Knowing the right time to launch a product is a challenge. Launch too early and you run the risk of a headache of defects and usability issues. However, waiting too long for a product to go prime time equals revenue lost. What if there was a way to determine just what your product needs to meet the minimum requirements for user value while minimizing the time spent perfecting it? Luckily there is, and it’s called an MVP.
What is an MVP?
A minimum viable product (MVP) is a powerful tool that enables your startup to test a product with users before fully building it out. It reduces risk, limits the initial investment, and provides the ability to validate assumptions of market demand while learning what features and functionality are most valuable to your target market.
An MVP’s strength lies in the learning process it leverages. Known as Build, Measure, Learn, this cyclical feedback process captures and integrates customer learnings to iterate development, providing the ability to take these learnings to continuously improve the product. The goal is to get something out there that solves user’s pain point(s) in order to gather user feedback to iterate future product development.
Determine What Features Your MVP Needs
Building your MVP requires that you solve at least one primary pain point for prospective users so they see value in the product. They need to use it in order for you to gain the invaluable feedback that an MVP-iteration loop offers. To do this, you need to understand your users and how they will use your product to solve their problems. This will provide you with the core feature set for your MVP.
Create User Personas
To thoroughly understand who you are building the product for, what their needs and wants are, and what influences and impacts them, it’s helpful to create user personas. A user persona helps you to better understand your target audience for the product by providing detailed information on user types sourced from real data. It’s the personalization of this user persona that helps to inform the development of the MVP. You will likely have multiple personas that represent different user groups.
Once you thoroughly understand your user personas, map their journey through the MVP. The end result, or the last chapter in the story, should show the users solving their pain point(s). This storyboard should show the detailed steps a user must go through in your product to accomplish their goal(s). This provides a visual of their journey and ensures the process works and is simple to follow, providing a positive user experience.
Determine Your Core Features
Once you complete the storyboards and make sure the users can take the most simple journey through them, you have your core set of features to build your MVP. Consider which features are required to solve the primary pain point(s) and if anything is missing to validate this feature set. Anything not essential for the first round can be tabled for a later development iteration.
When You Should Launch a Product
The short answer to the question to when you should launch your product is that you launch once you have built the core feature set of your MVP. While that is true, there’s a little more to it than that.
Through the process of building your MVP, you have learned a lot:
- Who your target audience is and how to reach them
- The problem or pain point you are solving
- The buyer’s journey, including purchase influences
In addition to this valuable information, you also need to devise a plan to get the MVP out to potential users. Create a launch plan and determine if you will offer incentives — a free trial, a product demo, discounts, or even pre-launch order incentives. It’s a good idea to create some pre-launch buzz to make sure your target audience knows the product is coming because the MVP process requires that it be fueled by user testing.
A cautionary tale for any product launch: don’t wait until the product is perfect to release it. Make sure you have the right core feature set, then engage users. Take a look at your to-do list with a critical eye to see what will have the most impact and then get your product out there.
If you have quality concerns, consider a limited release to users that you have a relationship with to ensure a flow of feedback to improve the product. Then as you work through bugs or other issues, slowly increase the number of users who have access. Your loyal customers or early adopters will be excited to get an early look while helping you to implement improvements.
Winston Churchill said, “perfection is the enemy of progress.” While he wasn’t a software developer, his words ring true in this world. Knowing the right time to launch a product is not a matter of attaining perfection. Instead, make sure you’re solving a problem, building a solution to that problem, then get the product out to users to provide feedback. Don’t spend so much time up-front on trying to attain perfection that you lose sight of why you set out to build this product.