As someone who has launched dozens of minimum viable products — from software to hardware to retail and more — I can definitively state that your MVP launch will end one of three ways.
The first two outcomes are rare, so I won’t spend much time on them:
1. The MVP is a smashing success, in which case, congratulations!
2. The MVP is an unmitigated failure, in which case, you have my sympathies.
But the vast majority of MVP launches result in an outcome that can only be labeled:
3. “Yeah, it’s viable. Now what?”
Like I said, I’ve launched enough MVPs to have had my share of bad ones. And the worst of the bunch are the ones that don’t give much of a signal as to whether or not you should move forward. Viability is one thing, success is another. So here’s what I do when I can’t figure out what my next step should be.
How to Fix Your Broken MVP
- Vague results? Ask again later.
- Small set of results? Shake up your target market.
- The MVP is misunderstood? Repackage it.
- The messaging is buried? Reposition the product.
Your Results Are Vague? Ask Again Later.
If I’m truly on the fence as to whether or not I’ve got a winner on my hands, I can extend the MVP pilot and reassess.
The truth is, if there were a set period of time when new solutions presented themselves as viable products, we’d have a lot more successful entrepreneurs. The only caveat here is don’t do this indefinitely — and don’t extend the timeline without making significant changes to everything but the core product itself.
Maybe your messaging was clunky. Maybe the delivery was full of friction and hurdles for the customers to climb over. Your pricing or price model may have worked against you. There might even have been enough external factors — and there are always external factors — to suppress more actionable results.
But like I said: You may have just launched an awful product, so consider that possibility before you spend more time and money trying to prove otherwise.
Your Result Set Is Small? Shake Up Your Target Market.
If I’m not getting enough data to make a solid decision one way or the other, I’ll reassess whether or not I hit my target market squarely.
Like swinging a golf club, just because you made contact with the ball doesn’t mean you hit a good shot. More often than not, you’ve struck a glancing or misdirected blow.
For example, when I launched the MVP for Teaching Startup — affordable advice on demand for entrepreneurs — I chose “new entrepreneurs” as my market. That turned out to be close but not correct. The market I needed to hit was “working entrepreneurs,” and while that seems like a subtle difference, the results were night and day.
Your MVP Is Misunderstood? Repackage It.
If my prospects just aren’t “getting” the value of the product, I’ll present the same or slightly different value in a better package.
This is kind of a subjective strategy, but I can’t tell you how many times I realized I would have been much more successful if I had changed one small feature or some external aspect of the product that I didn’t think was significant enough to make a difference.
If you can, experiment with different versions and flavors of the product. Add or remove function. Emphasize different benefits. Offer more or (more likely) less of a feature set. And take another swing.
Your Messaging Is Getting Buried? Reposition the Product.
If the previous fixes are delicate surgery, this fix is a sledgehammer. If my value proposition isn’t standing out among all the other options, I need to redefine the value prop.
You might be a weak player in your selected space but a stronger player in a different one. Repositioning requires breaking down the entire value proposition of your solution and reapplying that value in a different form.
I like to use Netflix as an example: At the point in time where consumer viewing habits were evenly balanced between DVDs and streaming, Netflix took a big risk and decided to position itself as a streaming company, where it became a leader. It was the right move. Many people forget that Blockbuster actually beat Netflix at the DVD-to-your-door subscription game. But it was Netflix’s vision and risk tolerance that propelled it into a modern era that ultimately left Blockbuster behind.
There are lots of ways to lose at the MVP game and only one way to win. If you’re not failing, you’re not going to figure out that one combination that’s going to be successful. So don’t get discouraged — because there are a ton of ways you can reinvent your product.