The Best Product Test When You Do Not Know If People Will Buy…
In the last few years I have paid a lot of attention to the world of startups, in particular technology companies.
During this time two concepts popped up as mantras of every new tech entrepreneur –
"Lean" and "Minimum Viable Product".
Eric Ries, author of the Lean Startup is the figurehead behind the lean movement as it applies to startups. Before Eric companies like Toyota were pioneering lean as it applies to manufacturing.
I began to look at how lean could be applied to blogging and internet marketing.
I wrote a blog post about applying the minimum viable product principle to creating information products, which essentially stated what many marketers have been preaching for years – just get something out there.
My Chocolate Business Idea
Like all entrepreneurs I have new ideas every day. Most are fun to think about, but I won't seriously pursue.
Every now and then I think about something that I get excited enough about that I start telling other people and make plans for how I could launch it.
People who know me well know that chocolate is my weakness. I love my 72% dark chocolate, especially combined with a quality 30% milk chocolate.
What people don't know is that I have plans for a unique chocolate business.
It will be a passion project obviously, something I want to focus on once I get all the writing that is inside me out into the world.
Every now and then I get so excited about the chocolate business that I almost create it.
I start looking for domain names, plan how I will go about sourcing my goods, and send random Skype messages to Carly my tech person about building the website.
This happened just a few weeks ago, but then a day later I put a stop to it all.
I realised I was already breaking the rules of Lean.
If I really wanted to test my chocolate business using lean methodology, there was a very simple way I could do so…
My email newsletter could be my gateway to a minimum viable product, or commonly know as MVP, for my chocolate business.
What Is An MVP?
An MVP is something you can use to test an assumption and get genuine feedback from real customers.
Ideally it is a stripped back version of the actual product itself, something you can "ship" quickly and start making sales.
It might also be a very early version of a tool you create to test whether people actually use it, and how they use it.
In this case of my chocolate business I realised I could email you, my newsletter readers, and appeal to the chocolate lovers amongst you with a very basic first version of my product.
Obviously this isn't the right target email newsletter since you didn't sign up for chocolate related information, but I'm pretty sure I could find a few chocolate loving subscribers to effectively start a new business.
(I bet there is a strong crossover of bloggers who are chocolate eaters!)
I don't need a domain name, or a website, or even a business name yet – I can just ask whether you want what I am offering and see who bites – pun intended!
As you probably realise, I did not send that email about chocolate (yet!).
I decided to reign in my enthusiasm and hold back until my current projects are finished before starting something new (entrepreneur rule 101: focus).
What About Your MVP?
You may not be entirely clear what kind of business you are going to have…
Maybe you will sell software
Launch a membership site
Teach an online course
Sell physical products
Or offer services
Thinking in terms of MVPs is definitely a good idea, no matter what your business model is.
The problem I see with many of my coaching members is not knowing what kind of business they should go after.
They have fuzzy ideas about products, topics to cover and techniques to use. It's all a bit confusing, and definitely overwhelming.
So how can you come up with a concrete MVP if you are fuzzy about what exactly you want to offer?
The answer, I believe, is to build a list.
The best MVP, especially when you are not concrete about what kind of product or service you want to offer, is to create an email list.
A list gives you access to people.
You can send one email to get straight to the core purpose behind creating an MVP: To ask whether people want something and get them to prove it by making orders.
If I have an idea for something new, I can email my newsletter and ask if you want to buy.
If I didn’t have my email list, then I have to work a whole lot harder to drum up attention, or spend money on ads, to just ask the question.
MVPs are all about question asking and response collecting from real customers. If you don’t have a platform where people are listening to you, it is a lot harder to get those answers.
Start With An Email Newsletter
If you don't have an email list yet, stop reading this and go sign up with AWeber now and get started.
AWeber is the system I used for my very first email newsletter and I am so glad I did. It changed my business for the better in so many ways.
When I created my first email newsletter I was pretty "fuzzy" about what I would sell.
I wasn't sure about my product and I wouldn't learn about the MVP concept for another five years.
I certainly had ideas – too many really – but I knew if I built a list around a certain subject (blog traffic in this case), that when the time came I would have people ready to go. People who had relationships with me because of my email newsletter.
You have the benefit of my hindsight. You can build your newsletter today and have a platform to test your MVP.
That is such an advantage.
I bet every single new startup company in Silicon Valley would love to have an email list of several thousand people who have already stuck their hand up as showing interest in the area they are planning to build a business in.
Can you see the power in that?
The great thing about this is you can begin today no matter what phase of your business you are in.
Start with a blog and a newsletter optin form via AWeber and begin connecting with people who share an interest in your topic.
Then when you have an idea for your first product, pitch the MVP straight to your list.
Instant feedback and Instant customers.
Stop procrastinating and start your newsletter list today, even if you are not sure where you want to go and your MVP idea is not quite concrete.
You will be glad you did, and trust me, you always gain clarity over time.
…And don't be surprised if sometime in the near future you receive an email from me about my new chocolate product MVP…it will happen!
Talk to you soon,
P.S. If you are not sure what to start your newsletter about, aim for a top level subject within the realm of the area you will eventually have an MVP in.
You can always refine the niche of your newsletter later as you gain clarity.
For now, just have something available to people about the industry you are focused on, and get an AWeber newsletter up and running.