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Building A Winning Minimum Viable Product: The How-To Many of the world's most successful brands have used this popular launch strategy, including design-tool Figma, file hosting service Dropbox, and ride-hailing app Uber.

By Elliott Denham Edited by Aby Thomas

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A minimum viable product (MVP) is a basic, launchable version of a new product that features basic, must-have features that will satisfy your initial customers.

This pared-down product allows your team to collect maximum learning from customers with minimum effort. It enables faster time to market, encourages early adopters, and achieves a better market fit from the get-go too.

Many of the world's most successful brands have used this popular launch strategy, including design-tool Figma, file hosting service Dropbox, and ride-hailing app Uber. In this article, we will unlock the secret to a winning MVP.

1. Understand the target audience and customer segment Before you embark on any MVP development, you need to define your audience, identify their problem, and develop a product that solves it. Focusing on a specific market, rather than creating a product for everyone, gives the best chance of success.

To help pinpoint potential buyers, you need to ask questions such as:

  • Who are they?

  • Where do they live?

  • Why and how do they buy?

  • What stage of life are they at?

2. Understand customer needs and preferences Now that you have identified your target customer segment, you need to conduct extensive market research to ensure your product meets users' needs.

One of the easiest and most comprehensive ways to get insights into your audience is through surveys. You should also monitor your competitors, and define how your product meets a particular need or solves a specific problem.

3. Figure out your value proposition and core features Your value proposition is a simple statement that explains how your product fulfils a need and communicates why buyers should choose your company. It highlights how the product brings value to your target audience and differs from anything else on the market.

For the best chance of success, you must assess multiple versions of your value proposition on customers. The aim of an MVP is to create the smallest functioning version of your product, so you will need to identify which features are essential, and which are "nice to have" for later product iterations.

There are various strategies for prioritizing features, but one of the most efficient is the MoSCoW method. Each feature should fit into one of four categories: Must-have, Should-have, Could-have and Will not-have.

Related: How To Become A Celebrity In Your Field (With The Power Of Social Media)

4. Keep the MVP simple and focused Feature prioritization is an essential part of the development process. Whether you use the MoSCoW method or another approach, keeping your MVP simple and focused is crucial. Every member of the team -including the project manager, business analyst, and client- has a role to play in this process.

By sticking to a tried and tested method, such as the MoSCoW approach, you can avoid being swayed by the loudest voice in the room, or be tempted to include specific features just because your competitors are using them, or they adhere to the latest trends in your field.

5. Design a user-friendly interface It is important to remember that an MVP must be both minimal and viable. Many companies fail to fulfil the latter requirement by skimping on the design and scoping stage. Designing a user-friendly interface will enable you to showcase your product in the best possible light.

Focus on the basic principles of visual design: unity, balance, hierarchy, proportion, emphasis, and contrast. Work with a user experience (UX) designer to ensure your interface meets all these requirements, while also meeting your customer's needs and pain points.

6. Aim for rapid iteration and testing Rapid iterative testing and evaluation (RITE) is a usability testing method that involves evaluating a product (which should be a solution to a usability issue) quickly and repeatedly. As well as identifying usability issues, you will be able to react quickly and test innovative solutions that cater for them.

Testing and iterating quickly is an important part of the product development process, since it enables you to identify elements that work, and elements that do not, thereby helping you avoid investing time, resources, and money into unpopular products.

7. Continuously update the MVP based on customer feedback You should collate feedback from end users that is both qualitative and quantitative. The purpose is to learn from your customers, taking on board complaints, and understanding which features distract from the value proposition.

The most effective way to measure success in the first instance is to identify how many people in your target market have used the MVP. Is there enough interest to justify investment beyond the MVP? If not, could you rework your idea, and refine it even further? Then, you will need to set clear goals and metrics, with a strategy for monitoring and scaling.

As you turn your MVP into a fully-fledged product, continue to keep track of your users' behavior, interactions, and drop-offs. Based on this, you can determine whether you have the people, infrastructure, and inventory to respond to customer demand and success. Consider whether you will need to implement automation, scalable cloud services, or virtual contact centers.

8. Setting clear goals and metrics for success You need to monitor progress over a sustained period. From this, you can benchmark, conduct regular reviews and adjust your strategy in response to your findings.

The common metrics for MVPs include:

  • Acquisition rate: How many potential customers tested your product?

  • Customer acquisition cost: How much does it cost to acquire a new customer?

  • Conversion rate: How many visitors to your website, landing page, or any other platform get converted into customers?

  • Return on investment: Does the value created correspond with the costs?

  • Referral rate: Where are your best-performing markets?

  • Retention rates: How many customers would continue to use your product?

  • User satisfaction scores: The higher the score, the happier the customer.

An MVP is just the start

A successful MVP will help you identify your target audience, define your product's core features, design a product that genuinely responds to customers' needs, and address a real problem or need in the market. That said, it is important to remember that an MVP is not an end goal, it is a steppingstone in the product development process. But if done properly, an MVP can provide several benefits to help businesses succeed and thrive.

Related: Dtec's Founder-Focused Startup Program SANDBOX Aims To Create A New Community Of Innovators In Dubai
Elliott Denham

Senior Associate Manager - Startup Programs, Dtec Ventures

Having traveled the world helping startups develop, refine, and execute their go-to-market strategies, Elliott Denham now leads the startup programs team at Dtec Ventures. Notably, Elliott runs SANDBOX, the region’s landmark founder-focused 12-month program supporting early-stage technology entrepreneurs to scale, fundraise and grow. Launched in 2022, SANDBOX is fast becoming the most sought after startup program in the UAE. 
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