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How to do Proof of Marketing without Minimum Viable Product?

I have an well-developed idea for an Angie's List-like startup re: trusted recommendations. Actually it's much different, but that's the closest competitor. It would be a website & mobile apps. I can't afford to initially finance the MVP (except possibly for a non-working dummy website/app) to show prospective customers. How can I do a Proof of Marketing (willingness to actually buy) without an MVP?

11 Replies

Ron Yang
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0
Ron Yang Entrepreneur
Director of Product Management, Aha! -- #1 product roadmap software
This is a great article which covers how Buffer tested this in a quick and easy way (without having to build a full product).https://blog.bufferapp.com/idea-to-paying-customers-in-7-weeks-how-we-did-it
Dimitry Rotstein
0
0
Dimitry Rotstein Entrepreneur
Head of R&D at SafeZone
1. Find a technical co-founder who will do the work for ~50% of equity.

OR

2. Learn to code yourself, at least well enough to make something that works (it's not as difficult as it may sound).

OR

3. Make a dummy (even a video presentation with hand-drawn screenshots can do the trick), sit down with potential customers (preferably, in person), show it to them, do a full interview, and in the end ask how much they are willing to pay for it. It's crucial to do this only with prospective customers, not "industry experts" or potential investors or just sympathetic friends.
Edwin Hoogerbeets
1
0
Edwin Hoogerbeets Entrepreneur
Founder at Translation Circle
Here's an idea that I'd love to take credit for, but it is actually right in the Lean Startup book by Eric Ries.

Take your dummy web site and make a slick scripted video demoing how great it is and how it magically solves problem X for you. Make it look as real as possible. Upload it to youtube with a short description and a link to your real web site. On your web site, make it clear that it is still in development and here is a nice form to get on the mailing list and we'll let you know when it is ready for beta. Advertise the video for cheap on Google adwords to get at least 100 views (pay $5 to $20 or so), and then measure how many views you get to your video, how many click throughs you get to your web site and how many people sign up for the mailing list. Do the same thing with your solutions to problems Y and Z as well, and compare. You'll be able to tell if there is any interest whatsoever in products that solve for X, Y, or Z and more importantly, which solution the potential customers are most interested in. Hopefully, you will find one stand out that customers will go nuts over. (Please give me the solution for Z! I need it now!) Good luck!

David Schwartz
0
1
David Schwartz Entrepreneur • Advisor
Multi-Platform (Desktop+Mobile) Rapid Prototyping + Dev, Tool Dev
MVP = Minimal Viable Product.

How do you know what is is a "viable" product, let alone "minimal viable" product if you haven't already done some prototyping and used it to get customer feedback?

I keep seeing people talking about building their "MVP" without any prototyping. I think that's a mistake.

I can build prototypes quickly, but I cannot work for free. (I've gotta cover at least my rent and other monthly expenses.)

Unfortunately, as Dmitry says, this boils down to a "make vs. buy" decision for you. If you can pull together a few grand for a prototype, it can get you sufficient feedback to validate your product and possibly save 10x that amount in misdirected efforts by going straight to building what you think is your MVP, only to realize later that you're off-base. (You can likely borrow enough for a prototype from somewhere like LendingClub very quickly and easily.)

Once you have a prototype built, you could take the approach that Edwin suggests as one source of feedback. But there's no substitute for walking around and talking to people, showing them something on your laptop or tablet and getting their direct feedback.

PM me if I can be of any assistance.
Ralf-Rainer von Albedyhll
0
1
Ralf-Rainer von Albedyhll Entrepreneur • Advisor
CEO - Secure.cc
Making an MVP for this project is probably not all that difficult or indeed time consuming as you think. Based on your description I believe I can create not just an MVP but indeed a functioning one in about a week - especially if you already have a good idea for the structure. Please contact me directly if this is of interest and then we can see what can be done.
Chris Carruth
0
0
Chris Carruth Advisor
VP/Director. Strategy | Business Development | Operations | Product | Solutions
MVP, by default, assumes the required minimal feature set is included, which implies potential buyers had provided some degree of input on the product itself. If not - then you missed a step.

I am working on a similar project and the most likely lead investor (angel group leader) said his group is not really interested in how much is made in these types of exercises - it is the metrics behind it that matter, especially conversion rates. The want to be able to say "if x number of people are exposed to the concept how many are willing to pay", which of course does not address the offer.messaging aspect only the conversion of purchase intent to actual payment.

Whether the actual product exists is not the issue, as they assume that most concepts can be commercialized with the right people involved. Kind of strange and not what I expected but makes sense in the end. BTW - this guy totally retired at age 40. Yes, age 40. Probably knows a bit about business don't you think?
Chris Carruth
0
0
Chris Carruth Advisor
VP/Director. Strategy | Business Development | Operations | Product | Solutions
@Ron - that is exactly what I am talking about. Thanks for posting!
David Schwartz
1
1
David Schwartz Entrepreneur • Advisor
Multi-Platform (Desktop+Mobile) Rapid Prototyping + Dev, Tool Dev
BTW - this guy totally retired at age 40. Yes, age 40. Probably knows a bit about business don't you think?

Not necessarily. Everybody I worked with at Intel in the late 70's and early 80's are now retired with 7-figure retirement accounts. Some were able to retire at 40, some a bit later. It all depended on the stock option deal you were able to negotiate, market timing, and what startup you were invited to work at.

There were a bunch of folks I worked with who left the same day to found a startup. That thing went on to have an IPO, then it was bought by IBM. The founders all became multi-millionaires. One guy who was part of the "in" crowd but wasn't invited to go ended up getting a job at Microsoft and landed a 10,000 share stock option two years before they went public. He ultimately made far more than most of the others combined.

Most of the people in VC firms were able to buy-in as a result of becoming rich because they were in the right place at the right time and a huge number came from Intel. I wouldn't draw any conclusions about their business savvy simply because they've got a bunch of money to throw around.

Even Steve Wozniak sold off half of his Apple shares a while back on a crazy idea that ended up being a total failure. Luckily he held on to the other half, and he's living comfortably today.

As for me ... I was with Intel 5-1/2 years, and never got a stock option I was able to exercise. I just always happened to be one pay-grade behind where they were giving out automatic stock options. Six months after I finally got one as a supposedly "valuable employee" they wanted to keep, I was laid-off.

People who get rich as a side-effect of working at startups don't need to have business savvy. They've got money. That's all that matters.
John Petrone
1
0
John Petrone Entrepreneur
CTO at LaunchPad Central
Keep in mind a Minimum Viable Product is not always a prototype or a cheap version of the product - it's a process to prove key hypothesis - to quote Steve Blank "A minimum viable product is not always a smaller/cheaper version of your final product". http://steveblank.com/2013/07/22/an-mvp-is-not-a-cheaper-product-its-about-smart-learning/

So I'd flip the question around - what hypothesis are you trying to prove with an MVP? Testing willingness to buy is not the same thing as building out the full app -
David Schwartz
0
0
David Schwartz Entrepreneur • Advisor
Multi-Platform (Desktop+Mobile) Rapid Prototyping + Dev, Tool Dev
That's an excellent article, John. Unfortunately, I suspect that the meat of it will be missed by people who are building something that's 100% software based. Which is why we see so many software startups that step over a "prototype" and go straight to an "MVP" for the same reasons these guys stated -- they're probably engineers and are enamored with the technology.

Software designs should start with drawings or mock-ups of the screens. (Some refer to "wire-frames", although I haven't really seen a consistent use of that term other than to document menu structures for an app.)

Then a rapid prototype that illustrates the dynamics between screens, while fields are populated with data that looks realistic. Neither of these takes a lot of time or effort to build, although the latter can be a challenge for some programmers and especially for non-programmers. It can also be good to tackle some critical algorithms in the prototype to prove technical feasibility.

Then you build a functional prototype that gets you to the "proof-of-concept" stage. I assert this is what most people refer to as their "MVP".

Once you've validated this with prospective customers, THEN you can head off and build your MVP. (Assuming you didn't build it as one of the earlier steps.)
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