How to Plan a Successful MVP to Test the Market

Posted 10 Mar by Sophie Kleshchuk

Minimum viable product development is an ideal opportunity to take your idea and test the market.

However, these benefits only come if the MVP development is fruitful. To achieve this, you need to know how to plan an MVP.

Searching the internet for an MVP plan template will offer plenty of options. But a completed template is only as good as the information used to populate its fields. 

To make a successful plan, you need to know what information is required and why. Here we look to help you by setting out the steps you need to follow when creating your plan.

Create a Roadmap

Too many projects fail because they run out of money, go to market too late, or just never work. 

The traditional approach for startups was to develop a fully formed and polished product and then testing the market. If the market says no, then all the development effort is wasted.

The concept of an MVP is to create a minimal form of the product. If this early form is embraced by early adopters, this provides the foundation for developing the full-functionality version. 

MVP’s bring a host of benefits:
  • Showcase your ideas in a way that users can interact with
  • Demonstrate how your ideas can work in practice to investors
  • Validate if the idea has a market before committing to the full development
  • Obtain genuine and constructive feedback on the idea’s potential
  • Bring the revenue stream online earlier in the development process
  • Use the revenue stream to fund future developments
Creating the MVP requires a plan. 

It’s not as simple as filling in a minimum viable product template and handing it to the development team. Proper planning will ensure your MVP does what it needs to do and is ready when it needs to be, and all within your budget.

It applies equally to developing simple apps through to managing large technology programs in the digital era. The following steps will provide the roadmap to creating your MVP plan.

Identify and Understand the Business Need

The world is full of products that fail because nobody wants them. Success comes from developing a product everyone wants.

Every successful MVP starts with a business need. This is the problem that the product solves or the task that the product makes simpler, quicker, or cheaper. Read more about this new project management approach. If the market is there and not already full of competing products, then go ahead.

Know Your Target Audience

Very few products appeal to everyone. All have a niche, a target audience. Identify precisely what sort of person will: 
  • Experience the real-life problem your product solves
  • Be motivated enough to want a solution to that problem
  • Have the resources to buy the solution
Create as detailed a description of your target audience as possible. This will help in the development phase, especially when you look at how the users will interact with your product.
  • What sectors do they work in?
  • What countries or regions are they?
  • What types of devices do they have access to?
  • What are their typical ages, education, and experience?
  • What other products do they use?
  • What is their budget?
MVPs can have diverse groups of users with different needs that need to be balanced. 

An e-commerce app can have consumers making purchases, warehouses dispatching goods, administrators processing payments, and stock controllers maintaining stock levels. 

Each type of user has very different needs that must be satisfactorily addressed. In this case, the target audience needs to be divided into each distinct group and considered separately. 

Set Your Goals

The plan’s purpose is to deliver what you need when you need it and within budget. MVPs should plan to give the maximum amount of validation for the original idea’s viability with the minimum development effort. These are some example goals:

1. Functionality Goals

  • What are the key features of the product?
  • What features must be included in the MVP?
  • What features would be nice to have in the MVP?

2. Timescale Goals

  • When does each step of the development process need to be completed?
  • What are the dependencies between each step of the development?
  • What external events drive when certain features are required?

3. Budget Goals

  • What can you afford to spend on each step of the development process?
  • What reserves are available in case of unexpected issues?
  • What revenue streams do you expect?

4. Revenue Goals

  • What are your sales targets?
  • What revenue do you want to achieve over the long term?
  • What profits are you looking to achieve?

5. Customer Goals

  • How many early adopters do you need?
  • What feedback are you looking for?
  • What percentage of early adopters do you want to retain?

Understand and Plan the Success Criteria

Once the MVP goals have been developed, the MVP’s success criteria can be defined. Success criteria are essential in providing an indication as quickly as possible about the viability of the idea.

Examples of success criteria include:
  • Have the goals been achieved?
  • Does the MVP address the business needs?
  • Does the target audience want the MVP?
Once the MVP development starts, the success criteria should be regularly monitored. 

Ensure the MVP stays on track with the plan and delivers the required results. Projects often take longer than planned or overspend. If caught early, problems can be corrected or plans adjusted.

Here’s some useful background reading on this subject: Derisking corporate business launches: Five steps to overcome the most common pitfalls.

Map Out Your User Journeys

The next stage in the development planning is to map out how the target audience will interact with the product. Sketch out the journey the user will take, from picking up the product to solving their problem.

Your target audience’s typical behavior patterns will strongly influence the steps needed to get from the start point to the endpoint. 

Pain and Gain Points

Each step on the user journey will have pain points and gain points. These define the opportunity statements for the journey.
  • Pain points are the problems that a user may encounter when taking a step along the journey. These are the problems that you’re looking to solve.
  • Gain points are the rewards that a user may receive when overcoming a pain point. This is what your product should deliver.
  • Opportunity statements then summarize how user pain is reduced, and the gain enhanced.

Decide on the Core Features

Looking at the opportunity statements will identify which of the critical functionalities are core features for the MVP. 

These are the features that must be present to allow the user to complete the journey.

In theory, all elements that are not core features should be excluded from the MVP to minimize development effort. In practice, there may be one or two features that fall into the nice-to-have category that experience shows can be included in the MVP with minimal effort. 

This becomes a judgment call when listing the core features. Remember, the more core features in the MVP, the greater the risk of encountering development issues.

The most common approach to deciding core features is to use a prioritization matrix to map out which elements need to be implemented at which stage of the development lifecycle. Whatever method you choose, remember that the MVP user feedback may lead to reprioritization. MVP users may well demand that feature that you thought was a low priority nice to have.

Set the Time Frames

Time frames for MVP development are determined by:
  • How much effort is required for each core feature
  • How many resources are available to implement the features
  • When the MVP needs to be released into the marketplace
The development effort will depend on the number and complexity of the core features. This determines the resourcing requirements and timeframes.
  • If there is a firm date to be met, this determines how many resources are needed to achieve it.
  • If there is a limited set of available resources, this determines when the MVP will be ready for release.

Understand the Cost of Building an MVP

The central cost of building the MVP is the development team. 

Salary and overheads for resources are the primary factors in determining costs. A quick cost estimate can be made by basically taking the number of resources needed to achieve the plan multiplied by the development stage’s duration.

How Will You Market an MVP?

It is no use having the best MVP if no one knows about it. 

Part of the planning needs to cover how you will let the target audience know that the MVP is available and convince them that this is the solution to their problem.

The crucial part of marketing is getting the message across to potential customers that they’ll save more in the long term by spending a small amount on your product.

Chances are that the potential customers will have other options, including competing products. You’ll need to emphasize your product’s unique selling points and its key benefits to maximize the marketing potential.

The marketing strategy will depend on the income model for the product. Possible options include: 
  • a one-off purchase fee 
  • subscription-based leasing
  • or pay-as-you-go services 
The most appropriate revenue model will depend on the product’s nature, its market, and the target audience. 

How Will You Measure the Success of MVP?

A successful MVP is one that meets its goals. Performance metrics for these goals will measure the success. Example key performance indicators include:
  • What percentage of the target audience has acquired the MVP?
  • What is the positivity of the feedback from the target audience?
  • What revenue is the MVP delivering?
  • What profit is the MVP revenue returning?
  • What percentage of the users intend to use the product as it develops beyond being an MVP?

The Bottom Line

To produce an MVP that will successfully deliver your idea to the marketplace, you need a plan. The plan will start with your concept and list exactly how you’ll get from the idea to a successfully marketed product.

The whole point is to deliver a product to market as quickly and cheaply as possible. Without an effective MVP plan, development times can extend, costs ramp up, and chances are your product won’t do what your potential customers want it to do. 

Project success starts with proper planning. Now you’ve read this article, you know what you need to do to plan a minimum viable product.

Here is some advice on how to find your next big idea and make it happen, from a CEO who’s done it. 

We hope your own idea becomes a success.
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