From idea to fully fledged product: All MVP stages
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- 12 min
- Aug 11, 2020
Once you have an idea for a startup, you’re eager to implement it as fast as possible. However, haste seldom contributes to success. What really makes startups successful is gradual and planned development.
In our article, we shed light on how you can transform your idea into a product launch. We also discuss the steps you should take to move from a minimum viable product (MVP) to a fully fledged product.
But before we get into all the stages your MVP should pass through to become a mature product, let’s take a look at what it takes to create an MVP.
From idea to an MVP
A minimum viable product is the basis of your final product. That’s why carrying out a lot of research and doing a lot of work is a must to ensure a quality MVP. Let’s have a look at the steps that will help you do this.
Creating a minimum viable product starts with an idea. Once you have an idea for your future business, you need to shape it. Simply having a cool idea won’t bring you money. You should work hard to turn your idea into a product or service that users will love. Let’s consider the tools and strategies that allow you to polish your business concept to perfection.
Identifying a market need
First and foremost, you should understand whether the product or service you’re going to offer will be in demand. To do this, carry out market research to find out:
- the current market needs and requirements for the category of product you’re going to offer
- how your product will solve customers’ pain points
- characteristics that will make your product competitive.
Once you have this information, you can move to the next step.
Targeting the right audience
In addition to knowing that your product or service will be in demand, it’s crucial to know who you’ll sell it to.
When analyzing your target audience, consider such factors as age, gender, occupation, place of residence, and income level. You might also be interested in lifestyles and hobbies to narrow the circle of potential customers.
With this information at hand, you can determine the most effective communication channels and strategies and launch the right marketing campaign to attract your customers.
Carrying out competitor and SWOT analyses
Whatever business you’re going to start, you’re likely to have competitors. That’s why it’s crucial to analyze other market players and understand if your business will be competitive in the existing market.
Besides your direct competitors, who share your market segment and offer similar products or services, indirect competitors are also worth your attention. Although indirect competitors are companies that offer different products or services to your target audience, they can still address your customers’ pain points.
Here’s an example: Imagine an entrepreneur is going to create an online platform with the ability to hold business meetings. Their direct competitors will be such tools as Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts since they offer exactly the same solutions to the entrepreneur’s target audience. On the other hand, the entrepreneur can face indirect competitors located in their area ‒ conference halls that offer rent by the hour for holding business events.
Another instrument to understand the viability of your business idea is a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
To carry out a SWOT analysis, create a table with four fields (one for each of the characteristics mentioned above) using any convenient tool: an Excel spreadsheet, a Google Doc, or even a sheet of paper. Once you fill out all four fields, you can determine your chances for business success.
With a completed SWOT table in hand, you can clearly see your business prospects and come up with ideas for how to turn your soft points into strengths.
A SWOT analysis is also a powerful tool for visualizing competitor analysis. You can use the very same structure to understand your competitors better – and to know where to hit them!
Creating a Lean Canvas
While SWOT analysis gives you a general overview of your business, a Lean Canvas is a more effective tool for determining your business model, monetization strategy, and channels to reach your customers as well as to gain a better understanding of how your business will operate.
Consisting of one page and nine sections, a classic Lean Canvas is a fast way to gather crucial information about your business in one document. A Lean Canvas is easy not only to fill out but also to make changes to if necessary.
The Lean Canvas template below is the one we use at RubyGarage. It has ten sections (with an additional Competitors section) and helps us better understand the needs of startups. In each section are questions you should answer.
#2 Validation and roadmapping
Once your idea is properly shaped, it’s time to validate it. Below, we describe the steps you should take before moving to the MVP stages.
Proof of concept
A proof of concept (POC) helps you understand if your product can be developed from a technical standpoint. A proof of concept isn’t a product yet; it’s only a test that helps you find out if your idea is feasible.
Creating a proof of concept isn’t necessary for all startups. It only makes sense when you have a unique idea and aren’t sure it will work. So before creating a proof of concept, check that no one has ever done what you’re planning to do before. If your idea is the first of its kind, you need a POC to ensure it can be created from a technical standpoint.
Just like a proof of concept, a business plan isn’t always necessary, but you might want to create one because a business plan:
- is more informative than a Lean Canvas, since it includes 35-40 pages of information concerning different aspects of your business
- allows you to determine your business objectives and come up with solutions for the next 5 years
- helps you gather detailed information about internal and external conditions that influence your business to make data-driven decisions
- helps you set clear goals and milestones to achieve them
- can serve as a basis for a pitch deck and help you interest investors.
When you’re sure about the viability and feasibility of your idea, you should move to prototyping. In creating prototypes of your product, you’ll get an understanding of how your product is going to work and how to ensure a smooth user experience.
You can take advantage of low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototypes. Low-fidelity prototypes, also known as paper prototypes, can be used to express your ideas quickly to colleagues or stakeholders. However, if you want to have a better understanding of how your final product will look and operate, you should opt for a high-fidelity prototype. This is a software-based presentation of your product that can help you prevent bugs and discrepancies in your product’s UI/UX design.
#3 MVP development
A minimum viable product has enough features to meet the most important needs of your target audience. Although an MVP isn’t a fully fledged product yet, it’s an important stage for your business. At the MVP stage, you can validate your business idea, get early feedback from customers, and improve your product fast to take it to the next stage.
To ensure the quality of your MVP, you should stick to a lean approach. A lean approach entails building a version of your product, collecting feedback, deciding how to improve your product, and making necessary changes. Then you iterate this process until your product works as planned. The following example shows what can happen if companies neglect the lean approach.
Intercom, a conversational relationship platform that helps businesses build better relationships with their customers, once implemented a new feature on their site: a map that showed the position of the companies’ customers all over the world. This map was supposed to be used for gathering analytical data and had to be geographically accurate.
However, the map’s users noticed that the map looked impressive, so they utilized it in a completely different way ‒ to display their results to investors and potential customers. It turned out that they didn’t care about the map’s functionality; its looks were more than enough. So Intercom decided to cut back the number of cool features they planned to incorporate into the map and simply focus on its appearance.
In addition to sticking to the lean approach, here are other important things you need to do:
- Prioritize the features for your MVP. Choosing the most important features over secondary ones can reduce the time to market. With the right set of features, you can launch your product and start attracting customers fast. That’s why it’s important to decide on the features to include in your MVP now and the ones to add later.
- Choose a technology stack to build your product. Your choice of technology stack and MVP architecture will determine how easy it is to make changes to your product in the future. An MVP is the first but not the last version of your product, so you should choose a tech stack that will allow you to further develop and scale your product quickly.
- Find a CTO for your startup. A chief technical officer, or CTO, is a person or a company responsible for the success of your startup from the technology perspective. A CTO has a number of duties such as providing technical solutions to validate your business idea, developing and launching an MVP, recruiting technical specialists, and organizing the workflow of the development team. If you lack technical expertise, there are three options for hiring a CTO: hire an in-house CTO, hire a remote contractor, or work with a software development agency that has sufficient expertise and can not only develop your MVP but advise you on how to build your startup from a technology standpoint.
From MVP to a fully fledged product: MVP stages
Here you are. Your MVP is ready and you have the first feedback from your customers. You know what to change in the minimum viable version of your product to improve the user experience. But when you make all the necessary changes, does it count as a fully fledged product? Can you hard launch it on the market? Not yet. There are a couple of stages that separate you from this goal. Let’s see what they are.
Minimum marketable product
A minimum marketable product (MMP) is a product that your users are ready to pay for. An MMP has all features needed to meet your customers’ needs, works flawlessly, and can be launched on the market.
So how can you create an MMP? Actually, an MMP consists of several iterations of an MVP together with improvements. It’s difficult to say how many times you’ll need to test your MVP, get feedback from early adopters, and change your product to satisfy all their requirements until they’re ready to pay for it.
However, you should remember that your minimum viable product becomes marketable when you provide all the features necessary to solve your customers’ essential pain points and when it works flawlessly.
Minimum loveable product
The idea of a minimum loveable product (MLP) lies in its name: your customers love it. And once they love it, they’re likely to tell others about it.
To shift from an MMP to an MLP, you need to add features to your product that will evoke a positive emotional response among your customers. By doing this, you’ll make your target audience love your product once they try it. To reach this goal, consider your product from the perspective of a user ‒ think about what will make users adore your product right away.
Let’s consider Telegram as an example. At the time of its launch, there were several major messengers that could be a big threat to this new business. Viber and WhatsApp had already been around for several years, and their customers weren’t willing to switch to a new application. However, Telegram became extremely popular thanks to its special lovable feature ‒ free sticker packs and the ability for users to create new stickers. This feature made Telegram a loveable product, and now it has 400 million active users worldwide.
Fully fledged product
The notion of a fully fledged product is probably the most blurred among all the things discussed in this article. It’s impossible to define a fully fledged product, since there’s always room for perfection.
Once you release your MMP, MLP, or fully fledged product, you can come up with improvements that will solve more of your customers’ pain points and implement more features in your app. Thus, every time you launch a fully fledged product, it isn’t necessarily the last version.
The path from a business idea to a fully fledged product can be effort- and time-consuming. But with wise planning and step-by-step product development, you’re bound to get the expected results.
Once you have a business idea, you should go through several steps before creating a minimum viable product:
There are four types of products on the way from an MVP to a final product:
- Minimum viable product
- Minimum marketable product
- Minimum loveable product
- Fully fledged product
If you aren’t a technology expert, you might need some outside help. If you have an idea for a technology startup but can’t fulfill it on your own, contact our team to access a full range of startup development services.