The role of an MVP: sales vs learning?

mvp - learning


“Our MVP is currently on the App Store, the development was outsourced and looks great but it’s quite slow and glitchy and will probably not be able to get much traction in its current state. I’m also wary of spending too much time + money promoting a subpar product.”

This is one post I came across recently on one of the startup forums.

Does this sound familiar?

We all start on our MPV experiment in a right frame of mind, but as we go along, there is a chance we lose the objectivity of the whole process and this is where we start getting doubts and questions about how the present MVP looks and why we do not want to put all our heart into testing the critical assumption about our business model.

This could be a part of the mechanism for us to cope with a failure to attract enough traction and for giving us a sense of hope that, there will be traction if the current MVP is improvised.

We need to keep reminding ourselves about the goal of an MVP experiment, in every step as we go along. Is it to get sales or user acquisition (after all, this does validate our business model) or is it about learning more about situations with prospects, users or customers?

Starting up and MVP experiments

New product building recognizes that when you focus on understanding your users and how they discover and adopt your products, you can build features that help you acquire and retain more users, rather than just building it based on what you perceive would work for the customers.

MVP needs to demonstrate that you should build this solution.  The MVP experiments also need to answer the questions — will people buy it? If you can begin to build a user base of early adopters that are enthusiastic about your product and find it valuable enough to open up their wallets.

When you make iterations based on user feedback, you enhance your value proposition and increase viability.  At any stage when you go through Learn-Build-Test loop, your most critical assumption that you want to test, drives what features you build in the product.  And, this essentially is the core of MVP.

Sales: King of metrics

You need to measure the engagement of your product offering in an MVP experiment with prospects, free users or paid customers.

“Cash is king” obviously is the one part of that engagement that you like to follow. Measuring sales sounds most obvious and we tend to work on strategies of mass-marketing to ramp up this.

But, here is a catch,

In an MVP experiment, you need to measure both quantity and quality of the engagement.

MVP is not just about “GO – NO GO” test

MVP is not about just “GO – NO GO” testing, based on the amount of sales that you are able to achieve.

Because it is also about knowing why your customers are really buying and what part of the offering do they really like?  And, why?

Similarly, it is also about understanding why your prospects are not buying?  Or, why your customers or free users who signed up, are not excited about using it?

The answers to these questions would give you ammunition to build the next version of your MVP experiment.

To go forward on your starting up process, these insights are crucial, perhaps more critical than the amount of sale you close.

The goal during early phase

Your goal here is customer discovery.  With a goal of customer discovery, the initial priority is not sales pitching but learning.

This leads to the business model discovery.

During the start-up phase,  validating your assumptions about pain point, solution, value proposition and more is one part of the game plan. The other part of the game plan is learning and evolving your business model based on the discovery.

When you start up, everything about your business model is based on your hunches. Through the customer discovery, you modify your game plan based on you discover.

Solving a customer problem, in the early stages, is a collaborative effort.  You need customers’ perspectives, rather than your views about their perspective. One of the key principles of “Lean thinking” is to define value from the customer perspective.  It’s very important for you to get that definition right before you step up your efforts on your big marketing push.

You need to get in their head. You need to see how they are seeing it. Connect with them as humans. Empathise with them.

If all this happens, sales will be a definite spin-off.  You don’t need a polished version of your MVP for this to happen.


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