When you launch a digital product, of course, you want it to become a blockbuster hit.
But, how do you know you’re building a product that people really want? What if you pour your heart and soul into a product and unleash it into the world… only to hear crickets?
If you have been hanging with us, you know we’re big fans of “tiny experiments.” We develop minimum viable products (MVPs) to help our clients grow an audience, find out what the users want, respond to shifting market demands, and gather insights to inform future design and development.
Here’s the fine print: For an MVP to work, it must have the right features for the purpose. Let’s look at how to decide what functionalities are essential for your MVP.
Identify Your Objectives
Before you get too excited about all the cool things you can do with the new product, you must define what you want this MVP to do for you. Here are some examples:
• Deliver a unique solution: If you want to launch a one-of-a-kind product, focus on features that aren’t available in the market to achieve a unique positioning.
• Launch an in-demand product: 35% of startups fail because there isn’t enough market demand for their products. Develop features that can help validate that your solution is indeed valuable and relevant.
• Achieve your long-term goals: If your digital product is part of an overarching business plan, you should prioritize features that’ll fit into the big picture and support your business model.
• Be the first to market: If you want to gain a first-mover advantage, you need to prioritize features that can help you establish a foothold in the market and gain traction as quickly as possible.
Additionally, gear your MVP’s features toward proving product-market fit, validating high-risk assumptions, and getting actionable user feedback.
Know Your Target Audience
For your MVP to succeed, its features must be relevant and valuable to your target market so you can gain traction and drive adoption. As such, you must know what your audience is looking for.
• Create buyer personas to understand the ideal customer demographics (e.g., age, gender, location, job title,) interests, preferences, and challenges.
• Identify the specific problem that your product solves for your users and focus the MVP’s features on their biggest pain point.
• Do a reality check — Can you articulate succinctly how your MVP’s features can solve your audience’s challenges? Write a one-liner and see if it resonates with your market.
• Find out how your audience solves their problem now. Knowing what’s working and what isn’t will help you identify features that can differentiate your product from the competition.
There are many ways to learn about your target audience. You can talk to them to see how they describe their challenges or use surveys to gain quantitative insights. Ask your customer-facing team (e.g., customer support reps) about your ideal customer’s priorities and analyze social media posts to see what people are talking about.
Research the Competitive Landscape
Your MVP’s features should help you stand out from your competitors and carve out a space in the marketplace. To succeed, you need to know what you’re running up against.
• Research your direct competitors that offer a similar solution to your target audience. Understand their products’ strengths and weaknesses, then focus on features that’ll do a better job in solving your users’ biggest pain point.
• Know Your indirect competition, such as companies that provide different products but satisfy the needs of your target market in other ways. Besides tangible results, you should consider how these products meet the psychological needs of the users.
• Consider people who choose to do nothing. Why are some of your audience members not taking action to solve their problems? Maybe they’re unaware that a solution exists, or your competitors’ products are too complex to use. Your MVP’s features should address the barrier to adoption.
Focus on finding gaps in the marketplace in your competitive analysis. The insights will help you define features that can address your target audience’s frustrations.
Distinguish the “Must-Haves” from the “Nice-to-Haves”
It’s tempting to incorporate every great idea into your MVP. But doing so will likely distract you from achieving your goal. Don’t be afraid to trim the fat. Your MVP should only contain “must-have” features that meet these criteria:
• Validate your product idea.
• Prove product-market fit.
• Align with your brand values.
• Build an initial user base.
• Minimize risks associated with launching the product.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have the “nice-to-have” features. But right now, prioritization is the name of the game. Put those functionalities on the back-burner and tackle them as future enhancements after you gain a solid user base.
Nail Your Killer Features and Define Your Unique Value Proposition
Your MVP’s features should help you form a unique value proposition that’s relevant to your target market and distinguishes your product from the competition.
The good news is that if you followed the steps above, you’d already have all the pieces of the puzzle you need to craft a unique value proposition. You can also leverage the process to help you verify that your MVP’s features are indeed relevant and valuable to your target market.
Let’s put the pieces together: Articulate your customers’ biggest pain point that your MVP’s features can solve. The functionalities should have a direct connection to your users’ problems. Then, show how your MVP is different from the existing solutions on the market and how it can add value for your target audience.
Also, consider if the unique value proposition is strong enough to elicit action from your audience. For example, are your features so much better that users would be willing to go through the trouble of migrating to your app?
Launch an MVP with the Right Features
Your MVP should be an integral part of your overall product design and development process. It should support your product strategy while building a foundation for your audience and revenue model.
Keep in mind that your MVP is a stepping stone for bigger things to come. As such, the process should include gathering user feedback, analyzing usage data, and making continual improvements. Staying agile can help ensure that you’re iterating the product to align with your long-term business goals and meet market demands.
Ready to get started with your MVP? Get in touch to see how we can help you set the right course and nail the best features to include in your MVP.
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