MVPs Are Actually A Money Pit; Try This Instead - Neutech, Inc.
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MVPs Are Actually A Money Pit; Try This Instead

You know that social media post format where someone says “Unpopular opinion: [insert opinion that’s not unpopular]”?

Unpopular opinion: Pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza!”

“Unpopular opinion: Die Hard is a Christmas movie!”


Here’s my actual, potentially unpopular opinion: The approach that most agencies take to Minimum Viable Products is a money pit for clients. 😬😬 Click To Tweet
Why is this an unpopular opinion? Because building MVPs for clients is the bread and butter of most tech agencies and senior staff augmentation agencies like mine.

Here’s why I think Minimum Viable Products are a money pit for most clients (and what we do instead)

Why MVPs don’t work for most clients

The biggest problem with the traditional approach to MVPs: Agencies often fail to consider if the product they’re building WILL ACTUALLY MAKE THEIR CLIENTS ANY MONEY. Click To Tweet
Most agencies fail to:

  • Brainstorm with their clients about how they can monetize the MVP
  • Direct them towards experts who could help them monetize the MVP
  • Introduce them to investors who could help them get money and then monetize the MVP

And this is pretty convenient for the agency, right? When they’re focused on building out extensive features for this magical MVP, their billables keep clicking along and the agency keeps bringing in more money.

Another issue with MVPs? There’s no universally agreed upon definition of “Minimum Viable Product” – which is frustrating for both clients and engineers.

Agency 1 might think an MVP should work for Apple devices, Androids, and desktops; Agency 2 thinks a desktop-only MVP is fine. Maybe Agency 3 thinks building your MVP with a low-code platform is the way to go.

Every agency has a different idea of what makes for an MVP, and if this is your first one, you’re sort of at the mercy of whatever agency you sign with.

If you’re spending months of your life (and lots of money!) on your MVP, you should end up with something that is ACTUALLY SELLABLE. Click To Tweet

How we figure out what your Minimum Viable SELLABLE Product should be

Is it slower and more work to create a Minimum Viable Sellable Product, rather than any old MVP? Yes.

But wouldn’t you rather, you know, make money on the thing you created?!

1. We thoroughly research the problem your MVSP is solving + existing solutions for that problem

Is this a problem that consumers or businesses are actively looking to solve? Doordash solved the problem of wanting to order takeout from restaurants that didn’t offer delivery. Thriftup solved the problem of wanting to buy secondhand clothes online with ease.

If there’s already an app or platform that’s attempting to address this problem, are customers happy with it? Our client Walla is a fitness studio management platform. They only have one real competitor, however Walla’s dedication to boost profitability, save time, increase retention, and engage more clients with the industry’s best experience, is so clear and compelling  we knew they would be successful, quickly.

2. We identify the target audience and understand their needs through customer interviews

Let’s say we were helping our client create a new social media platform (spoiler alert: we are.) We’d start by talking to people in Connyct’s target audience and asking them questions like: 

  • How do you feel about Facebook, Instagram, and X?
  • What features do you wish these apps had? (Or features you wish they’d retire?) 
  • What would make you want to use an app like this? 
  • What would make you NOT use an app like this? 

As you’re conducting these interviews, you’ll learn surprising things. You might discover that nobody cares about filters, so you don’t need to bother building them or that people haaaaate suggested content and just want to see posts from the people they follow. Which is good news because then you don’t have to worry about coding in suggested content!

3. We design a solution with the minimum necessary features to solve the problem

Doing that preliminary research will save you tons of time and money in the long run, because you’ll be able to launch a product people truly want and need with only the features they want and need.

When Instagram first launched, it was an app for whiskey and bourbon drinkers (!!!) and it obviously didn’t have all the bells and whistles it has now. When we’re regularly using billion-dollar apps that have been around for a decade, it can be easy to get caught up in what our MVSP “should” look like. But a simple solution is often the best one, especially when you’re first starting out.

The right agency will help you figure out the minimum necessary features your MVSP needs; enough that it’s user-friendly and useful, not so many that you’re wasting money and time.

4. We create a clickable prototype and validate it with potential customers

Remember that new social media platform Connyct? We built this clickable prototype and asked those target audience members what they thought of it.

Was it easy to find existing friends on the platform? How did they feel about having an online space where there were no lurking parents or bosses? Did they care or notice that it protected their privacy in a way that Meta and TikTok don’t?

Taking the time to make sure your target audience actually likes and uses the features you include in the prototype is so important – it’ll help you avoid wasting money on coding features no one actually uses!

5. We iterate the prototype based on customer feedback

Everybody likes and uses Connyct’s ability to plan events and find out what your friends are up to? We double down and add more features there. Nobody’s using the chat functionality? Okay, we can pull that feature and devote your budget and our engineers’ time to something else.

6. We build the MVSP with the validated feature set that customers are willing to pay for

After all that research, we’re as sure as it’s possible to be that this is a MVSP that is, in fact, sellable, that this is a product that people are willing to pay for.

Why we believe Minimum Viable SELLABLE Products beat MVPs every time

When you take the time to validate the product-market fit and ensure that there’s a demand for your solution, you’re more likely to generate revenue from the initial product release. That means the business is more viable and more likely to attract funding.

Going back to our client Walla, the fitness studio management software. We knew they were on to something when we were researching their competitor Mindbody and found this review (one of many like it!):

Unsurprisingly, Walla secured $13 million of Series A funding. As of August 2023, they were averaging 76,000 bookings per day. All because they did their homework before launching!

And when your business is viable and you’ve secured funding? You can afford to keep engineers on staff for faster iteration and scaling based on customer feedback. They tell you they want to be able to sell pop-up, one-off workshops or send photos that auto-delete in 24 hours? Your engineers can have those features up and running in weeks.

When your users see you responding to their requests and needs, you build trust and long-term relationships. They’re more likely to recommend your platform to friends or even become an official ambassador!

Listen, I totally understand the desire to launch your first product as quickly as humanly possible – I get it! 

But spending a little bit of extra time to make sure your MVP is, in fact, sellable will save you so much money and stress in the long run. And with the right agency (*cough*  Neutech *cough*) you can launch your market-fitting, income-generating MVSP in 3 – 4 months. If you have an idea for a great product and you’d like to chat, you can grab a spot on my calendar here!

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