Do people want this product? Starting with what the market wants.
Find out: do people want this product?
The minimum viable product allows us to discover what it is that people want from us. The MVP is valuable because there’s nothing worse than putting the product before the market and the market giving it crickets because nobody wants it. This is the opposite of product-market fit, which is 100/5 what you want.
You want a market seeking a product, a solution to their problems. I realize it seems so simple, so straightforward, and you’d be surprised at how often people build it and no one comes. Happens tons of times every day. And it’s sad, really. Well, let’s create an MVP to try to prevent that from happening.
The MVP ought to be the smallest, most minimum execution of conception of a product that people will pay money for. Let’s say it is an online video course. Say, you shot a video on how to tell whether a girl is ready to be kissed or not. (I know. I know.) There are TONS of guys out there that would love to know this info. This “Is she ready to be kissed?” Video, which may only be 5 to 7 minutes long, could potentially be your MVP for a larger product on dating, which remains a fabulous market to be in.
From there, your course could expand to be individual classes on asking girls out on dates. Where to go on dates. How to act while on dates. The entire structure of a good date. The questions to ask (and not ask) while on a date. Etc. Basically, building a better boyfriend, which could be your online course title.
Your Minimum Viable Product ought to be the smallest iteration of the product you can think of that still adds value to peoples’ lives so much that they might even pay you for it! Because that’s what we really want — a viable MVP. Will people pay for this product / this knowledge / this experience? Because if they won’t, we have to go back to the lab and iterate, which we’ll do over and over and over again.
The other point of the MVP is to get it into customers’ hands ASAP in order to gather end user feedback. We got to get feedback! What do they like / what don’t they like / how can we improve / what ideas do they have for us to make this better? If we did this thing over here, would you like it better? Would you completely ignore that feature there? What would learning this type of thing mean to you? Something? Nothing? What does a really good product that you would use regularly within this environment look like to you?
We’re not trying to get the customer to ‘break’ the thing as much as we’re trying to get the customer using the thing and get excited about the possibility of the thing, even dreaming about the thing with us. That’s what we want: early use and early excitement. The artist’s dilemma is the thing that we ought to be most concerned about: do not worry about anyone ‘stealing’ your idea. Worry about your genius idea being lost in unknown oblivion instead.
You have to matter to your market first.
And you do that by showing them that you care by giving value first. #GiveFirst is your motto, just like in the Boulder community. #GiveFirst is also a great motto for those of us in Sales & Marketing. An even better one is #GiveGiveGive. Just keep right on giving. Be the most generous person that you know.
On Popularity & targeted connections & betting on horses
This is why mattering to your market, to your people, matters the most. Because if nobody knows / cares about your stuff, you’re dead. You might as well go to work for IBM at this point. This is also why it’s the VC strategy to bet on the horse rather than the idea. Ideas cost dimes for dozens. Proven, successful Entrepreneurs (prized, winning horses) are where to place bets. This is why if you can enlist / enroll the help of a proven, successful Entrepreneur, this can be the difference between success and failure. Business connections are imperative! They always will be!
It isn’t necessarily popularity within a given market, though that helps a lot. It is being able to connect the right, targeted people to your thing that matters and that will move the sales revenue needle the fastest. Think of founders connected to founders or CEOs connected to other CEOs that can really move the thing in the right direction. If you’re looking to sell a company a product (or set of products) in B2B, there ain’ no better place or person to be selling to than the CEO. (Steve Jobs talks a lot about this in his book when Apple went looking for component partners like Intel and Samsung.)
In sales & in marketing & in Entrepreneurship, it turns out that good connections and healthy relationships help a TON! There’s the connections, and the relationships, and there is the unique, fresh perspective that experienced Entrepreneurs possess by only going through it over and over and over again in a serial fashion. You absolutely cannot pay nor ‘earn’ this experience in your MBA program. (No. Sorry.)
These are the people that just cannot help themselves. Entrepreneurship was built for them. Built for Elon. Built for Peter Thiel. Built for Mark Cuban. Built for Sarah Blakely. Built for Brad Feld. These people would be lost if they were not building businesses. Why not let them do what they do best? Create value for others. Still, your stuff is nowhere if it is locked up in the vault. Please: do not make the mistake of holding the product too close to your chest. It’s dumb, its selfish, and you’ll find that even fewer people care.
DUDE — IT’S HARD ENOUGH TO MAKE PEOPLE CARE ABOUT YOUR THING! TRUST ME AS SOMEONE WITH 20+ YEARS OF SALES & MARKETING EXPERIENCE.
It is super noisy out in your market, and it is only getting noisier. You’ve got to be out there, you’ve got to be highly targeted, you’ve got to get people actually using the thing, and you’ve got to get early feedback. If not, you may discover the discomfort of oblivion. Your idea is no good if you’re the only one who knows about it. Ideas have to be vetted. This is one of the reasons why blogging and/or cutting podcasts are great idea-generating formats. You’re creating, collaborating, and sharing your ideas with others. You’re putting your shit out there. Mostly to be ignored, but nonetheless, you’re creating, collaborating, and sharing, which is a great practice, a fabulous discipline. It’s a practice / discipline because the more you create, the more ideas you generate, the better at it you get. You want to become an idea generating machine for others, giving them away left and right. Why? Because that is value that never goes out of style: offering a unique perspective on a problem.
But it all starts with humility, with asking a specific group of people what it is they want from you and the team.
Start with your very specific who. Think about them early. Think about them often.
Invest as much time with your who, with your group of people you think will buy from you, as you can. Buy them dinner. Buy them drinks. Yes. Really. Get to know them as people. Ask them questions about them, and then actively listen to them. If you want to get really sophisticated, write down their answers. This will blow their minds! /Make them feel heard/. This is one of the secrets that almost no one will tell you about your market. The more you make them feel heard, the more they will connect with you on the level that you want.