. This is NOT a tricky marketing/sales tactic. I dislike that kind of thing myself.”
If you are posting in a Facebook or LinkedIn group, it is better to be more direct. For example,
Hi everyone, I am building an exciting and new yoga app designed for busy mums who are too busy to make it to a yoga studio. I am looking for some BETA testers who would like to try it out and give me honest feedback.
When you develop your MVP and acquire your first users, your goal should not only be about developing a great product. Your goal should be to also build relationships with your clients, contractors and your staff. You need to take care of those relationships and the product or service will be easier to develop.
Remember: If you are selling a service, you can still apply this methodology. Start by sketching your system processes on paper and assign team roles with each stage. These sketches will get your mind moving into ‘solution mode’. It is also a good idea to brand your unique service to separate yourself from your competition. For example, I branded the 6 Stage Startup System.
Related article: The Cheapest Way to Build an App.