9 ways to test Minimum Viable Product
Sannacode has been working with tech startups for many years. During this time, we have repeatedly encountered a situation where an entrepreneur spent thousands of dollars on product development but the effort was in vain.
Not only startups face this problem. Any technological product at the start is just a set of hypotheses.
You can only assume the value and uniqueness of your product, your target audience, and competitors. It is necessary to test these hypotheses before spending money and time building a full-scale business.
The best way is to test the product's value at launch with MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Many startups in the software industry follow this approach.
Simplified, it looks like this: you have a hypothesis of a client's problem; you want to solve it with a set of technologies in your product. First, you need to confirm that the problem exists. The fastest way is to chat with potential clients and industry experts (in-depth interviews). Then you create an MVP, go to customers, and sell it to prove our solution’s value.
In the classical approach of Customer Development, there is also an intermediate stage of the solution interview. After identifying the problem, we return to the client to describe the solution and ask for feedback.
One of the first steps in hypothesis testing is creating a manual prototype, or Minimum Viable Product, at zero cost, which can already solve the customer's problem. In our opinion, one should start selling immediately after that.
Typically, in this configuration, user feedback becomes more valuable for product refinement.
9 cost-free MVP testing strategies
There are many ways to assess an MVP launched to the market for a potential target consumer group. But we recommend choosing the strategy that does not require additional investment and time.
The Sannacode team offers 9 proven MVP testing strategies without additional investment that we use for our clients:
Wizard of the Oz
The customer is the most crucial person in your business.
"Most startups died not because their product was bad, but because no one needed it."
Lean Startup entrepreneur and pioneer Eric Rees
To avoid the scenario from Eric Rees, you need to use the Customer development method even before creating the MVP.
As the name suggests, customer development involves developing the business and the main product around the client. Not around an idea, a unique feature, or anything else, but around the consumer and his problem.
Customer development contrasted with a product-driven development strategy. Some entrepreneurs believe that if they make a cool product, users will appear organically. In this connection, the entrepreneur and his team are too keen on adding new "features" and forget about the consumer and their needs. Because of this, the business fails.
Interviews are one of the main tools for Customer development. There are two types of interviews:
Problem interview. Such interview is conducted if you have only a hypothesis or an idea and you need to find out about its possible non-obvious problems. Everything should take place in the format of a simple conversation, during which you find out the experience of the interlocutor and his views on issues of interest to you. At the same time, communication itself should be informal. So it will be easier for a person to open up and tell everything as it is, without reservations.
Decisive interview. A decision interview was done when you already have a solution or an early prototype of a product and test it on users.
The interview does not require a lot of investment from the business. Also, it helps to find out the honest opinion of the target audience. You can find out if users are willing to pay to solve their problems. In this case, users must be frank with you and tell the truth.
Every online entrepreneur uses landing pages. These are web pages for collecting contact information. However, few people realize that a well-designed landing page can serve as a great, inexpensive minimum viable product.
The advantages of this strategy are high speed and low cost. All you need to do to start selling is create an attractive description, post it on the Internet, and launch an advertisement. You can understand how much your idea will be in demand and collect the first leads even before the product launch.
An MVP landing page is a fast-growing type of minimum viable product whose ultimate goal is not selling or collecting contacts but getting validated learning. It is done by advertising the product and services that exist only in the head of the entrepreneur.
Depending on the project’s complexity, the MVP landing page can be as simple as a static page or as complex as a database-driven website.
A/B testing of an MVP is testing a product within a limited group that refers to the project’s target audience. If the mini-group approves the development, it can be transferred to beta testing or testing by many real users unfamiliar to the developers.
You can repeat these cycles until both groups say no comments. The testing duration is selected individually, but usually, it does not exceed a couple of weeks.
If A/B testing does not give positive results even after a long enough time, it is best to return to the preparatory stage and start working on the MVP from the beginning.
Crowdsourcing is an outsourcing strategy that engages a wide range of Internet users for everyday purposes. The resources that different Internet users share in crowdsourcing can be completely different: time, connections, creativity, knowledge and experience, money, etc. When Internet users provide cash, this is often called crowdfunding.
Kickstarter and other crowdsourcing platforms allow users to pre-order a product and raise money, thereby confirming your idea’s viability. The main problem with using such sites is the too long iteration period. You have to work with the same prototype for a month or more. While the minimum viable product must be continuously updated and improved, the crowdsourcing mechanism prevents this.
This MVP testing strategy is suitable for startups that do not have the money to implement their idea.
The Wizard of Oz
By providing the consumer with a Wizard of Oz MVP, you are giving them a product that looks like it does all the things on its own but is manually controlled. When using this kind of MVP, the client does not know that the problems, usually solved with a program or automatically, are solved by a person.
This strategy is suitable for product photography. For example, if you are developing an online translator. The translation will not be carried out automatically, but with the efforts of one or two translators who sit at the computers, receive assignments, and instantly issue the translation.
This type of MVP typically requires a development interface so that users can interact with it with the confidence that it is a proven product. While the user experience should be close to reality, the rest can be tweaked manually or using available tools, but the user is not aware of this.
It is a short video presentation explaining why this product is essential and why people should pay. This video can be done in different styles, for example, as a demo video.
For example, when developing Dropbox, it first had to figure out if customers were interested in their product. They made a simple explainer video showing what it would be like to work with Dropbox before spending time developing the app itself. The video received hundreds of thousands of views, which convinced the team that the product was in demand.
You can post your video on free sites such as YouTube or Facebook, and then follow the video’s popularity and user comments. It will help you test your MVP or make decisions to improve it.
Paper prototyping is the first stage and is a commonly used method of designing a website or mobile application, and it is also free.
The main goal at this stage is to build a competent structure for interaction with the visitor.
A paper prototype is not a final design; you should not draw graphic elements in it, insert illustrations, or consider the font.
Using such a prototype, you can show the future site’s structure or application and get instant feedback from the user. Then you can conclude the relevance of your idea and how to implement it.
This strategy allows you to think over the system of interaction with the user, the necessary blocks’ location, and organize the navigation system.
The main disadvantage of all interrupting testing profit centers is that people cannot adequately assess your product’s cost and ability to pay. Therefore, one of the most successful options for testing a product is collecting pre-order requests.
This option is perfect for games and software products. You can pre-order using the website or your social media account:
Website. On the site, you are not selling a product but inviting potential customers to leave their email or pre-order without payment.
Accounts in social networks. The site can be omitted. You can create a public page for a brand or product and estimate demand based on your target audience's comments and subscriber growth rates.
The main disadvantage of this method is that you have to spend money on an advertising campaign, especially when you launch a new product that users are not familiar with.
Unexpectedly, a blog can be an excellent start for testing an MVP. You can start a blog from a brand or as an influencer, where you will talk about problems and how your product will help to deal with them. You can also use related topics to write expert articles, including small inserts mentioning your startup.
Thus, you can assess the organic interest of users in this problem. You can focus on traffic, several likes, and reposts about your product, comments, and first orders.
Plus, by showing yourself as an expert, you can attract investors who share your vision and are willing to invest in your ideas.
It is essential to choose the right strategy at the MVP development stage to assess your idea’s viability. If you do not have experience starting a product from scratch, we recommend outsourcing professionals who will support and consult you at every development stage.
We at Sannacode have successfully launched 20+ projects from scratch. You can apply for a free consultation with our top specialists by filling out the website’s form.