Minimum Viable Product Thinking

Don’t build your brand until you have a minimum viable product

6 min read
Raubi Marie Perilli

When you start a brand, you often feel a sense of urgency. You want to get as much attention as possible, quickly meet new audiences, grow a following on social media, and drive traffic to your website. But if you’re focused on promoting your brand before you have a minimum viable product or minimum marketable product, you’re missing a step.

Having a minimum viable or marketable product before you start aggressively promoting your brand is how you ensure that your business can better serve customers, drive your revenue, and even keep your new brand in business.

Here’s what new business owners, entrepreneurs, and brand builders need to know about these two types of starter products.

What is a minimum viable product?

A minimum viable product, or MVP, is a term commonly used in the tech and SaaS startup community, although it can have meaning outside of technology businesses.

Eric Reeis, author of The Lean Startup, is often credited with creating the term. Reeis describes it as:

“The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

An MVP is a product often released to customers before it has been perfected or gone through multiple iterations of development to meet every customer need or demand.

For technology businesses, a minimum viable product could be a version of their software that does not reach the full intention for what the software will do, but includes enough features that a user could benefit from using it. In other words, the development team has bigger ideas for the function of the tool, but they haven’t built it all yet. Instead of waiting until their full vision of the software is complete, they release it when there are just enough features to give value to customers.

A minimum viable product is a new product that is released before it has been developed to its fullest potential.

Minimum Viable Product Notes

Why do you need a minimum viable product?

The primary benefit of having a minimum viable product is that it is a learning tool.

It allows you to launch a new product and immediately begin gathering customer feedback about that product.

You can then use the feedback to make changes and improve further development iterations of the product to meet customer requests, wants, demands, and needs.

This is the opposite approach that many brands and businesses take, which is to spend a great deal of time working on a product before releasing it into the market. These brands put a ton of resources into creating what they believe is the perfect product.

The problem with this is that the brand might not know what their customers want and need.

The brand may put time and money into building something no one wants to buy. Releasing an item as a minimum viable product helps them avoid this failure as they can gain customer feedback as they develop the product.

What is a minimum marketable product?

A minimum marketable product, or MMP, isn’t very different from a minimum viable product. Some marketers and business owners might even consider them one and the same.

But one of the ways to differentiate the two is by identifying the primary goal of each.

  • A minimum viable product is sent out before it’s fully complete to gain customer insight about the product.
  • A minimum marketable product is sent out before it’s fully complete to help bring in revenue.

Like a minimum viable product, a minimum marketable product is shipped before it has reached its full product potential. There is still room for the offering to improve and provide even more value to customers.

The defining quality of a minimum marketable product is that it does, in fact, offer some value to customers. It offers enough value that is marketable and desirable. Customers will pay for the product even if it doesn’t include all of the bells and whistles of upcoming iterations of the offering.

Why do you need a minimum marketable product?

The primary benefit of having a minimum marketable product is that it can produce revenue early in product and brand development. The more time a brand spends on developing and perfecting a product, the more money they spend and lose.

Development is expensive, and a product that isn’t on the market can’t generate revenue.

So if a brand spends months working on a product before it’s released to the public, they can come into cash flow problems and quickly burn through investment money as they have no income coming in.

Releasing a minimum viable product helps resolve this issue. A brand can release an early edition of their product to start generating revenue. The product could be a less complex, cheaper version of the final product. But as long as it provides value to customers, it could be a tool to grow revenue for the brand while the final product is being perfected or while new offerings are being created.

Minimum Viable Product Currency

What does this mean for new business owners and entrepreneurs?

While these two types of products are often used to talk about tech and agile software, their basic foundation can offer useful strategies for any entrepreneur or new business owner.

When you launch a brand — whether it is a software, media channel, personal brand or other type of business — avoid spending too many resources on promoting that brand until you have a concrete, minimum product to offer customers.

That minimum product could be an MVP that you release quickly to validate your idea and learn about customer opinions.

  • A musician could release three free tracks while working on the final 10 songs for their album.
  • A blogger could release a free eBook before their paid course launches.
  • A yoga teacher could offer free classes in a park while getting ready to open a brick-and-mortar studio.

That minimum product could be an MMP that you release quickly to start producing revenue.

  • A photographer could offer inexpensive headshot services while growing their higher-end wedding photography business.
  • A therapist could offer 50-minute sessions while building their group program.
  • An online retailer could release their dress line before launching their line of T-shirts and pants.

Whichever product you decide to release, remember this.

Building a business is way more than building a brand.

Unless you are gaining insight into your customer base or selling a product or service to generate revenue, your brand is going to struggle to survive. (This is true for most businesses, unless you have a large amount of investment capital to start with.)

So don’t spend too many resources on driving traffic to your site, building your audience and growing your brand until you have a reason to bring people to your business.

Make sure you have a minimum viable product or minimum marketable product that gives new audiences a way to buy or teach you something and help you grow and support your business.