Validate first, build later. This motto, combined with a strong MVP, helps you find out whether your idea will fly, even without a large team of developers, months of coding, and an extensive budget.
WHAT IS A MVP?
1. “Ghetto Testing” or Fake Door Test
Zynga is one of the most successful developers of browser games (remember Farmville?). The most simple validation method that still generates helpful insights for the MVP is called “ghetto testing” (at least by Zynga themselves).
- Create a five-word pitch for the new product or feature
- Put it on a website with tons of traffic and see how many clicks are generated
- Gather email addresses using the clicks
- Build a simple “ghetto” version of the product
- Test and start again with Step 1
2. Landing Page Test
This is a bit more sophisticated. Instead of a simple five-word pitch and a contact farm for gathering emails, you build a landing page that describes your product and, optionally, already shows some mockups of your product. Especially if the product is digital, this can be done easily using 3D packshots or screenshots of the future app.
By using Facebook Ads and Google Ads, you forward people to your landinge page and generate traffic.
Your first KPI: How often does your target demographic click the ads?
A second indicator of success is the frequency with which people apply for a beta test or more product info.
3. Market Research
You can add more functions to the validation landing page at will. There might be a pre-order function for various combinations of price and function. This providey ou with important information about which combination your customers would prefer the most.
You can also test variables such as color or size, or the demand for various product feature, of course.
4. Flowchart or Storyboard Testing
This method is more of a street interview approach. You create a simple visual of how your product solves the indended customers’ problems and go directly to your potential customer groups. With your storyboard in hand, you quickly explain what your product is doing and find out in which direction you should take the development using the questions from Part 1.
You can also produce a video instead of a storyboard – just be aware that this means more effort and that your target demographic might not be able to give you the same kind of feedback when they watch a linear video instead of images that illustrate individual steps.
5. The “Wizard of Oz” Type of MVP
When using this method, you build the shell of a product but the actual process behind the product is made by hand – either by yourself as founders or by service providers such as Fiverr or Amazon Mechanical Turk. Your customers get a real result, a real service, or a real product, but you don’t need to build something complicated.
6. The Concierge MVP
And there’s even a leaner way: The Concierge is comparable to the Wizard of Oz but you put your cards on the table. You explain to your customers that you develop the product on the fly – with their help and their feedback. For that, you don’t need a fake product shell.
7. The Consulting MVP
For the Consulting MVP, you already need to have a method that works really well or an effective process with lots of background knowhow that represents real added value to your customers. In such a case, you might want to offer your service as a consulting assignment at appropriate rates which in turn enable you to generate cashflow for covering operating costs, technological automation, and scaling.
8. The Contract MVP
Surely the most exotic of methods: You draft a contract for your (still non-existing) product or service and approach potential customers about signing the contract as a kind of pre-emption right with, e.g., special conditions. As soon as the product becomes available, they automatically become customers. The customers can cancel the contract at any time before product release. If the product is never built neither party has any obligation to fulfill.
In principle, the Contract MVP is individualized crowdfunding, just without advance payment.
9. The Crowdfunding Campaign
This is the method with the highest effort on this list. It is only a viable course of action if you expect to incurr high production costs for e.g., hardware. Crowdfunding has two big advantages: Your crowdfunding platform draws a lot of potential customers who want to be early adopters. If you manage to win them over, you can cover your funding costs through the pre-orders of your products.
Nevertheless, the effort required for a successful campaign (the preparation of a crowdfunding campaign requires at least 3 months) and the length of the wait until you can deliver the actual result suggest that this method is rather unwieldy, especially if you want to carry out quick tests.
The Advantages of Validation Testing
All methods help you to quickly (and cheaply) gain insight into your potential customers’ attitude towards your product – on how valuable they think your product idea is. This way, you can test even small features and avoid wasting time and money by building features or products your customers don’t even want.
The most important part: All these methods make you learn (and speak) the language of your target demographic.
More Insights on the Topic of MVPs
Kristina Walcker-Mayer, CEO of Bitwala, gives you some hands-on advice on how to build a MVP for your idea.