As an entrepreneur, you are facing a great deal of uncertainty. Will there be an audience for your product? How long will it take for broad acceptance, etc? If you could, wouldn’t you want to reduce the amount of guesswork in the process?
The challenge in creating a product and then launching it after it is completed is that you lack the feedback from potential customers on whether they want it at all. You could be spending months, if not years as well as funds developing a product not enough people will buy. Making decisions regarding features that you are going to forgo developing for the initial stage might be painful, but necessary to shorten the time to get valuable feedback.
What should you test through your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)? In the first stage, you may not necessarily want to start by testing the technology. Rather, you might want to find out whether a specific set of customers will take the risk to buy your product with minimum features. But always keep in mind these customers are NOT the larger audience you will pursue further down the road. These customers have the problem you are trying to solve and are actively patching up solutions to deal with it. You can learn from them what they are doing to solve their problem in order to make your offering better. The MVP has to provide enough initial value for customers to buy it. Early adopters should be able to catch on to the vision your product promises in the future without having it right now.
To help you know whether your idea is worth pursuing, you need to engage with potential customers the right way. In person interviews with fewer customers, where you can go into greater depths into your questions, may have more value than focus groups and surveys. If you do present your offer, it’s wise to avoid making a sales pitch and focus on creating a healthy discussion around your customer’s pain points. Get your customers to talk. If you listen rather than try to convince people that your solution is right, you’ll have a better chance to learn how to improve your offer. The feedback should allow you to Pivot (to change an element or two in the design and reintroduce it again for further feedback). It is essentially a series of small experiments to see what customers absolutely feel must be part of your product without which they will not open their wallets. And since you are running experiments to elicit responses, it may help to write down an expected outcome you are shooting for. This will help clarify your direction.
Once you collect feedback, you are faced with the challenge of interpreting it. This is no easy task considering that often entrepreneurs have an emotional tie to their products. What can help you remain objective? Understand that strong negative feedback does not necessarily mean your product isn’t good. Actually, a person ignoring your product is a much stronger indicator of it being irrelevant. A strong emotional response, whether positive or negative indicates your product is hitting on a nerve. Conversely, if the feedback you are receiving specifies certain features that are missing, it does not necessarily mean you must add them. You need to see how often a feature is mentioned and why. If a missing feature continues to be mentioned, you have greater validation of its importance for your final product.
One way to go about this iterative process is to set up a landing page and offer to sell your product. You can then buy Google adwords to drive traffic to that landing page, and measure the click through rate. If it’s high, it’s a good indicator you are on to something.
If you want to fail forward and continually learn, keep in mind that you may have to test more than one MVP in different forms of prototypes.
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