Are you starting a new app based business? Congratulations, and know, you’re not alone! 2020 and 2021 proved to be unique years due to the pandemic, and one unforeseen change was the dramatic increase in the number of new small businesses. The UK saw nearly a 16% increase in new companies in 2020 over 2019, and the US saw a 25% increase for the same period.
Starting a new business is an exciting and challenging journey, and entrepreneurs wear many hats as they grow their dreams. For many online and app based businesses, the first challenge is developing and pitching your business idea. Many do this by developing an MVP, Minimal Viable Product. Though you may have a big dream, it’s important to start small and build from there.
The term MVP originates from Eric Ries' Lean Startup book and was created to help people test their business ideas quickly and essentially stop them from wasting money on building the wrong things. An MVP is the first thing you can give to your first customers to see if you can deliver any value to them. It is the simplest version of your product idea that can be used to test your value proposition.
Developing an MVP gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to test their business idea before they invest a lot of time and money. To develop an MVP, ask yourself this question: once I attract customers to my site, what is the most basic way in which I want to interact with them?
Think big, start small
Your dream might be to sell unique products, build a community of musicians or help other entrepreneurs, however you need to start somewhere. Your starting point is your Minimal Viable Product (MVP). An MVP is exactly what it sounds like, the most basic service or product that you can offer customers to start your business.
MVPs are not necessarily aimed at turning a profit, rather they are designed to test whether a number of your assumptions are true. An MVP should solve a problem so painful for your customer that they use your product even in it's most basic form. The aim of an MVP is to test your ideas, see how customers respond, and to take on feedback with further iterations. Your MVP should represent the most basic aspect of your service or product, thinking about the problem that you want to solve for your customers.
Start with the problem
For a pre-launch startup the most important thing to define is the problem you're solving. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and think about the following:
- What problem are you solving?
- Who are you solving this problem for?
- Why is this important to them?
When thinking about who you are solving a problem for, it’s important to think about them specifically. Too often businesses start with identifying their target market by segmenting rather than understanding the underlying issues that unite their target market segments. One way to help identify with your potential customers is to build personas, or characters, that help you profile the journey your potential customer is on, what problem they are facing, and the type of solution they are looking for.
By understanding the particular challenge of your target market, you can develop your product to meet their needs and your marketing plan to meet them along their journey. By identifying with your potential customers, you can begin to understand what is the primary product or service that you can offer them which helps you develop your MVP. As you develop your first iteration of your MVP, you can begin to test it with customers and collect feedback.
Developing your app and testing it with customers
Once your idea is ready, it's time to build your app. Building an app takes time, though with No-Code applications, like Bubble, it can take a couple of weeks to develop a working app compared to a few months with more traditional coding.
Once you have a basic working app you can start with user testing (also known as UX testing). Tap into your personal networks and find the people your app is designed for. Ask them to test your app and provide feedback on their experience. It shouldn’t take long to gather feedback from a handful of people and start to get a sense of how people interact with the app.
It’s important to prioritise the feedback and fixes that you would like to make using the MoSCoW prioritisation method.
As important as it is to understand what your app will do, it is also important to know what your app won’t do. Make sure to keep notes on what you don’t want to develop, as this is part of your framing for your development plan and to help keep your ideas focused over time. By evaluating and logging the feedback you receive, you can begin to develop your product development roadmap.
Build your product development roadmap
Once you understand your MVP and target market, you can start to build your roadmap for development. What features do you want to develop and in what order? Building an app and business takes time and iterations, and it’s important to map out your progress.
Your roadmap should:
- Outline your strategy and long-term vision of where you want your product to be in one or two years by quarters
- Lays out what features you would like to build and in what order for the next stages of the project
- Your execution strategy outlines how you will deliver your vision clear with each stage of the project laid out
- A published version can be used to engage with your investors and keeps them up-to-date with the project
When developing your roadmap it’s important to think about continuous development that supports users by addressing their needs first, and then their wants based on user feedback. Any good roadmap should take into consideration timelines, building in both short-term wins while also working on long-term goals. By tackling the needs and basic problems of your customers, they can begin using the app and providing feedback.
Developing and testing your MVP also gives you the opportunity to develop your online presence. Your MVP can also be used as part of your sales pitch to gain new customers or can be used as part of your investors pitch to gain new investors.
Measuring the success of your MVP
While testing and developing your MVP, you will also need to think about what are your measures of success. There are different ways and measures of success depending on the type of application you are developing. Feedback through UX testing and interviews will be your first measure. Though feedback is subjective, you will also want to develop objective measures such as the rate of returning users and customers, the number of downloads and uninstalls, and sales for example.
For further reading on this see: https://www.ycombinator.com/library/6f-how-to-plan-an-mvp
Launching your app
Having a product ready for users to engage with is the ultimate goal for your MVP. By the time you launch your app, ideally you will already have some early customers and users from your testing and early development days. Your early research should also have a clear understanding of your customers which will help you develop your marketing plan.
In the early days of your app and business, be creative and have fun! Find unique and interesting ways to gain attention and new customers. Content marketing, live events, social media marketing are all ways that you can connect with potential customers directly and engage them in interesting ways.
As you gain new customers, make sure you keep collecting feedback and continue with UX testing so that you can continue to develop and improve your app.