When releasing a product, is it better to spend a lot of time creating a high quality product with a lot of features? Or to quickly create a Minimal Viable Product (MVP)?
There are those who would prefer creating a very high quality product with a lot of features, but it would take a very long time. And when they finally publish, the product does not get much traction, and there’s a chance that there wasn’t a market for that product at that time. All that time being spent could have been wasted.
There are others, including Eric Ries, author of the book, “The Lean Startup”, who suggest creating a Minimal Viable Product First. Creating a Minimal Viable Product allows minimal effort creating a product, and allows the product team to quickly learn and create changes to the original product. In the process, the early adopters can try the product and give feedback. By the time the product is more mature after many iterations, there is a base of customers and you have a better idea whether to persevere, or to pivot.
This methodology also reduces the odds of creating a product that customers do not want, and increases the chances via multiple iterations, that customers will want this product.
Concierge Minimal Viable Product
There are a lot of good examples in the book “The Lean Startup.”
One of them, involves the “Concierge Minimal Viable Product”.
There was a Texas startup company called “Food on the Table.” The idea is that customers can create weekly meal plans and groceries that are based on food the customers (and family) can enjoy. There would be an automated system where the customers would enter food the customer likes, and choose nearby grocery stores, and give feedback on what the family is in the mood for. There are many other features.
This was obviously an elaborate system.
Think Big, Start Small
As part of this process, rather than build all the features and functionality at once, the team at Food on the Table decided to start small. The VP of product went to the grocery stores to observe customers and to also research future customers, and possibly make a sale.
They finally found one early adopter, and that customer got very special concierge treatment. Instead of interacting with a computer and software, the customer got a personal visit each week from the CEO of the company. The CEO and the VP of Product, Steve Sanderson, would then review what was on sale and carefully select recipes based on the preferences. Finally, they would personally hand the customer a packet containing a shopping list and relevant recipies, and the Food on the Table team got feedback from the customer, and the company would collect a check.
Yes, it was inefficient and wouldn’t scale, but the CEO and VP of Product learned a lot of about the business and the market, and they eventually increased their customer base. Soon, the personal service stopped scaling, and so the Food on the Table team starting investing in more automation.
You can see where this is going as the Food on the Table team continued to grow, and they built out infrastructure to be able to scale.
Similar advice from Elaine Heney, author of the “App Escape Plan”
Elaine Heney, author of the “App Escape Plan”, suggests something similar. She recommends publishing fast, and not spending 6 or 12 months by yourself getting the app perfect. Instead, get a small section of the app done and upload to the store right away and get customer feedback and help validate your assumptions. You will then learn and make adjustments.
This is very similar advice to the “Lean Startup” methodology using a Minimal Viable Product.