Most founders know that creating a startup isn’t easy. Among all the different challenges that come along your way, one of the hardest arises early on, when turning your idea into an actual product - the development of an MVP.
“Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.”
Most people focus on the technical requirements surrounding an MVP but fail to emphasize on customer testing and feedback implementation. Truth it, building an MVP goes far beyond developing an app. Design, promotion, security, and communication are just a few of the many areas that come into play during this process.
For this reason, we created a minimum viable product checklist containing all the points you should focus on. After reading through this article, you should get a better idea of the steps you need to follow to create a successful early-stage product.
Minimum viable product (MVP) checklist
This MVP checklist does not be seen as mandatory, but there is a higher probability of success when applying the points within.
1. Active social media sharing of product development and idea validation
To build a loyal community of product testers — and eventually gather useful feedback — you will need to create a social media presence before the release of your MVP.
72% of consumers prefer to recommend and interact with brands that offer them a positive experience through social media.
Share the journey of your startup across all social platforms where your audience can be found and emphasize not only the product but also the reason(s) for building it. Try to create an “insider’s view” of the development process and idea validation while remaining non-promotional.
The Pareto principle may be useful here - try to create informative and engaging content 80% of the time, and allow only 20% to be of promotional nature.
2. Set up an email newsletter before releasing your product
When it comes to the development of an engaged community, email marketing is really important. This is because it:
- Helps your startup establish 1-on-1 communication with subscribers, allowing more personalized feedback.
- Keep top-of-mind awareness of your brand (especially when sending emails often).
- Associates niche-related expertise to your brand name.
- It is cheap to set up with high click rates.
Furthermore, a newsletter allows startup founders to collect information from their users in many different ways. Some are more open-ended (reply to this email with your thoughts), while others are more structured (surveys, random sampling, etc.)
In the following points, we will delve deeper into the different methods you can use to collect emails before the release of your product.
3. Use Drift & Hotjar for communication and data collection
The first version of your product can be help you uncover your customers’ pain points. This type of feedback loop becomes easier when utilising omnichannel communication and tracking browsing behaviour.
Adding more communication channels (e.g. live chat) is the first step of this process. By making it extremely easy for customers to communicate with you, there is a higher probability of personalized feedback. Drift has a cost-free, live chat integration and offers special deals to early-stage startups who are looking to build custom chatbots.
Once your communication channels are in place, you can start tracking what customers are doing on your website (or app). Hotjar is a great tool for this process. Not only does it create heatmaps and recordings that help you understand where your customers are focused on, but it also offers additional communication tools (feedback tickets and surveys).
Note that Hotjar’s basic plan is free to use when collecting data for up to 2000 pageviews per day. This amount of traffic is more than most startups will get at this stage of the process.
4. Talk to potential buyers and get early buy-ins by offering a launch discount
Sales and marketing efforts will be the predominant factor that drives traffic to your early-stage product. However, this is not the only way to generate interest. In addition to common methods, you can use the power of your network and you social circles to generate interest.
You can find customers literally anywhere:
- Engaging with posts on LinkedIn
- Browsing though email contacts
- Visiting events an conferences
- Participating in speaking engagements
- Hanging out where your audience tends to be
As soon as you talk with people who match the criteria of your audience, and are thus potential users, you could offer a discount or a free trial. This could increase the number of signups and, eventually, the amount of feedback you receive.
5. MVP tech made easy - build a basic no-code tool
If you have no coding experience and are on a tight budget, consider using drag and drop tools to create a basic tool that you can share with your first customers. If your audience likes the product and sees that value in the basic version, you can scale your efforts and build a “richer” product with the help of code.
- Use WebFlow to build your website without any code involved.
- Use Adalo to build the first version of your app.
- Glide helps you turn Google Sheets into customizable apps.
If you’re uncertain of the software requirements, or lack the experience necessary, you could always outsource the development of your MVP.
6. Apply resistive onboarding to create an early group of high intent users
In order to get more valuable feedback and maximize the value you receive from each beta user, it might be a good idea to create a “gateway” for new signups.
This process is known as resistive onboarding and ensures that only those who have a real interest for your product will get to access it. By making sure that your early group consists of high intent users, you also get the opportunity to discuss about their pain points in further depth through different forms of qualitative research (phone calls, interviews, personal emails, etc.).
The easiest way to determine if a candidate fits into your early group is by sending out a survey:
- Paperform is often used by organizations due to the elegant design of their forms.
- Typeform offers a 1-question-per-time format that turns surveys into conversations.
- Google Forms make a great solution for those on a tight budget.
Ask questions related to their experiences and pain points, and try to understand if they would benefit from using your product.
7. Create a referral contests with a waitlist system to generate awareness
There are many different ways that can help you increase the perceived value of your product and narrow down user selection. One of the less popular but very effective methods is that of referral contests. And, since you need to gather your first users before the release of your MVP, a waitlist can come in handy here.
- Use Vyper to create referral contests and capture email addresses.
- Use viral loops to create a waitlist for your early adopters offering early access and prelaunch exclusives. This tool also offers referral contest options.
- Read more about the power of referral marketing here.
8. Create an MVP landing page for pre-orders and email collection
Dedication is the best way to verify your idea. Create a pre-order landing page with heavy discounts for those that show interest. The development process is very easy and, in most cases doesn’t even require any technical knowledge.
Your landing page can become the point of conversion for most of your marketing efforts and is thus one of the most important points in this minimum viable product checklist. And this doesn’t only apply for digital marketing - you can print a QR code of your landing page on a business card and hand it out when talking to potential customers (point 4).
9. Unique positioning to attract segments of your target audience
If your target group consists of several segments (most likely), you will need to showcase the many features of your product, depending on the pain points of the person you’re engaging with.
As soon as you create profiles for each segment of your audience, it might be a good idea to create not one, but several landing pages. Each of these pages will show your product in a different spotlight, depending on the segment you choose to target.
For example, if you are selling a unisex bag for men and women, you could create two separate landing pages.
- The landing page targeting men could put more emphasis on the practicality and studiness of the bag.
- The landing page targeting women can be more focused on the design of the bag and the values of the company.
Obviously, the way you choose to present the features of your product shouldn’t be random or based on stereotypes. The best way to understand how to present your product is by doing extensive market research, which should be done before going through this minimum viable product checklist.
10. Launch your minimum viable solution as soon as possible
When it comes to startups, pace is everything. Calculate what you can realistically build in one month or less and focus only on the minimum viable feature that makes your product unique. There is no need to go fancy here. Your first MVP should illustrate how your product works - nothing more.
This early product will help you understand which features are most useful and need to be added. Additionally, it will help you present your startup in a better way, increasing your chances of external funding.
11. Basic app security
A minimum viable product checklist wouldn’t be complete without taking this step into consideration. Check the following points to make sure that your app is secure:
- Environment variables are locked
- Admin passwords are secure and preferably saved offline
- Ensure no backdoors lead to your AWS/Cloud service provider
- Hash the sensitive information of your customers (passwords, etc.)
12. Create wireframes to verify UX directions for your product
A wireframe, more commonly known as a page schematic is a digital blueprint that outlines the layout (framework) of an app or website. This step is all about finding a design that your audience loves and improving the user experience.
There are several tools you can use for this process:
- Figma and Balsamiq are our favourite options. Both tools have free versions that should be sufficient to develop, test and ship a better design.
13. Pay attention to branding and the correct tone of voice
Make sure you have a tone of voice that is consistent and grammatically correct. Pay attention to the branding of your product and make sure it aligns with the problem you are trying to solve.
This is where a brandbook comes in handy. While most companies only start to think about this step later in the process, it is important to know how to communicate with your customers from the earliest point.
For example, if you are creating a B2B product that solves a problem in the banking industry, it may be better to adopt a more formal tone of voice. On the contrary, a B2C product for young professionals could use a more relaxed and friendly tone.
14. Testing and feedback sessions
Allow sufficient time for testing to gather feedback on UX and communication flaws. At this stage, it might be best to allows users to navigate the app or platform on their own, without interrupting or guiding them. This will allow you to observe a more “natural” experience with your product.
When it comes to testing, we highly recommend reading the Lean Startup by Eric Ries. The book gives many useful tips and guidelines on maximizing the efficiency of this process. If you are too busy, you can simply download the Lean Startup audiobook.
15. Define goals to improve decisions
This minimum viable product checklist wouldn’t be complete without the most important point of them all - setting a clearly defined goal.
What are you trying to achieve at this stage? Are you looking to increase the number of registrations? Do you want users to take a specific action within the app? By defining the core success metric you will narrow your focus on the actions that matter most, saving tons of time and decreasing the MVP development cost.
The minimum viable product checklist we shared above should help you navigate the complex process of developing your early-stage product.
In case you need an additional helping hand of support, you can always reach out to us. Over the years, we have built hundreds of MVPs for our startup ideas and those of our customers.
Find out more about Coara here.