Hello 1. Sometimes startups – even the ones that seem to have enormous potential – get stuck in a never-ending MVP development process, tweaking everything until it’s perfect. And the reality is that approximately 42% of innovations fail due to a long product development time (BCG).
At this point, you’ve created a minimum viable product (MVP) for your business idea and released it to the world, but an MVP isn’t enough. Now what? It’s time to turn that MVP concept into a final product that fits the market. From collecting real user feedback and prioritizing functionalities to monetization, marketing, UX/UI upgrades, and more.
Here’s a list of 7 tips you can start implementing right away.
1. Collect and analyze user data with a product analytics tool
Once your MVP is released to the public, it’s important to understand what users are doing and how they interact with your product. That’s where a product analytics tool comes in.
A product analytics tool is a piece of software to track and analyze data related to your product, such as user behavior, engagement, and revenue. You can then use this information to improve the product, identify areas for growth, and make data-driven decisions down the road.
A survey conducted for MicroStrategy by the market research firm Hall & Partners shows the Global State of Enterprise Analytics and the impact of those analytics within an organization.
With advanced metrics into user engagement, heatmaps of activity, retention insights, and more, a digital product analytics tool is a must-deploy.
2. Interview early adopters to get in-depth feedback
Early adopters are the first ones to believe in you and your product. Most of the lessons from the beginning of your startup journey will come from them. They’re often more forgiving of bugs or issues and more likely to provide detailed, honest, and, therefore, valuable feedback.
Speak directly to those committed to your product from a very early stage. Conversations with actual users help you deepen customer needs and growth opportunities, as well as guide a further future MVP development process, ultimately leading to greater user satisfaction and adoption.
To interview customers, you can opt for online surveys through Google Forms or – our personal favorite – Typeform. And alternatively, phone/video interviews via Google Meet, Zoom, Cal, or any other video conferencing software of your choice. Both methods allow you to gather quantitative and qualitative data, which is essential to get a full picture of user feedback.
Here are a couple of sample questions you can ask:
“How often do you use [product]?”
“How easy was it to set up and start using [product]?”
“How has [product] impacted your daily work or life?”
“What problem or need does [product] help you solve?”
“Are there any examples of how [product] has helped you?”
“How does [product] compare to similar products you’ve used in the past?”
“Are there any features/functionality you’d like to see added to [product]?”
“Have you experienced technical difficulties or issues using [product]?”
Remember that these are just examples; you may want to adapt the questions to your specific product and target audience and make them open-ended.
HBS professor Shikhar Ghosh wrote in the Rock Center Startup Guide about Customer Interviewing Techniques That Uncover Your Users’ Needs. Key points include: creating an interview guide, focusing questions on behaviors and unmet needs, listening more than you talk, and making time to debrief and reflect on discoveries. Worth bookmarking.
Taking these insights into account will move you towards meeting intended customer demand.
All the features that address end-user problems are no longer a mystery. Why? Because you’ve been collecting data and feedback through analytics and interviews.
When you have a minimum viable product up and running, instead of unsustainably over-optimizing one feature or functionality while wasting resources, revisit the challenges your customers are facing so you can get those issues on your radar and engineer proper solutions.
For example, thanks to Canva, graphic design is accessible to everyone.
Visualize thoughts, concepts, and ideas. Whiteboard.
And the list of features goes on and on.
The best products are obsessed with what customers want. Part of your goal is to continue innovating and adjusting to better serve the various needs of your expanding user base.
Scaling Olera MVP
For example, at Xfive, we collaborated on the MVP stage of Olera—a platform that connects families to senior care professionals. It was tested using the Mobile Application Rating Scale (MARS), designed to evaluate the quality of mobile health apps. Olera’s MVP got a rating of 4.5 out of 5 on the MARS – an exceptional result compared to the initial expected goal of 3.6.
The positive outcome led to securing the second batch of a $2.3M grant from National Institute on Aging. In 2022 the funding was used to launch and test the MVP in Central Texas during phase one of the project. Now, in 2023, we’ve entered phase two of what comes after an MVP: scaling nationwide and exploring how multiple user groups interact with the Olera product.
4. Prioritize WIP functionalities based on the impact
When we talk about prioritizing work-in-progress functionalities based on impact, we talk about putting the work into the right tasks that’ll drive results. Decisions cannot be random. This is a no-brainer that the innovative-dreamer entrepreneur sometimes overlooks.
You have to do more of what’s working. That’s the way to go.
Determining what features to implement and in what order while also accounting for customer feedback needs to be weighed against budgets and deadlines. This process can become an overwhelming roadblock without a clear system for assessing value and impact.
Product prioritization frameworks
Product prioritization frameworks like MoSCoW, Kano Model, and RICE help teams cut through the chaos by methodically checking the potential value of each feature to determine its business impact. These invaluable tools provide a structured approach and prevent ever-troublesome distractions from ruining an otherwise winning product roadmap.
Here’s an overview of some of the most popular product prioritization frameworks:
MoSCoW prioritization framework stands for Must-Have, Should-Have, Could-Have, and Won’t-Have. This framework helps to identify which functionalities are critical, which are important but not critical, and which are nice but not essential.
Kano Model prioritization framework is based on three attributes: Basic, Performance, and Excitement. Basic features are expected by customers and are not a differentiator, performance attributes are directly proportional to satisfaction, and excitement attributes are those that are unexpected and can drive customer delight.
RICE prioritization framework – It stands for Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort. This method prioritizes only minimum features based on potential reach, its impact on the business objectives or user experience, confidence in the outcome estimate, and effort required to implement the feature.
As much as we’d love to break down all of these frameworks for you now, it’s a whole topic in itself. The good news is that Roadmonk made a super helpful guide listing the 9 product prioritization frameworks for (but not limited to) product managers. Check it out.
5. Brainstorm potential monetization sources
Solve problems effectively, and money will follow. There’s no magic formula in business other than strategizing, meaning start thinking about a plan for making money with your product idea. Spoiler alert: there’s no one way. Even if you already have a basic business model built-in in your MVP, you can test out different revenue streams and then see which one(s) works best.
Advertising – Displays in-product ads targeted to your audience. This method is particularly good when you have a large user base.
Subscriptions – With subscription-based things, you charge customers a fixed recurring fee (monthly or annually with a discount) for access to the product.
Freemium model – This is a combination of free and premium services where you offer a basic version of the product for free but charge customers for upgrades.
Affiliate marketing – Revenue comes from partnering with other businesses to promote their products or services and earning a commission on any resulting sales.
Professional services – Provide additional consulting services related to your product and charge for them on an hourly/project basis. Pure knowledge monetization.
Exclusive communities – If you have an online community, it’s a good idea to create exclusive members-only areas to engage customers further and build loyalty over time.
Customer needs and preferences, industry standards, scalability, costs, AND feasibility are all factors that come into play when determining which monetization strategy to choose. Gather together your team for a brainstorming session and document the ideas you generate.
Remember, you can change the source of money and adapt it as the product evolves.
6. Create a marketing plan targeting your existing audience
A common mistake is going after new and unknown markets after having initial success. Most of the time, it ends up being a waste of resources. You already know your users’ demographics, interests, behavior, and pain points. Start with a well-structured marketing plan that targets your existing customers and then the rest.
Furthermore, approaching such a segment represents a cost-effective way to boost customer retention and acquisition, as you have people who’re already invested in your product. It’s all about capitalizing on the early traction of your product launch while increasing revenue.
How do you execute this exactly? Where can you get started? The answer is… it depends. Are you a solopreneur at the moment? Or do you have an entire team available for you?
Campaign Monitor found that 56.9% of small businesses have dedicated in-house marketers, 15.3% it’s the owner running all marketing, and 4.8% hire agencies. If you have the means to designate a department with these responsibilities, do so. And if not, go the solo route or outsource to an agency/freelancer specializing in your industry.
Rand Fishkin shared some thoughts on SparkToro’s blog on Why You Should Hire Agencies & Consultants (for everything you can). The article covers the performance of agencies vs. full-time employees, the drawbacks of agencies/consultants, how to get the best of both worlds, and valid arguments against this idea. Really interesting reading.
Startup marketing plan
In a nutshell, to create a startup marketing plan, you have to:
Set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound).
Conduct market research to see what other competitors do and hunt for trends.
Pick the online channels that make the most sense to reach your target audience.
Build a holistic content marketing plan and then promote/distribute strategically.
Determine how much funds are necessary to allocate to your marketing plan.
Measure and analyze to track business metrics and make data-driven decisions.
Iterate based on continuous progress monitoring, test new ideas and repeat.
On your way to a minimum marketable product (MMP), minimum marketable feature (MMF), or minimum loveable product (MLP), proven techniques come in handy.
7. Attend trade show circuits and events to network
And not just any trade show or event, but those related to your industry. It’s an opportunity to learn about trends, get fresh ideas, and meet potential customers, as well as partners and investors face-to-face, which can lead to new business and establish relevant connections.
For instance, if you have an accounting SaaS, it makes sense to go to events for CPAs, small and medium-sized businesses, independent professionals, and large companies alike.
YC Continuity Managing Director Anu Hariharan discussed the learnings from her Network Effects research on a 35-minute YC podcast episode with former YC Director of Marketing Craig Cannon. She shared cool examples and insightful advice for founders like you.
Spaces for networking
Okay, but wait… Where can you find spaces to network? Take a look at some ideas:
Industry associations – Some industries have associations that host events. E.g., the National Restaurant Association hosts the National Restaurant Association Show.
Event listing websites – Eventbrite or Meetup. Both list events, exhibitions, conferences, and more based on your location and what you want to do.
Social media platforms – Following industry leaders and influencers on social media, especially on Twitter or LinkedIn, can help you stay up to date on events.
Google search results – You can also use Google, for example, “(industry) + conferences” like “tech conferences” or “healthcare conferences” and filter the results.
Professional networks – Ask for recommendations from your network or colleagues in your industry; they may know about events with the right people in the room.
We can’t stress the importance of Twitter and LinkedIn in expanding your network enough. These channels are also your best friends. A lot of entrepreneurs start out working on powerful personal brands in the online world and then yield results in the real world. Plus, you can use them to create multiple touchpoints with the people you want to connect with.
Move to the next phase with Xfive product development
Growth never happens overnight—it takes dedication and smart decision-making. Work on establishing yourself in the market, grow your user base and learn from each failure to shape a better future. With attention to detail and a good roadmap, scaling things up is possible.
What development phase do you need help with? Xfive is here to transform your vision into reality. We know the player’s playbook in the game of ventures. The ultimate outcome – a high-functioning, customer-centric product – makes the pressure and sweat worth it.