June 19, 2020
The startup landscape is rapidly changing. Few years back, having a good idea was more than sufficient to launch a startup. At later stage a proof of concept or a minimum viable product (MVP) was necessary to attract interest. But today’s expectation is to have enough traction. This means, startups have to look beyond MVP and focus on gaining traction and product-market fit faster and cheaper. Below are few things to consider:
The good news is more startups are bootstrapping and sustaining for longer time. Below are a few tips in creating a MVP that is aligned for better traction.
When it comes to products, there are two approaches:
Many successful products are built using these two distinct approaches. For example, Apple created many products including the iPod/iPhone in secrecy and released it to the market. Customers quickly adopted it. In this case Apple, first create a product and found a market (product-market). Unfortunately, the kind of market adoption doesn’t happen easily without brand recognition. There are many successful products have failed to grab proper recognization and lost traction.
To avoid the pitfalls, a new alternative approach emerged, requiring to find what customers (market) want and build products that closely resonates with them. This means finding the customer first and building the products for them (market-product) fit. Companies such as DropBox have effectively utilized the concept and gained quick traction.
The best way to find customers is to talk to them directly. If you do not have direct access, online options such as surveys, email or information gathering webinars will help. Some of the information you can collect are:
Traction involves marketing, and marketing means knowing your customer segment/persona. To keep the focus on the problem and solution offered, narrow down the customer segment as small as possible. For example, if you are marketing to startups, the startup as a customer segment is very broad – from early stage to enterprise companies such as Airbnb, Uber, etc. Each type of startups, wants and expectation varies. With limited resources, it is impossible to satisfy everyone. So, keeping the narrow focus would help to allocate necessary resources and gain traction within the segment.
Many of today’s successful startups were started 5 to 10 years ago. To sustain a startup for a longer time, requires a lot of paying customers and a large addressable market. Hence, the product must have sufficient differentiation from the competitors to attract and retain customers (LTV) for longer time. By comparing with other competitors’ offerings, you can find a niche differentiation and find a suitable market for you. When there is clear differentiation, customers can easily adopt to your product.
During the ideation phase, while talking to customers, many new ideas or product features will emerge. Creating all the features upfront takes time, cost and effort. This objective of the MVP is to get the product out to market sooner, collect feedback and validate assumptions. A product roadmap would help capture all the inputs and catalog ideas. If it is not in the MVP, you can release it in the later phases. Click here to learn more about product roadmap and how to create it.
It is quite common to rush into the development phase without proper documentation. This may save some time upfront, but cause many challenges during development, especially if you are not technical.
Spending time documenting features has some benefits. First, it forces to think through the feature from the user’s point of view and streamline the process upfront. Visualizing user’s interaction with the applications helps to improve user experience and avoid reworks during later stages.
Inadequate or no documentation means the team has to make a lot of assumptions, which makes the estimation process very difficult. By having proper documentation, the team can clearly understand the requirements, and come up with the right solution and estimates. This reduces confusion, misunderstandings, and cost overruns in the later stages.
Proper documentation also brings all stakeholders (marketing, developers, etc.) on to the same page. Now-a-days the documentation is also used for other purposes such as testing, user manuals, training guide, etc. Hence, the additional time spent is well worth it.
Documentation does not necessarily need to be very elaborate. It can be brief and some of the information you can capture can be:
The documentation step should help resolve any process issues and identify the features critical for success. Take the time to prioritize features necessary for the MVP. This helps to get more accurate budget and schedule for the launch. Any functionality that does not contribute to the MVP goals should be shelved for subsequent phases.
There are many ways to prioritize the features. Some of them are as below:
We recommend MVPs with 20 or less features depending on the complexity of the application. In a few cases, there were MVPs with 30 features to make the product usable. Most of the MVPs are done within 8 to 12 weeks.
At this stage, the following should be clear:
Product development is hard. Developing all the MVP features at the same time increases confusion, rework and risk of failure. Hence, the alternative agile approach is built it incrementally and iteratively, by splitting the features into small iterations (or sprints). For example, if there are 20 features, you can split into 4 features/week. The iterative approach leads to narrow focus on few feature at a time. This may also help release the product sooner to the market and start the validation process.
The launch is a major milestone that is focused on releasing the product to customers, collecting feedback and validating assumptions. If you do not plan for a “big” bang launch, you can do “soft” launch while the product is in the development phase. For example, if you are a marketplace market, which mostly involves supply and demand, you can launch the supply side functionalities first, while working through the demand side. This would help get the product infront of customer faster and collect feedback sooner.
One of the main objectives of the MVP is to ensure the product meets customer expectations and the initial assumptions are correct. The best way is to perform customer interviews and ask for feedback.
The purpose of the MVP is to collect feedback and make decisions whether to proceed further, pivot or quit. It is important to collect, consolidate and analyze the feedback and assumptions.
Coming out of the Launch phase should provide valuable insights, next steps and action items to achieve traction goals. This may be bug fixes, enhancements, improvements, better marketing message, different pricing strategy, etc. This is also a good time to update and adjust the roadmap and plan for the future iterations.
In summary, the startup landscape is changing with more focus on traction now. This means more attention should be given to traction during the MVP phase. It takes little effort and planning upfront, but puts you well ahead of other startups. FreelancingTeams helps startups through the entire process, ensuring the startups have a head start into a successful future.
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