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Preparing Your Startup's MVP for the Big Leagues

How and When to Bring Your MVP to Market

If you’re like most startup founders, The Lean Startup is like your bible.  You’re most likely using a step-by-step approach when developing your Minimum Viable Product (MVP), performing vital iterations after each feedback session from friends, family, alpha and beta customers.  But at some point, you will inevitably ask yourself the following questions: How much iteration is enough until I can go public with my product? And, once I’ve decided to go public, how do I choose my product launch activities?

This blog post aims to guide first-time founders in deciding when to start marketing their MVPs, and which initial marketing activities make the most sense for their startups.

Step I: Deciding When Your Product is Market-Ready

Determining when your MVP becomes a Minimum Marketable Product (MMP) involves challenging your product against 3 key criteria:

  1. Dependability: Before putting your product on the market, make sure every feature has been thoroughly tested. While your beta customers will be more understanding of bugs or broken links, your paying customers surely won’t be.  Ensuring that your product is reliable keeps your future customers satisfied and loyal.
  1. Speed: In this day and age, an important feature to customers is speed. Studies have found that as little as 400 milliseconds can be the difference between a prospect exploring your product or moving on to your competitors’. Prepare your product for multiple customers to be on your server at one time so that you can be sure that your user experience won’t diminish due to slower product performance.
  1. Scalability: Make sure that your product’s platform can handle a flood of new users. Remember on October 1st when the Obamacare website went live… and then went down? The site’s inability to scale to the amount of users on the site made breaking news (and unlike government-mandated initiatives, this is not the kind of coverage many startups can afford to harbor).  Keep your future customers happy by making sure their experiences with your product are flawless.

Once you’ve got all or most of the kinks worked out with your product, it’s time to let it loose in the market.

Step II: Choosing Your Product Launch Activities

There are two ways to launch your product publicly: you can either do a soft launch or a hard launch.

  1. Soft Launch:  This is when you introduce your product to the market quietly without bringing much attention to it.  An example of this would be sending an email announcement to known contacts (beta customers and the like) and sharing the news through word of mouth.
  1. Hard Launch: In contrast, a hard launch is when you create a lot of buzz around your product in order to get it into the hands of as many people as possible.  An example of a hard launch would be hosting a launch event, pitching to the media, and making the announcement across social media.

Both hard soft launches have their benefits and drawbacks.  While a soft launch requires more time to build momentum, your startup will have ample time to prepare for the influx of new customers and tweak the product and marketing message appropriately.  Hard launches, on the other hand, can be exciting and allow you to bring on new customers more quickly.  However, if launched ineffectively, they can lead to a significant waste of resources.

Determining which launch strategy is right for you entails asking yourself a number of questions, such as:

  • Have you settled on a starting price point for your product?
  • Is your company website ready for the public eye?
  • Do you have a marketing budget and know where and how to spend your efforts?
  • Have you been able to create anticipation around your new product to your target market?
  • Do you know your target market well enough to know which segments to prioritize and how to message them effectively?
  • Have you established your sales function to handle the influx of prospective clients?

If you answered yes to all or most of these questions, a hard launch could be a great option for you.  If you answered no, or if your time and financial resources are currently limited, a soft launch could be a better way to start.

Determining the best launch activities for your startup can be a complex process.  If you’re starting to think about your product launch and are debating between a hard or soft launch, or are unsure which marketing activities to prioritize, contact us today for a complimentary consultation on your individual needs.