The MVP and fear

The minimum viable product is a powerful way to find out if your solution is going to find a market.

Bean-to-bar chocolate in the US didn’t happen because someone raised millions of dollars, built a factory and got shelf space at the A&P. It happened because John Scharffenberger made a small batch of chocolate by hand and brought it to a farmer’s market. That was enough to discover if people wanted what he had in mind.

In This is Marketing, I talk about its cousin, the smallest viable audience. This isn’t a ‘target’, because we’re not hunting. Instead, this is a segment that you’ve chosen to delight. To delight so much that they’ll return and perhaps spread the word.

The fear comes in several forms:

  • It’s tempting to make your MVP quite fancy and complete. After all, every bell and whistle helps avoid a misunderstanding and ensures you won’t be misjudged. But our goal isn’t to be fully understood, it’s to discover if we understand the market well enough to shine a light on their problem.
  • It’s also possible to make your MVP so junky it can’t possibly work. Because if it doesn’t work, well, you’re off the hook and you can go back to whatever it is you were doing.
  • And, with the SVA, it’s quite common to make it far too big. When you seek to serve a diverse audience of people, you’re off the hook when someone says ‘no.’ The goal of identifying the SVA is to make it truly clear that you’ve either found the people who need you or you haven’t.

Both the MVP and the SVA are scary constructs, on purpose. The goal is to learn something, quickly, as opposed to wasting time by hiding out.